Since 1923 Mars has been producing quality chocolate products offering pleasure to consumers worldwide. However, as obesity and related health problems grow in severity and importance on a global scale, the food industry is scrutinized for its role in this epidemic.
With obesity at the forefront of its concern, in 2008 Mars developed a global nutritional program built around 3 pillars: information, renovation and innovation. Mars executed on these pillars and in 2010 became the first confectionery manufacturer to significantly improve the nutritional composition of some of its chocolate bars. In fact, Mars reduced saturated fats by 15 to 20% in Mars®, Snickers® and Milky Way®, without any change in taste or quality (Low Safa). This success, however, would be a challenge to convey to skeptical journalists and industry influencers. Even though Mars Belgium began educating this outside community on its nutritional strategy in 2009, many needed to see proof of the plan in action.
Restore the nutritional confidence and trust of consumers and stakeholders in the Chocolate division of Mars Belgium by illustrating the company’s commitment to healthier food options with its Low Safa initiative.
Although the Low Safa introduction was unveiled in 2010, Ketchum Pleon helped Mars Belgium lay the groundwork for communicating its nutritional policy and initiatives since 2008. The long-term plan developed by Ketchum Pleon had three steps, taking place over three years:
1. Develop information tools
2. Listen to & connect with key stakeholders
3. Build trust by communicating concrete nutritional initiatives
The two first phases laid the fundaments to credibly communicate concrete initiatives such as the reduction of saturated fats. Messages and tools were tailored to each target group, respecting the order of priority in timing. Key opinion leaders, dieticians and health & food associations were informed first, followed by the press and consumers. In 2010, the strategy and planning culminated in full-blown outreach and creative communication to bring to light Mars’ success in putting Low Safa products on the shelves.
IMPLEMENTATION LOW SAFA
The campaign generated positive reactions from key influencers, including Jo Vandeurzen, Flemish Minister of Public Health, who sent a letter to the General Manager of Mars Belgium congratulating this nutritional initiative. In addition, several dieticians reacted positively to the news, pledging full support to Mars Belgium, including Professor Christian Brohet, Cardiologist and Professor at UCL and Presidents of the Flemish and Walloon Associations of Nutritionists. News of the Low Safa products was covered in almost every Belgian newspaper and in lifestyle and trade magazines. As expected, one journalist was skeptical, but most journalists embraced Mars’ nutritional efforts. Ivo Mechels, Chief Editor of Belgium’s leading Consumer Interests Magazine, was quoted in the press: “This represents an important step in the good direction for the food industry.”