Focus on Health
Childhood obesity and obesity-related health problems are on the rise globally, with food companies facing increasing criticism and threats of adverse legislation. Mars Incorporated – which manufacturers some of the world’s leading brands in chocolate, confectionary and other food products – sought a new approach to address these vital issues. Its food business formulated a global “Health and Wellbeing Ambition” and turned to APCO, its trusted communications partner of more than 15 years, to help launch a global conversation about the role of food companies in consumer health and wellbeing.
Turning Critique into Competitive Advantage
As part of its ambition to bring one billion more healthy meals to dinner tables around the world, Mars Food was willing to take bold steps. These included reformulating its global product portfolio to reduce sodium and added sugars and choosing to label products as healthy enough for either every day or occasional consumption. APCO advised communicating in an equally assertive and confident way, aiming to launch a debate that would demonstrate Mars’ leadership, clear purpose and strong values.
As we anticipated, a handful of media outlets ran misleading headlines around the occasional labeling for some of its more indulgent products. But rather than harm Mars’ image, the controversy instead gave its global president the opportunity and platform to share the company’s position directly in top-tier broadcast news and radio media around the world.
Journalists and leading commentators ran features comparing Mars Food’s bold approach, and the nutritional content of its products, favorably with its competitors. Respected third party allies like Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, the UK’s National Obesity Forum’s Tam Fry, assistant White House chef Sam Kass and White House health-reform adviser Zeke Emanuel, voiced support for Mars Food’s ambition as well.
Nearly 4 billion media impressions later, Mars Food had not only started a global conversation about the role industry should play in helping consumers lead healthier lives, but also was clearly positioned as leading the conversation. Mars Food is now invited to contribute proactively to policy development, work with leaders in the field of nutrition and has developed real brand preference among socially aware consumers. Two major competitors have already followed Mars Food’s lead in supporting sodium and sugar reduction in their products.