Mars has pledged to dramatically reduce the amount of packaging used to create its Easter and Christmas products as it also revealed its new product development plans for Easter.

The confectionery producer has reduced the thickness of the plastic inserts used in its Christmas and Easter ranges by 10% and 25% respectively, and it will also implement 100%-recycled cardboard for its most popular ranges. Relevant Mars products will also feature a new logo to illustrate that packs are made from recycled cardboard.

"Our commitment to the consumer means we want to show we are serious about the packaging issue," said Philippa Leon, trade marketing executive for Easter. She acknowledged that confectionery producers had come under criticism for the amount of packaging on certain lines, especially those designed for Easter.

"The reductions amount to a 1,000-tonne reduction in packaging, saving 12,000 trees," she said. "We are looking to go further in 2009."

In order to ensure strong sales over the 2008 Easter period, which is the earliest and shortest Easter season since 1913, Mars is introducing various new lines including a Mars & Friends mini egg gift pack, priced at £1.99. The selection includes a mix of Mars, Maltesers, Milky Way and Galaxy Mini Eggs in a hanging bag format.

Mars is also bringing out a range of shell eggs designed to target 16 to 24-year-olds. The young adults' range, priced £3.99, includes Mars Planets, Celebration and Galaxy Ripple eggs. A £4.99 Galaxy Dark egg will also join the line up.

"Galaxy is our biggest success story as a business this year," added Leon, who said the brand had grown 20% in the past year [IRI, 52w/e 6 October 2007].

Mars trade relations manager Andrea Taylor stressed the importance for grocery retailers to stock shelves from January to prepare for the early Easter.

Separately, sales of Mars- branded drinks have risen 37%, according to Nielsen [12w/e 8 September, 2007]. This follows the producer's move to reposition the Mars Refuel brand for the sports recovery drink market.