Mars on front foot with global launch of front-of-pack labelling

Posted by Isobel Drake on 20th October 2008

Mars, Incorporated reported on Friday that they are to become the first confectionery company to voluntarily implement Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) nutrition labeling on all of its chocolate, non-chocolate confectionery and other food products.

“All packages will be redesigned to feature new graphics on the front and back of packages, which contain consumer-friendly, clear and easy to understand nutrition information that will help consumers make informed choices at the point of purchase. This announcement is part of a global initiative Mars is undertaking around the world,” a company statement suggested.

The issue of packaged food labelling has been prominent this year, with calls for front-of-pack labelling requirements to be introduced.

There has been an ongoing debate in Australia as to what the front-of-pack labels should tell consumers, with the Australian Food and Grocery Council, like Mars, promoting the effectiveness of the Daily Intake Guide (DIG). A number of Australian supermarkets and manufacturers have reported they will commit to adding the DIG labels to their products in the near future, but some health and consumer groups are calling for the adoption of ‘traffic light’ labelling – a system which uses three colour coded circles to display fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium levels.

Bob Gamgort, President of Mars North America, claims the global commitment is part of their improved nutritional strategy. “Our redesigned labels are the latest examples of Mars’ commitment to health and nutrition,” he said. “By providing clear, concise and understandable information to consumers about what’s inside all of our products, we will help them to make informed decisions about the foods they eat. We make every effort to go beyond what is expected of a global food company.”

The new label, referred to as “What’s Inside,” is designed to help consumers quickly and easily locate key nutrition information. The new labels will begin appearing in December. They will be on US Mars chocolate, non-chocolate confectionery and other food products by the end of 2010. It was not revealed when the labels will be on their products in markets outside America.

The “What’s Inside” label adopts the GDA (Guideline Daily Amount) graphics that have initially appeared in Europe. GDAs feature the calorie totals in large type on the front of the products and highlight more detailed information in an easier-to-read box on the back of the product, including calories, fat, sugar and sodium. Mars’ market research earlier this year found this style and design to be the favourite among consumers, contributing to the best information retention rates.

Mars has also launched a new educational web site, which provides additional nutrition information about Mars products. Over the coming months, the site will debut tools to calculate caloric intake and tips for weight management and making healthy lifestyle choices, as well as newsletters and expert advice on healthy living, Mars advised.

“Many Americans struggle to make smart decisions when it concerns their diet; it often is difficult to eat thoughtfully and carefully. The more information consumers get, the easier it will be for them to make good choices. I think the Mars program is a wonderful first step in the direction of better labels, more information, and better decisions,” said Arthur Frank, M.D., medical director, George Washington University Weight Management Program, Washington, D.C.