We’ve known for some time that naturally occurring compounds called flavonols found in cocoa have potentially good health benefits.

Ongoing scientific research suggests consumption of chocolate rich in flavonols may act as antioxidants to help defend the body from free radical damage. Researchers at Harvard and elsewhere have been studying the effects of cocoa flavonols on healthy blood flow and circulation.

Even the American Heart Association in its Scientific Sessions of November 2004 demonstrated in its study that Cocoa Via™ Snack Bars (based on Mars technology) consumed by adults twice per day saw a significant reduction in total—and especially LDL cholesterol.

And let’s not forget chocolate consumption provides a serotonin uptick in the brain; there’s nothing like releasing endorphins to make people feel happy!

So what’s the point from a marketing perspective?

Mars, the behemoth manufacturer of some of the world’s most beloved chocolate brands: Snickers®, Milky Way® and M&M’S®, has been proactive by supporting ongoing research for years to uncover the health benefits of chocolate. Fifteen years of research led to a patented, proprietary process dubbed Cocoapro® which retains the compounds in the cocoa bean.

Wise idea, right? Why not capitalize on consumer interest in healthier snack options? But this is no mere marketing ploy without substance.

Earlier this year, Mars and Swiss B2B chocolate supplier Barry Callebaut released a statement announcing they will work jointly to create a standardized measure to “increase the availability and uniformity of cocoa flavonol-rich chocolate products worldwide."

This was announced in a Just Food article among other sources, including press releases from both companies.

“This agreement with Barry Callebaut will now guarantee reliable flavonol levels in more chocolate products around the globe," stated Mary Wagner, general manager at Mars Botanical, a scientific unit of Mars.

In a nutshell: Careful handling of cocoa and measuring throughout the manufacturing process are necessary to ensure the important compounds in chocolate are delivered to consumers consistently, on a global basis. Otherwise much of flavonol benefits are lost in the manufacturing process.

I think this is a terrific strategy. As more science emerges, Mars will be positioned to capitalize: its brands will no doubt be marketed as containing “standardized flavonols” or “the ultimate flavonols." Even better:  Mars will no doubt be embraced as the chocolate company that took the initiative to make cocoa products healthier the world over. From a marketing perspective, it’s a brilliant strategy.


Would you be more likely to purchase Mars chocolate or another brand of chocolate if it marketed a “standardized flavonol” pledge to you? Do you think messaging about this will be understood by consumers if handled properly by marketers?

Do you prefer to eat your favorite chocolate and just enjoy it without health-related information?

Do you think confectionery and snacks, in general, will have to be “healthier” than they were in the past? Or is this a category where marketing decadence will always be acceptable to consumers?

I’d love to hear from you.

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Chocolate: the New 'Health' Food?

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Ted Mininni is president and creative director of Design Force, a leading brand-design consultancy.

LinkedIn: Ted Mininni