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Dolmio’s sugar announcement: the right move?

When’s your Dolmio day? If an announcement by parent company, Mars Food, is to be followed, the answer should be ‘occasionally’.

Mars Food recently made headlines by advising consumers to only eat some of their products once a week, due to their high salt, sugar or fat content. Dolmio was the main target, although other brands under Mars’ parent company were also featured, including Uncle Ben’s sauces.


The move was part of the company’s Health and Wellbeing Ambition, which aims to encourage their consumers to make ‘healthier food choices’. The changes will be rolled out over the next five years, although consumers can expect to see on-pack and website guidance in the very near future. Mars will advise whether their products are ‘occasional’ or ‘everyday’, to help consumers enjoy a balanced diet.

But was it the right move? Healthcare PR company, Onyx Health, analyses the potential impact the announcement will have on the Dolmio brand.

Dolmio’ announcement has divided both consumers and marketing professionals. At this early stage, it’s difficult to know how the situation will play out exactly, although there has been much speculation.

In the press, the attention has been largely focused on the high sugar, salt and fat content of the products. Alongside scaremongering headlines packed with ‘warnings’, it seems some media outlets have approached the story from a shock-factor perspective, giving little coverage of the company’s positive Health and Wellbeing Ambition that triggered the announcement.

Consumers who read these stories aren’t necessarily getting the whole picture. Taking the articles at face value, the overarching message is that Dolmio’s products are bad, portraying the brand negatively. The wider implications of this could result in reduced sales, as people think twice before purchasing the products.

However, on the flipside, we need to take into consideration brand responsibility. Yes, Mars Food could have buried their head in the sand and not drawn attention to the content of some of their products, but the brand would then be shirking their responsibility to protect their consumers and promote good health.

In light of the Dolmio announcements, many news outlets like the BBC and Daily Mail have compared the sugar content to other products that we generally perceive as being healthy. Products from brands like Activia and Alpen have all been analysed but, unlike Dolmio, these brands don’t have control of the situation.

With this in mind, Dolmio is portrayed as the consumer-friendly brand that actually cares about the health of their customers. By acting first, Dolmio is able to control the situation, ensuring accurate information and context. This is something other brands are unable to do, as they are acting reactively rather than proactively. From a consumer perspective, Dolmio and Mars Food are actually to be admired, as they have consumer welfare at heart.

In some ways, Mars Food is leading the way when it comes to education and social responsibility. They are occupying a position that more brands should and will have to in the future, as people gravitate towards healthy living. By giving consumers the advice they need, they can make the right choices for their own health. While the move may seem negative on the surface, dig a little deeper and it could be a smart move by the international food brand.

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