Dispatches from NCA Miami Conference

‘Step up’ on obesity before regulators bite, says Mars chief

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Mars chief says industry must put calories front-of-pack and offer consumers choice
Mars chief says industry must put calories front-of-pack and offer consumers choice

Related tags Mars chocolate north Chocolate north america Nutrition

Candy makers must take responsibility to tackle obesity and should act before regulators force their hands, says Mars Chocolate North America's president.

Speaking at the National Confectioners Association (NCA) State of the Industry Conference in Miami, Debra Sandler, president of Mars Chocolate North America said: “It’s no longer acceptable for us to duck-out.”

‘Don’t wait for regulators to tell us what to do’

She said that while confectionery only accounted for 2% of calories in the diet, using this as an argument to skirt the issue was not constructive.

 She said that the industry needed to be more than 2% of the solution.

“If we don’t​ [act], I worry that someone else will do it for us….Don’t wait for regulators to tell us what to do.”

She said that some states had implemented candy taxes and celebrities were being condemned for acting as  spokespeople for food and drinks considered unhealthy.

Sandler urged manufacturers to put calories on the front of all packs, to reformulate products for better nutritional content and to innovate to give consumers greater choice.

Front of pack calorie labels

In 2010, Mars launched its ‘What’s Inside’ labelling programme to include calorie, fat, sugar and sodium totals front-of pack.

Mars set a target to have 100% of its chocolate and confectionery products carrying the GDA labels globally by year-end 2012.

Mars launched M&Ms Pretzel in 2010, which carries a 150 calories label front-of pack, which Sandler said was viewed as an “extra bonus”​ for consumers.

Mars Pretzel
Mars' M&Ms Pretzel with 150 calorie label front-of-pack

The NCA recently initiated a voluntary front-of-pack calorie labelling initiative.

Mondelēz International and Hershey have yet to implement such labelling, but previously told this site that they were in discussions with the NCA.

Innovate to offer choice

According to Sandler, manufacturers should offer products with different nutritional content to give consumer greater choice. “We believe there is room for choice…There is room for innovation,”​ she said.

Sandler said the industry had reacted with health and wellness products such as Hershey’s Simple Pleasures, but could do more to innovate.

 She added that it wasn’t necessarily about ‘healthy chocolate’ and could be simply making people more informed of the nutritional content in existing core brands.

 Reformulate to build trust

Sandler said that candy makers should stay true to who they are by making great tasting products, but could consider reformulating to improve nutrition content.

She said it was not necessarily a consumer demand for candy to be healthier because people were more concerned about eating a tasty treat - but reformulating would help build trust.

“Why not lower saturated fats if you can do that without affecting the taste?,”​ she said.

“We need the whole industry to step-up…We are not judged by the leaders of the category but by those who do not take responsibility for change,”​ she continued.

She added that confectioners must stop targeting children and instead win the trust of Moms and Dads. 

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