Mars Makes a Bold Move

July 2016

Unless you were vacationing in Antarctica or Easter Island, you undoubtedly heard the announcement from Mars, one of the world’s premier confection companies, that they are removing artificial colors from all of their food products. Or at least they will in food that is consumed by humans. What really caught my attention was this statement from their CEO:

“Our consumers are the boss and we hear them.
If it’s the right thing to do for them, it’s the right
thing to do for Mars.” —Grant Reid

 

What a great comment. It is so succinct and really reflects my own perspective on the natural color tidal wave that seems to be happening in North America. Given the data about the safety of FDA certified colors, it is really more about consumer preference. At the end of the day, the consumer will have the final say. That is why we support our customers across all color technologies.

In many ways, this is the biggest announcement in the food industry to date. Mars brands include M&M’s®, Skittles®, Starburst®, and Life Savers®. For all of these particular brands, color is especially important; it is a key differentiator and an integral part of each brand’s appeal to consumers. For example, the Skittles® brand famously uses the tagline “Taste the Rainbow” as well as other similar rainbow references in their consumer communication.

At Sensient we spend a lot of time listening to consumers so we can proactively prepare for what our customers are going to need in the near future. The data we see on the attitudes of Millennial Moms indicates that 62% of them are concerned about artificial color in products consumed by children and somewhat surprisingly 55% say they have a high level of concern about synthetic color in sweets.

In light of this data, we aren’t all that surprised that Mars made the decision. But given the importance of color to many Mars brands, their decision to make the transition is certainly a bolder move than might be apparent at first glance. That is likely why the company indicated that it might take up to five years to complete the transition. Getting the color right is very important to them.

Fortunately for Mars, consumers seem to be excited by the decision. Right after the announcement, we reached out to get a read on how consumers are responding to the decision. The results are very interesting and should elicit many smiles in McLean, Virginia.

 

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