Talk about a paradigm shift: Historically, food manufacturers have spent countless sums encouraging people to eat as much of this product or that one as their appetites, and budgets, can tolerate. Now, in a move to encourage healthier eating, Mars Foods has launched a program to label some of its items as being best eaten only occasionally – not more than once a week, in some instances.
The company’s Health and Well-being Ambition, which will roll out over the next five years, has five principal objectives:
- Improving nutritional content;
- Providing consumers with more nutrition information to help them make more balanced choices;
- Inspiring consumers to cook and eat healthy meals with family and friends;
- Exploring new formats and opportunities to offer products in more places at affordable prices, and
- Providing Mars Food associates opportunities to improve well-being through nutritional education, cooking facilities and healthier food options.
Mars’ aim is to help consumers differentiate between foods OK for “everyday” consumption or for only “occasional” use. The latter are products that, for any of several reasons – including flavor, and extending shelf/pantry life – contain high amounts of added salt, sugar or fat.
Mars will provide guidance to consumers on-pack and on its website regarding how often these meal offerings should be consumed within a balanced diet. The company’s website will be updated within the next few months with a list of “occasional” products – those to be enjoyed once per week – and a list of “everyday” products. The BBC has reported that “Occasional” products will include Dolmio lasagne sauces, pesto, and carbonara and macaroni oven kits.
Meanwhile, the company will be working to reformulate products in the “occasional” category where doing so is practical or possible. This will, of course, be a process extending through the five-year roll-out and possibly for a longer period of time.
In addition, Mars Food has said will improve its nutritional product composition through the reduction of added sugar and sodium and the addition of vegetables and whole grains across its global product portfolio. The company will reduce sodium by an average of 20 percent by 2021 and reduce added sugar in a limited number of sauces and light meals by 2018.
Mars also will significantly expand multi-grain options so that half of all rice products include whole grains and/or legumes. What’s more, the company has said that it will reformulate all tomato-based jar products to ensure each includes at least one serving of vegetables.
An article on the program in New Food magazine quoted Fiona Dawson, global president of Mars Food, Drinks, and Multisales, as saying: “We’re incredibly proud and excited to share our new five year Health and Well-being Ambition. This Ambition advances our Purpose of creating Better Food Today and A Better World Tomorrow. As a busy mum myself, I know how tricky it can be to find healthy meals which everyone in the family will enjoy, and of course, they often need to be quick and easy to prepare.”
Dawson added, “The food industry has already made great strides in reducing sodium, but we have more work to do to help consumers reduce sodium intake. We support release of the U.S. FDA’s draft sodium reduction guidance, because we believe it’s important to begin a stakeholder dialogue about the role industry can play in this critical part of consumers’ diets.”