Messing with popular mass market icons can be very risky. It may seem a good idea to improve the reliability of supply of one of your ingredients but it can lead to unexpected consequences.
The Telegraph published this headline
Mars blunders on chocolate recipes
By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent, Sunday Telegraph
At Mars UK we recently changed the source of some of the whey which is used in some of our chocolate products. We have received lots of feedback that this decision has made it difficult for some of you, especially those of you who are vegetarians, to continue to enjoy our products.
We made a mistake. We apologise.
The consumer is our boss. Therefore we listen to you and your feedback.
As a company we value openness, honesty and diversity and we believe that anybody should be able to choose freely from our range of chocolate brands.
But being sorry isn’t enough. Therefore we commit to you today, that we at Mars UK will ensure that a selection of your favourite brands – Mars bars, Snickers bars, Galaxy and Maltesers, will be suitable for vegetarians in the near future. To this effect we are starting to change our manufacturing process today.
We will keep you informed of our progress against this commitment through regular updates on this website.
Please accept our apology and keep talking to us, via......
She went on to publish her email address and ask for feedback.. which left me feeling positive about the way the company handled the situation.
When I was involved in the risk management of packaged products we divided issues into two types... consumer perceivable and consumer transparent. Using Design Space factors we could run round what the issue meant from each of the eight points of view. In one case we reduced the weight of plastic in a flip top cap by 10%. This was argued to only affect the price paid to the supplier. In fact we passed round some samples and realised we had lost the audible click as it shut, deemed not to be important until we argued it was an emotional cue to reassure the consumer that the cap is closed. A debate followed whether this was a consumer negative or an observation. We gave a pack with the new cap to a consumer group that had broken for coffee nearby... the instant feedback was "does tha cap work?" The instant reaction from the team leader was "we can't do it." Our design reaction was .. "What do we do to put the click back in, without increasing weight?" Some simulation work showed how we could actually move plastic about and put the click back in, whilst not putting the weight back on, and as a bonus improving mouldability!
If I had been working on the Mars activity, the brand team would have to do a risk identification and sensitivity analysis around the Design Space and a gap analysis on the Design Pyramid to ensure we had covered off issues that we can easily and quickly do, with the right team in a room for 2-3 hours. Which would have saved a great deal of resource consumption after the fact.
The point is: a proper risk assessment can yield positive returns and avoid the Mars effect. In fact it might have been possible to see the trend to vegetarian-based ingredients and actually sort out a sourcing policy based on the trend.