Back in February 2016, Mars made an announcement that it would remove all artificial colors from its human food products by about 2021.
“The company believes the process of developing alternative colors, ensuring their safety and quality, obtaining regulatory approval, and introducing the new ingredients across the entirety of its human food portfolio around the world will take about five years,” Mars said in a statement in 2016.
It’s been three years since then, and the commitment is still a work in progress, according to the company.
“Mars has committed to removing artificial colors from all of our human food products,” the company says now. “As we make these changes, we are dedicated to delivering the same great tasting products, and we will provide absolute transparency about our ingredients in our labeling.”
Many of Mars’ products are known for their bright colors, such as Skittles and Starburst. That creates a challenge for the candy maker as it works to create products with natural colors, which tend to be more muted than artificial colors. The company is looking for new innovations in this space.
“As an example, in the U.S., the FDA has approved Mars’ petition to use Spirulina Extract as a naturally sourced color additive in confectionery and chewing gum,” the company says.
Spirulina can be used to create a vibrant blue.
Mars also says the company already offers a range of products that are free of artificial colors around the world.
“It’s part of our ongoing commitment to meet evolving consumer preferences while taking advantage of new technologies and scientific information,” Mars says.
When Mars first announced its goal to use only natural colors, it made a point of saying that the artificial colors it does use now pose no health risk, and that the change was instead inspired by consumer demand.
“Artificial colors pose no known risks to human health or safety, but consumers today are calling on food manufacturers to use more natural ingredients in their products,” Mars said at the time. “Against this backdrop, Mars will work closely with its suppliers to find alternatives that not only meet the its strict quality and safety standards, but also maintain the vibrant, fun colors consumers have come to expect from the company's beloved brands.”