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truth in packaging

Mars Pushes Nutritional Labeling As US Model

Posted by Dale Buss on March 15, 2010 03:27 PM

Mars already dominates the chocolate-confectionery business in the American market. Now, the Mt. Olive, NJ-based candy giant would like to dictate how US food and beverage companies label their packages.

The Food & Drug Administration is expected to propose guidelines soon that will require CPG companies to provide simple, meaningful nutritional information on the front of their packages – and not just the rear. Furthermore, they're expected to require all food and beverage brands to keep cockamamie, grandiose or confusing claims off of packaging.

At first in Europe and now in the US, Mars has been rolling out a simple nutritional scoring system on all of its products based on “Guideline Daily Amounts” (GDA) of calories and key nutrients.

The front of the package of each Mars product bears an icon, titled “What’s Inside,” that lists the number of calories and the percentage of the government-recommended daily number of calories that the package contents represent. On the back is a repeat of the calorie information as well as similar figures for total fat, saturated fat, sugars and sodium.

“Consumers were telling us that they find it very difficult to make [food] choices throughout the day and to manage a balanced, healthy lifestyle, and to get information about what’s inside the foods they ate,” Hank Izzo, vice president of research and development for Mars Chocolate North America, told brandchannel. “The most important thing was calories, and getting help in managing their calorie intake as the day goes on."

Mars has been promoting its GDA system at trade shows and in other meetings with competitors and other CPG players. It also is lobbying the American Dietetic Association for support. If competitors embrace its approach, that could help sway the FDA to adopt essentially the Mars scheme for many categories of foods and beverages – and solidify the brand’s perhaps unlikely status as a health-and-nutrition trailblazer.

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