Will shrinking chocolate bars really tackle UK obesity?
Major chocolate companies such as Nestle and Mars are planning to shrink the size of their current chocolate lines by 20% to align with the new sugar guidelines set by Public Health England (PHE) in the UK.
The guidelines came into practice as PHE aims to start actively reducing the sugar intake of consumers to prevent health problems such as obesity. However, chocolate manufacturers have claimed reducing the amount of sugar can adversely affect taste, and that consumers do not seek health and wellness qualities in categories such as chocolate. When purchasing chocolate, premium products and indulgence are the main reasons for purchasing, followed by comfort. This explains why companies are gearing towards reducing size rather than sugar content.
If some consumers are unable, or unsure as to how to cut down their calorie and sugar intake, reducing the size of the chocolate bar may lead to them to feel they have no freedom to choose, which consumers in general embrace.
The fact that chocolate bars have already been shrinking through the years increases this scepticism. For example, in 2016, Brexit led to an increase in commodity prices as well as increased production costs, forcing a size reduction of popular chocolate brands such as Toblerone.
Sceptical consumers are likely to think smaller sizes as more cost efficient for manufacturers to produce, and see that as the real reason behind shrinkage. To convince these consumers, chocolate makers must approach this from a different angle. For instance, some brands are beginning to introduce 'thinner' versions of popular products such as Oreo and Mcvities digestive biscuits.
Another way to address this is to offer sharing pack type products, which are traditionally not portioned, in packaging which separates the contents in smaller individual serves. For bar type products, individual portions can be marked out on a bar, making it easier for consumers to understand how big each serving size should be.
At this moment, manufacturers are not commenting on whether the price will be compromised along with the reduction, nonetheless the focus should lie in following the guidelines while reassuring consumers that they are making their own choice.
Nestle is currently attempting to patent a method that could potentially offer their lines of chocolate using much less sugar but still tasting as good. If this proves successful, this could place Nestle with a competitive advantage.