Mars has just released its 2009 market review, showing that the confectionery market is currently worth £4.9bn, growing 2.2 per cent in 2008 and continuing to grow in 2009.
Food and drink retailing is also outperforming the rest of the retail sector on like-for-like value sales growth, with chocolate a strong performer.
Meanwhile Mars’ consumer trend research shows that although the recession is changing consumer behaviour, these shifts can be exploited.
Fiona Dawson, MD of Mars Chocolate UK, said: “It is undoubtedly going to be another difficult year and consumers continue to readjust to ever changing circumstances.
“Our duty to our customers and consumers is to provide fantastic quality in the way we know how.”
Dawson identified several areas that Mars had focused on in 2008 which would be carried on this year.
This includes an emphasis on restoring nutritional confidence – under the banner of “raising the bar” which was launched in 2008 – with a number of product health and nutrition improvements.
Dawson said the company would continue to work on the sugar and salt content of its products.
Also the Mars, Twix, Milky Way and Snickers brands became free from artificial colours, flavourings and preservative and they will be followed by other brands this year.
Dawson said that colorants had proved difficult from an R&D point of view, as it was a technical challenge for its R&D team to introduce these changes, and with the minimal amount of on-cost.
But she added: “We believe now we have the technical capability.
“For certain brands, technically it was a little bit more difficult to do, but we remain committed to remove them by the end of this year.”
Mars had initially pledged to reformulate products containing the so-called Southampton six colours (linked to hyperactivity in children) and removing them from products by the end of 2008.
However, earlier this year Mars was criticised by the food campaign group, Action on Additives, for not fulfilling its promises. The group claimed in March that the Mars products that still contained one or more of the colours were Revels, and Starburst Choozers.
Mars’ consumer trend research has shown that in times of uncertainty, consumers are sticking to brands they know and trust to provide quality. Also, they are not prepared to sacrifice their ethics and values.
Dawson said that corporate sustainability was about doing the right thing by consumers, associates and suppliers and in 2008 it became a major focus for Mars, particularly with regard to cocoa.
Globally, Mars has committed to certify its entire cocoa supply by 2020 as sustainably sourced and in April it announced that by 2010 all Galaxy milk chocolate bars will carry the Rainforest Alliance Certified TM seal in the UK and Ireland.
Dawson said: “Cocoa is a very volatile commodity. We are seeing it at all time highs at the moment and a lot of that is down to the yields coming out from the cocoa region.
“We are securing our supply source as we go forward so we are minimising the volatility of our key ingredient.”