Smarties is being given a child-friendly makeover to boost the confectionery's appeal among parents increasingly concerned about the sweets they give to their children.

From June the confectionery will be free from artificial colours for the first time in its 69-year history as part of Nestlé Rowntree's long-term drive to improve the nutritional qualities of its products.

The change will be highlighted in a £3m media campaign launching in the summer, including TV advertising specifically targeted at parents rather than children. Packs and display materials will also show a prominent 'no artificial colours' message.

Graham Walker, sales communications manger, said that 84% of Smarties packs were bought by adults for children and that parents were becoming increasingly aware of the types of confectionery they gave their kids. "Removing artificial colours is a significant move that will provide parents with even greater assurance in choosing the Smarties brand. It is certain to capture shoppers' attention," he said.

Smarties was launched in 1937 and is the 16th biggest-selling chocolate confectionery line. However, it dropped in value in the latest year by 6.2% to £45m [ACNielsen, 52 w/e October 1, 2005].

It will be the second Nestlé Rowntree brand to be given the free from artificial colours treatment, following the switch to natural ingredients across the Rowntree portfolio last summer.