MARS INC must think we're all children -- all of us who love chocolate and candy. The chocolate maker is in trouble and needs our good will. So, they are giving their candy away free in a giant PR campaign. It's as if, like children, we will give them our love and goodwill if they give us candy. (Actor Neil Patrick Harris, above, hands out free Mars candy in midtown Manhattan.)
ARE CHOCOLATE MAKERS FIXING PRICES?
What's up? In April, an Ethic Soup article told about Mars, together with Hershey, Nestle and Cadbury, facing antitrust charges of price fixing. Together these four manufacturers control 75 percent of the US chocolate market and currently have some 87 antitrust suits against them. They are accused of conspiring to raise chocolate candy prices three different times, with identical price increases at the exact same time.
THEY ARE SOOOO SWEET
So now Mars is giving away free candy -- every week through September, adding up to a quarter-of-a-million packages. I'd rather have my money back!
What's really shameful is the fact that Mars is advertising its 'magnanimous' candy give away as being altruistic. It's "Real Chocolate Relief Act" is supposed to be a national effort aimed at cheering up Americans, who are concerned about such pressing problems as the economy, with free candy. Isn't that sweet? Yessiree, that'll cheer us up, as our homes are foreclosed and we can no longer afford food for our pets. Just give us candy.
Mars is so caring about our finances. That's why they are charged with conspiring to raise and fix prices on our little candy luxuries. "It's our way of giving Americans a small treat during challenging times," says Michele Kessler, vice president, Mars Snackfood US, quoted in Convenience Store News.
Aw, how much money could be involved if they raised the prices on a little candy?
IT'S A WHOLE LOT OF MONEY
Don't forget, it's not just a little candy. It's 75 percent of the US chocolate market. The antitrust suits against the chocolate makers accuse them of fixing prices (in secret meetings) on three separate occasions: up 10 percent in December 2002, 6 percent in December 2004 and 5 percent in April 2007. As we said in April, "Lord knows what they've been up to in the last two years."
How many dollars does all this add up to? You begin to get the magnitude when you realize the sales volume of the US chocolate industry. Last year the industry generated $23.5 billion in sales of chocolate, chocolate confectionery, and sugar confectionery products, according to the National Confectioners Association. Back in 2002, when the four chocolate makers are accused of fixing prices up 10 percent, the chocolate industry exported more than $726 million in product. So, let's see, 10 percent of $726 million is more than $72 million extra dollars just in exports.
It's not just the Wall Street financiers who are greedy. So are the Chocolate Boys!
LAZY NEWS MEDIA
It's really frustrating to see all the free publicity the Mars campaign has been receiving from the news media. I read a lot of articles, in a variety of national media, most of which was merely a regurgitation of what Mars itself said in its press releases with an "ain't Mars grand!" attitude from the media.
I could not find even one mention of Mars' troubled status, charged in scores of antitrust suits for price fixing. The news media doesn't even bother to do any research -- as easy and quick as a Google search away. Obviously, editors believe the reading public would rather read a light, feel good story in these troubled times.
I'd rather hear the truth.
HERE ARE OTHER CHOCOLATE POSTS BY ETHIC SOUP:
TO READ "MORE CHOCOLATE PRICEFIXING PROBES TARGET MARS, HERSHEY, NESTLE, CADBURY & KRAFT FOODS," CLICK HERE.
TO READ "CHOCOLATE PRICEFIXING: HERSHEY, MARS, NESTLE & CADBURY," CLICK HERE.
TO READ "AMID ANTITRUST PRICEFIXING CHARGES: MARS GIVES CANDY AWAY FREE" CLICK HERE.
TO READ "DON'T MESS WITH CHOCOLATE," CLICK HERE.