Mars continues to sell 'essential' chocolates in Russia but insists it is not 'business as usual'

Mars has been trading in Russia for 30 years. Credit: PA

I’m still trying to make sense of this statement that Mars Global issued on Thursday regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.It says: “Business as usual [in Russia] is not an option” adding that Mars will continue, “our essential role in feeding the Russian people and pets".

Mars seems to present the decision to continue selling chocolate, chewing gum and pet food in Russia as “humanitarian”. I’ve asked Mars which of its brands - Snickers, M&Ms, Twix, Dolmio, Whiskas - it fears Russians would struggle to survive without. It hasn’t yet said.

Mars has been trading in Russia for 30 years and says it will “support” its 6,000 staff there, which is commendable.The company is reported to have 10 factories in Russia, although I can’t get Mars to confirm this, or to say if they are still operating.Presumably they are.

The Mars press release says: “Our hearts are broken by this terrible war in Ukraine.”Interestingly, the press release doesn’t appear on the company’s Russian website.In fact, there’s no mention of the war at all. Although, there’s plenty on climate change and Covid.

Mars has suspended investment and marketing in Russia and will donate any profits generated there to humanitarian causes.

These things are significant but Mars has basically decided not to join those multinationals who have explicitly condemned Russia and suspended operations.

Continuing to do business in Russia carries risk for Mars, of course, but there’s little sign of a backlash from consumers.

On Twitter there’s the odd call for a boycott and plenty of confusion about whether Mars is staying or going. Mars is privately owned by the Mars family.

Mars describes the situation in Ukraine as “fast-moving” and reserves the right to “take further action”.If, for example, Russia begins to kill Ukrainian civilians using chemical weapons in addition to conventional arms, there’s the possibility Mars’s position will toughen.