“Look over there!” is what Mars might as well have said with today's launch of its Bounty-free Celebrations tubs.

It's guaranteed to be a talking point. Over the years, Bounty bars have gained a reputation as being the last chocolates left to pilfer from Celebrations tubs on Christmas Day. Mars has previously played into this narrative in its marketing efforts. Last year it introduced a return scheme for unwanted Bounties, for example.

But this year, the chocolate giant has gone one step further, removing the treats completely from a run of limited-edition Celebrations tubs.

Mars said the move was based on research that found 40% of people hate the coconut-flavoured bar. However, for every naysayer, Bounty has a dedicated fan willing to passionately fight its corner. Hence, the announcement was the perfect catalyst for a publicity-generating Twitter debate.

Commenting in response to the BBC’s story, one shopper tweeted: “Good. They’re an abomination.” On the other side of the fence was an equally passionate response: “We need a referendum for this please! Save the Bounty!”

One fan pointed out: “This means I’ll be coming for some of your favourites rather than being content with the Bounties that no one else eats.” Meanwhile, other consumers lobbied for old favourites to be reintroduced. As one put it: “Bring back the Truffle!”

It’s clearly a matter shoppers feel passionately about, which is why it serves as the perfect distraction from less comfortable talking points.

As reported by The Grocer today, Mars has quietly reformulated a swathe of its Galaxy products over recent weeks, making milk powder the second-largest ingredient after sugar, and removing whey powder.

While it is not known whether the move is linked to costs, Mars has also been shrinking its confectionery lines over recent months to mitigate cost increases. It shrunk its Twix multipacks and Maltesers sharing pouches over the summer, for instance, citing the “rising costs of raw materials and operations” as its reasons.

And rising costs aren’t the only challenge facing Mars. Its leading brand, Galaxy, was recently usurped by Lindt Lindor as Britain’s second-biggest chocolate brand after suffering year-on-year declines.

Sales of the brand were down £13.2m in the 52 weeks to 9 July 2022, after the range of Galaxy Vegan bars was delisted from Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons earlier this year.

To add fuel to the fire, Mars struggled to supply many lines of its core confectionery brands – including Topic, Skittles, Minstrels, Bounty and Mars bars – throughout September, blaming “high levels of demand” for empty shelves and out-of-stock notifications.

Against this backdrop, switching up Celebrations is a great PR move. Getting shoppers talking about their love/hate relationship with Bounty is a much more comfortable conversation for the supplier.  

But not everyone is so easily distracted from the shrinkflation narrative. Tweeting about the new No Bounty Celebrations tubs, one shopper predicted Mars would “make the tubs smaller”, while another wrote the manufacturer should start “making the tubs bigger again with more chocolate in”, rather than removing the contentious treats.

So it may take more than ditching a contentious coconut bar to drown out the wider issues at play.