Mars Food Australia will begin rolling out new on-pack labelling across its stable of brands including Dolmio, MasterFoods, KanTong and Uncle Ben’s from early 2017, with the entire portfolio expected to be completed by mid-2018.

The new packaging, which will see products classified as either ‘everyday meals’ or ‘occasional products’, is part of Mars Food’s newly announced global five year strategy known as the ‘Health and Wellness Ambition’.

Other initiatives as part of the strategy include product reformulations such as reductions in sodium and added sugar and increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in products.

Mars Food plans to reduce sodium by average of 20 per cent by 2021 and reduce added sugar in a limited number of sauces and light meals by 2018, while it will expand multigrain options so that 50 per cent of all rice products include whole grains or legumes. The company will also ensure all tomato-based jar products include a minimum of one serving of vegetables.

While the new on-pack labelling is set to take place over the next two years, Mars Food in the interim will communicate product changes and nutritional information to consumers online.

Mars Food Australia’s R&D director Peter Crane told C&I Week less than 5 per cent of products within Mars Food Australia’s portfolio will carry the ‘occasional’ tag.

“Our portfolio is in really good shape and we expect that 95 per cent of the range will be suitable for ‘everyday’ consumption,” Mr Crane said, adding pack sizes and formats will remain the same.

“We’ll reformulate the recipes where required but we won’t be changing our packaging specifically to deliver the Ambition.”

Another key initiative as part of the Health and Wellness Ambition is new product development which Mars said in its announcement of the strategy will be “developed to provide more people with greater access to healthier, convenient products”. Mr Crane said new products will be “anchored” in existing Mars Food Australia brands.

“As a company we’ve got great brands, particularly in Dolmio, MasterFoods, Uncle Ben’s and KanTong, and we’ll always be exploring options as to where they could go in terms of new categories independent of the Ambition, but some elements of the Ambition may roll through as we move into new categories.”

P&C plans

Mr Crane said P&C remains a continued focus for the brand in Australia, particularly its range of portion controlled sauces. Last month, Mars Food’s MasterFoods brand launched a new addition to its squeeze-on sauce range, Hot Chilli sauce.

“We’ll be continuing to focus on our portion control business in convenience. We’ll be driving that and there is some NPD that we’ll be rolling through this year. There are some great products in the range that haven’t been taken up [by retailers] yet so we will continue to look up opportunities to increase that position.”

“What we’re seeing, particularly in retail, is that consumers are wrestling with this tension of wanting to serve something healthier for their families and for themselves, but they also want products that taste good and are convenient and affordable. This tension is really starting to become at the forefront of consumers’ minds and they’re really looking for products that can deliver in that space.

“The P&C shopper carries a similar tension but when they are looking to pick up products through P&C they’re really dialing up their focus on ease. They want something that is convenient but also healthy.

Mr Crane said he believes the market will continue to be faced with challenging conditions over the next 12 months.

“I think we will be battling some strong headwinds. It’s going to be a fairly challenging time for all of us as consumers continue to hunt around for really solid value.”

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