Christopher Snowdon, director of lifestyle economics for UK think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), told ConfectioneryNews it was difficult to speculate if or how plain packaging could move from tobacco to food and alcohol, but past experience supported a, “‘slippery slope' theory”.
“If the plain packaging was introduced for confectionery, the industry would complain in the strongest terms at the loss of their brands and the removal of a lever of competition. This could leave the government liable for compensation claims,” he said.
Recently disclosed government documents (pages 31-37) show Mars wrote to the Department of Health (DoH) in 2012 following talks on so-called plain packaging in the tobacco industry – meaning a product may only be presented in bare, colorless packaging with the company’s logo and relevant health information. While Mars does not have any tobacco ties, it said it was anxious about the precedent such legislation would set for its sector.
A statement from Mars this week said:"The 2012 response was not a comment on the specific policy, we were highlighting the need to ensure any legislation did not have unintended knock-on effects on brand equity and intellectual property within other categories.”
The Mars spokesperson added that the company would not be responding to the current UK consultation on tobacco plain packaging, which is due to close on August 7 this year. The DoH told us it was not currently considering plain packaging for the food and drink industry.
In its 2012 correspondence, Mars’ legal team wrote: “Mars is concerned that the introduction of mandatory plain packaging in the tobacco industry would also set a key precedent for the application of similar legislation to other industries, including the food and non-alcoholic beverage industries in which Mars operates.”
Snowdon said:“There is not yet a legal precedent because the idea is so new, but a recent report by BNP Paribas says that a successful lawsuit by the tobacco industry would require the British government to pay out up to £11bn [$18.63bn]. This is based on the market value of the brands.