Saturday, February 04, 2006

Be treatwise

Cadbury and Mars support £10m communication programme to give lifestyle advice (minimum amount exercise per day and recommended daily fat intake) on their chocolate bars. This is intended to 'help people enjoy our products as part of their diet'. As a response to criticism for heavy promotion of chocolate snacks in the light of growing obesity, especially amongst children, the message is presumably intended to encourage people to consume these products in moderation.

Whether the public will take any notice is another thing. Many alcohol brands already carry a 'enjoy our product sensibly' message, yet we are led to believe that binge drinking is still rife. However, health warnings on cigarette packets have been shown to have a dicouraging effect on smoking, especially the bigger, more colourful and intelligible the message (although this was not an initiative by the tobacco companies).

I am not about to put chocolate in the same league as booze and fags, but there is a seemingly common dilemma across them all. An immediate cynical response could be, 'People won't take any notice of these labels anyway and companies wouldn't really want them to because it would affect sales.' In the short term, perhaps. But if people become ill or die as a direct result of the products they (over)consume, not only do they lose these customers, but companies are branded 'irresponsible' and lose far greater business still. And this is to presume only self-interest on behalf of companies and not genuine concern for the wellbeing of their customers in itself. Perhaps the only objective test of this is to see what comapnies will do should the message not have the expressed intention of encouraging moderate consumption.

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