Mars details plot to deepen Fairtrade ties to push brand purpose

Mars is to bolster ongoing efforts to put "farmers first" in its sustainabilty marketing through an extension of its ties to Fairtrade it hopes will champion its brand purpose.

The move sees Mars bars join the company's other top two brands - Maltesers and Galaxy - in sporting sustainability branding on its labelling. It shows that all cocoa used in Mars bars manufactured in the UK is sourced sustainabilty.

Bars will feature the logo from this autumn, while PR actitvity will generate activty around Fairtrade Fortnight, which began on 23 February and ends on 8 March.

The chocolate brand is also the first to back Fairtrade's new Coco Sourcing Programme, accelerating the company's shift to all-cocoa sourcing initiative by 2020.

The commitment will lift total premiums paid by Mars globally to the organisation to over $2m per year by 2016.

Lucy Cotterell, UK strategy director for Mars, told The Drum the effort reinforced the company's Mutuality principle, one of five the business is built around. While the push for greater transparency around Mars' sourcing chimes with consumers' growing interest in the provenance of food, Cotterell said having the Fairtrade logo on bars was not a USP trying to "gain a competitive advantage".

Sales of Fairtrade products plummeted for the first time in the foundation's 20 year existence last year. After years of double-digit growth, retail sales slid almost 4 per cent to £1.67bn. The slip was blamed on the emergence of cheaper alternatives from the ever popular discount chains such as Aldi and Lidl.

Cotterell added that Mars' efforts were more about reflecting its brand purpose onto Fairtrade rather than being commercially led. "This isn't about driving sales," she said. "It's about doing what's right and how that fits into what Mars' principles are all about."

However. there are some brands who believe brand purpose can have impact on sales so that a company's sustainability efforts don't resemble that of an NGO. Coca-Cola and McDonald's are two such companies, which are both exploring progressive marketing strategies that make people feel good about purchasing their products.

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