Mars Chocolate: overcoming major technical challenges to make key ingredient changes in chocolate bars

Date : 10 January 2017

Scientific evidence proving the beneficial effects of reducing saturated fat has spurred Mars to improve the nutritional profile of some of its iconic chocolate products.

 

THE CHALLENGE


Reducing the level of saturated fat in confectionery is a major technological challenge, as fat is an important attribute in chocolate due to its impact on taste, mouth-feel, structure and shelf life.

The reduction of saturated fats was achieved by substituting solid fats, which are high in saturated fat, to liquid oils like high oleic sunflower oil, which is high in unsaturated fat (which is healthier). It wasn’t a simple substitution as solid fat was replaced with liquid oil, which has implications for processing, taste and texture.

To overcome these challenges, Mars investigated the role of the ingredients in every individual component of its chocolate bars including caramel, nougat and fillings. Mars then tested the alternative solutions using analytical and sensory tools.

THE ACTIONS TAKEN TO RESOLVE IT


Process tools were essential to the success of the project to ensure that excellence and quality were maintained throughout.

Because of the major changes in ingredients, throughout the project Mars had to:

  • Ensure the organisation, resources and capabilities met corporate and business requirements
  • Define measurable objectives for all teams and individuals with regular reviews of process
  • Regularly communicate to all teams in an engaging way the importance of maintaining quality

Internal processes encompassed each stage of Mars’ reformulation activity that defined all quality requirements for design, procurement, manufacturing, sales and distribution. This happened hand in hand with listening and responding to customers (the retailers) and consumers.

Sensory studies were undertaken to test that the products tasted exactly the same and ensured that Mars continued to deliver the taste consumers want. In total, over 75 studies were completed differing in length, duration and complexity to ensure that the reformulation had no impact on taste and quality of the product.

All hands on deck

Working across different sites and teams helped Mars to consider all angles, while also ensuring that customers were front and centre of the reformulation activity. This helped to deliver products that not only had improved nutritional composition but also maintained the same taste.

The reformulation process was multi-faceted and involved a number of teams around the business. Mars had to test the feasibility of the challenge by undertaking pilot studies followed by factory trials. This helped to test the scalability of the new recipes.

RESULTS OF THE ACTIONS TAKEN


The reformulation of Mars chocolate brands resulted in a 15% reduction in saturated fat levels in Mars, Snickers, Milky Way and Topic bars without changing the taste, appearance, or quality of the products. This meant that the products had the equivalent of 30-35% less saturated fat than the average of the top 25 chocolate brands per 100g. The reformulated Mars bar contains less saturated fat per bar than any other product in the Top 10 UK confectionery single chocolate bars.

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