‘Don’t mess with Mars’ seems to be the mantra over at the confectionery giant’s Slough HQ these days. For while other companies like Mr Kipling, Kellogg’s and McVitie’s, are tinkering with their leading products to try and keep them clear of the HFSS crackdown in October, Mars is taking a different tack.

Its Triple Treat range due to launch next month is made up of alternative versions of Mars, Snickers, Bounty and Galaxy bars that will exist alongside their traditional counterparts.

Mars has clearly judged that toying with its core products would be a mistake – that making a Mars, Snickers, Bounty or Galaxy with less sugar cannot be done without damaging the taste.

So by launching an alternative range made predominantly from date paste and nuts, it hopes to get the best of both worlds. ‘Traditional’ bars will still be available in the confectionery aisle if people want them. But the new range will allow it to still promote at checkouts and aisle-ends.

It’s a move that could catch a few industry observers by surprise. It was becoming increasingly assumed that in confectionery, compromises on sugar almost inevitably lead to compromises on taste.

Look at Cadbury’s, which released its Dairy Milk 30% Less Sugar in 2019 only to see sales to tumble ever since. It brought in just £1.9m last year, down 33% on the year before [NielsenIQ 52 w/e 1 January 2022].

As a result, some thought the HFSS crackdown on junk food meant confectionery would simply be banished from prominent store locations for good. That low-sugar versions couldn’t work and that was that. 

By taking a different tack with its Triple Treat range, which is more of a reimagination than a reformulation, Mars is challenging this wisdom. And its competitors –  Nestlé and Mondelez – are bound to be paying attention.

The range will launch exclusively into Tesco where, as it stands, they will be the only confectionery brand able to appear at checkouts and store-ends from October. If it can therefore convince shoppers that it’s worth buying then the opportunities are huge. Yet it’s a big if.

After all, people don’t buy chocolate to be healthy. They buy it as a treat, an indulgence. Can Mars convince shoppers that this new healthier bar is worth the extra 15p for a smaller size? 

For while the new range is branded with Mars, Snickers, Bounty and Galaxy logos, it’s a stretch to call them ‘chocolate bars’. With around 75% fruit and nuts, it’s essentially a cereal bar with a bit of chocolate drizzling.

Mars clearly thinks so, having ploughed millions of pounds into the venture. Maybe it’s expecting other countries to follow suit and also crack down on junk food in the years to come. For now though, this is solely to the benefit of the UK market and is a sign Mars is serious about expanding its market here.