Saturday, 19 May 2007

Mars to Start Using Animal Rennet in Chocolate

I suppose Mars should be applauded for being open about this:
Some of the UK's best-selling chocolate bars, such as Mars and Twix, will
no longer be suitable for vegetarians.

Also affecting brands such as Snickers and Maltesers, owner Masterfoods
said it had started to use animal product rennet to make its chocolate products.


But the applause is very muted, to say the least. Why does mars feel it necessary to meddle with something that is working quite well thank you? As a vegetarian, chocolate is my trump card. When I go to a restaurant and can't find anything appealing on the savoury part of the menu, I can raid the sweets menu with a clear conscience.

It is a very strange decision, really. I suppose it must boil down to economoics. In the strange world we live in, it must be cheaper somehow cheaper to raise a cow, impregnate it, feed it through its pregnancy and then slaughter its calf to get the enzymes in its stomach, than to grow some goop in a petri-dish. But how can it make economic sense to alienate a significant part of your market, by making your products taboo to them?

Masterfood made a funny statement - as in funny strange, not funny ha ha - claiming that "a less strict vegetarian should enjoy our chocolate". I'm not a militant vegetarian, but what is a "less strict vegetarian"? A non-vegetarian?

Dairy products have always occupied a gray area, as we all know what the milk was intended for, and what has happened to the intended recipient. But I think even the least strict vegetarian will find the use of calf rennet in chocolate too much.


Rachel said...

A ‘less strict vegetarian’ can also be called a ‘flexitarian’ (ethics so flexible in the face of a barbeque as to be non-existent). For the person who eats animal products and yet labels themselves vegetarian, presumably in an effort to impress others with their ‘special nature’, here’s a thought. Just BE vegan/vegetarian. That way you can have the desired effect on others without being ignorant/pretentious/hypocritical/
offensive/all of the above. In a related topic, I wish I had a dollar for every meat eater that, upon finding out that I’m vegan, has cheerfully rejoined “I could be vegetarian!”. To which I always reply “If that’s the case – why aren’t you?”. Their faces immediately fall into a frown. “But I just couldn’t give up sausages”. I ‘spose it’s a bit like saying “I could be a lesbian, but……”

lurgee said...

It looks like they have decided not to alienate 3 million potential customers in Britain, and however many more elsewhere:

A week-long campaign by vegetarians prompted Mars UK to admit it had become "very clear, very quickly" that it had been a mistake to change the variety of whey used in Mars, Snickers, Maltesers and Galaxy bars from a vegetarian source to one with traces of rennet, an animal enzyme which is taken from the stomachs of calves.

But with hundreds of thousands of chocolate bars containing the new ingredients already thought to be on the shelves and the company ruling out a recall, Mars has had to admit it cannot tell vegetarian consumers exactly when its bars will be safe to eat.

"The position is highly confused," said Annette Pinner, chief executive of the Vegetarian Society, who has been in talks with Mars UK over the weekend. "We need to know what's going to be vegetarian - and when it's going to be vegetarian."

While welcoming the U-turn, she added: "We really want clarity. That's what is important so that people know Mars can be trusted."

Mars UK began using animal products in chocolates produced at its factory in Slough, Berkshire, on May 1.

Within a week of the decision being announced, more than 6,000 people had called and emailed the multinational's switchboard, which usually receives 500 comments a week. More than 40 MPs also signed a petition to voice their disapproval.


lurgee said...

Though I note that in the original article, the BBC referred to Masterfoods, in the follow up article by the Guardian, it is Mars UK. Could it be that the vocal protest in Britain has made them change their minds, but the change will be ushered in, quietly, overseas? Something to think about.

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