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Candy bar giant will stop marketing to kids

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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: There has been a growing concern about childhood obesity in a number of countries. Now the maker of Mars and Snickers candy bars is taking a global step to address the problem. MasterFoods plans to stop marketing its products to children under the age of 12 by the end of the year. Joining us to discuss the decision is Jenny Wiggins, consumer industries correspondent for the Financial Times. Jenny, what does this decision mean?

JENNY WIGGINS: Well it’s quite significant because it’s the first time that a major food company has come out and said we are going to change our marketing policy with regard to children. Over the past year in the U.S. as well as Europe, we’ve seen the soft drink companies Coke and Pepsi make a number of changes such as stopping to sell fizzy drinks in schools, but the food companies have been a bit quieter on this front. None of them have really come out and made major changes to their policies and particularly they haven’t made changes to their global policies, which I think is also what’s significant about this decisions, that it applies in emerging markets as well as the U.S. and Europe.

THOMAS: Do you have any idea what impact this will have on other companies? Do you think other companies will decide to do something similar?

WIGGINS: Yes I think eventually the other food groups will be forced to emulate Mars’ lead. It’s going to be very difficult for other companies not to follow in their footsteps. You know, regulators and governments will be pointing to Mars and saying, ‘well if they’re doing this why aren’t you?’ And certainly in the U.K. last year we’ve seen new advertising restrictions that are even tougher, where companies can’t target television ads to children under 16. So I think the fact that Mars is moving to an age limit of 12 will be seen as good, but I’m sure consumer groups will say it’s not going far enough.

THOMAS: Thank you so much Jenny. I appreciate your time.

WIGGINS: OK.

THOMAS: Jenny Wiggins is the consumer industries correspondent with The Financial Times.

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