- Mars, Inc. has announced the removal of artificial colors from its human food products, which the company expects will take about five years. The overhaul includes more than 50 brands.
- Mars already manufactures products without artificial colors, but brands like the iconic M&M's could pose more of a challenge in finding natural colors that will be similar to the original color palette.
- Mars said it will work with suppliers to identify and develop new ingredients and flavors, ensuring those ingredients meet quality and safety standards, both in-house and regulatory.
This move was expected, considering the trends, but it's bold. It encompasses the company's entire human food portfolio (Mars also makes pet food brands like Pedigree and Iams), rather than just segments, like General Mills' cereal and fruit snacks or Nestle's chocolate candy. Still, the decision is just regarding colors — not flavors.
Mars has given itself an extended deadline, which could be necessary for finding natural colors for brands like M&M's, Skittles, and Starbursts. This is especially true for colors like neon-green or blue, which can be difficult to find in nature. General Mills found this out when searching for natural coloring ingredients for its Trix cereal brand, and the company had to reduce the number and brightness of the cereal's colors to meet its all-natural commitment. Mars petitioned the FDA for permission to use Spirulina extract as a color source for confectionery and chewing gum products, which the agency approved.
Added sugar is another challenge the company faces. The FDA is moving to require that companies label added sugar in their products, and Mars has been supportive of such an initiative. Mars also stood behind WHO's recommendation for consumers to cut back on their sugar intake.
If Mars is out to meet more consumer demands than just removing artificial colors, this announcement could be just the beginning. An even larger undertaking of sugar reformulation could be next in line, though its focus on transparency might be all it needs to keep consumers indulging.