Creme eggs: is Cadbury setting a good example?

09 March 2015

On 12 January 2015 Cadbury announced, its controversial decision to alter the UK's favourite Easter treat – the Creme Egg.  Not only has Cadbury replaced the existing Dairy Milk chocolate with traditional Cadbury milk chocolate, they have also reduced the traditional six-pack to a five-pack – the combination of which has left consumers shell-shocked.

The change from Dairy Milk to standard chocolate has whipped consumers into a frenzy and has led to complaints, boycotts, petitions and consumers begging Cadbury to revert to the original recipe.  This public backlash should act as a reminder to big brands that they should consider the impact that recipe changes will have on the reputation and sales of a product. 

The reduction of the multipack from a six-pack to a five-pack has faced slightly less criticism and some groups have even supported the decision and on the basis that Cadbury was promoting a healthier diet.

On 5 March 2014 the World Health Organisation (WHO) published their draft guidelines on sugar intake. 

The draft guidelines proposed that sugar should make up less than 10% of a person's total energy intake per day.  It further suggested that a reduction to below 5% of total energy intake per day would have additional benefits.  Five per cent of total energy intake is equivalent to around 25 grams (around 6 teaspoons) of sugar per day for an adult of normal Body Mass Index.  To put this in perspective, a six pack of Crème Eggs amount to 480% of a person's recommended daily sugar intake.

These WHO guidelines have led to pressure on food and drink manufactures to proactively endeavour to reduce the public's sugar consumption to avoid the prospect of government regulation.  Some health groups have suggested mandatory clear, prominent labels on high sugar food and drink packaging stipulating the sugar content and percentage of recommended daily intake. Others have recommended a "tax" on sugar or that high sugar foods, such as energy drinks and "junk" food, should be subject to stronger regulatory controls and plain packaging.

The food and beverage industry is keen to avoid such restrictions and some manufacturers have been actively taking steps to promote healthier eating, for example, by reducing serving sizes and the number of products in multipacks. Cadbury are not the first company to voluntarily reduce product sizes, in October 2014 Nestlé decreased the size of their Killer Python from 47 grams to 42 grams and in September 2014 Coca-Cola launched a 250 ml can of Coca-Cola that contains 27 grams of sugar, compared to 35 grams for a traditional can.

It is too soon to say whether these voluntary attempts to tackle the public's sugar addition will be enough to prevent direct regulation of the industry, however, what is clear this that such steps should be encouraged by both the industry and consumers.