Five years ago, before consumers even knew they wanted it, Mars started work on cutting satfats, says Fiona Dawson

Our consumers expect us to cherish their favourite brands just like they do. But looking after a brand doesn't mean standing still.

This is exactly why the Mars bar remains the bestselling confectionery product in the UK because since 1932 we have changed with our consumers. The consumer is our boss, but we know how important it is to understand what they want before they articulate it themselves. Setting the agenda is a necessity in a fast-moving world of limitless choice.

Last week The Grocer broke the news that we have become the first manufacturer to reduce saturated fat levels in confectionery. This is the culmination of work started over five years ago. We had to start back then, when saturated fat awareness was low, to ensure we could deliver what our consumers want today. We have had to work particularly hard replacing solid fats with liquid fats has not been easy. Committing millions of pounds long before the consumer told us what they expected was essential. These improvements will create a genuine legacy of consumer confidence in some of our best-loved brands, so it is a sound investment for our future.

The reformulation will be successful because we have managed to improve our products without changing their taste or quality. By refusing to compromise on taste, we set our aims high, giving our talented R&D teams little room for manoeuvre. They have risen to the challenge to create the same products, made differently. Far from destroying its appeal, the changes will impress consumers because they get the same great brand, only now it's a little better for them.

We're incredibly proud of this achievement, but we won't stop there nobody would expect us to. We will continue to look to the future, to scan the horizon and invest in long-term, sustainable improvements. We may not be able to predict what our consumers will want by talking to them, but we can rely on them to vote with their feet. Improving what's inside, along with offering them greater choice and clearer information, will help further build their trust and confidence.

Improving the nutritional composition of our brands is part of a broader approach to building our business for future generations. We have talked about this over the past few years as part of our Raising the Bar campaign, making public commitments to keep improving. We have removed artificial colours and flavours, provided clear GDA labelling, reduced our packaging, made cocoa sustainability commitments, and now reduced the levels of saturated fat. We simply believe business ethics are about doing the right things, even when no-one is watching. In a principled business like Mars, the consistency of your actions always speaks louder than words.

We have been operating successfully in the UK for nearly 80 years and employ over 4,000 people across our different UK businesses. Mars in the UK has continued to grow through focusing on its core business delivering our great range of products to the British consumers who love them.

While we are pleased with our achievements to date, we will not be resting on our laurels. You can expect to see continued innovation and leadership from Mars, while others follow our lead on saturated fat. Once again, the bar has risen.

Fiona Dawson is managing director of Mars UK

Read more
Will Mars carry more weight following satfat reduction? (16 January 2010)
Editor's Comment: Reducing Mars' satfat content will be worth five-year wait (16 January 2010)