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Mars Foods announces global health initiative

Mars Canada leads the way with reduced sodium in key rice products

Mars Foods is taking big steps to improve the nutritional content of its products.

The CPG giant, whose brands include Uncle Ben’s and Dolmio, has launched a global Health and Wellbeing Ambition to reduce sodium by 20% by 2021, reduce added sugar in select sauces and light meals by 2018, and add whole grains across its product portfolio.

“What we’re trying to do with our products is take some of the bad stuff out and put more good stuff in,” says Shawn Macleod, general manager, food, at Mars Canada.

For example, with Mars Canada’s Uncle Ben’s and Seeds of Change rice brands, “we’re making those products, which are already healthy, inherently healthier by adding things like grains and legumes,” says Macleod.

On the sodium front, Mars Canada began to reduce sodium in some of its key rice products about five years ago. “Within the Mars world, Mars Canada was leading the way,” says Macleod. “However, in the next five years, we want to up our game even more.”

Mars Foods will also roll out new packaging that will indicate if a product is an “everyday” or an “occasional” option. The company said some of its products are higher in salt, added sugar or fat “to maintain the authentic nature of the recipe” but “are not intended to be eaten daily.”

“We’re being very transparent with consumers about how often they should eat our products,” says Macleod.

For example, Dolmio, a pasta sauce and pasta meal-kit brand in Europe, has a lasagna kit with pesto sauce made with olive oil. “Because it’s made with olive oil, it’s going to have more fat than you would be advised to eat daily,” says Macleod. “On a product like that, we’re not going to formulate the great-tasting olive oil out of it. Instead, we’re going to designate that product as something you should eat occasionally.”

The Health and Wellbeing Ambition also includes an increased focus on building awareness about the value of healthy, shared meals. “We are seeking to bring families together to cook healthy meals at homes,” says Macleod. “We’ve been doing that for a number of years through programs like our Ben’s Beginners cooking contest. So we’re going to continue with that as part of our ambition as well.”

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