September 18, 2007 in Business

Mars Inc. to keep using cocoa butter

The Spokesman-Review
 

The maker of M&M’s and Milky Way bars says it would be a mistake to mess with its chocolate.

Mars Inc. said Monday it will continue to use 100 percent cocoa butter in its U.S. chocolate products, bucking an industry campaign to allow cheaper vegetable oils to be substituted.

The announcement comes amid a push by a dozen food industry groups to change long-established federal standards to allow for replacing cocoa butter with another vegetable fat, up to a level of 5 percent. The groups say the change, which would save money for manufacturers, would allow more flexibility and innovation.

•The makers of Greenies, one of the nation’s best-selling dog treats, have settled a class-action lawsuit claiming the teeth-cleaning product injured or killed close to a dozen dogs.

U.S. District Judge Gary Fenner on Monday agreed with a joint request to dismiss the case. Terms were confidential.

Alan Sash, who represented 10 dog owners against Kansas City-based manufacturer S&M NuTec, said the case was settled.

An attorney for S&M NuTec, which was acquired last year by McLean, Va.-based candy conglomerate Mars Inc., didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Beginning in 2005, media outlets began carrying stories of pet owners claiming their dogs either choked on pieces of Greenies or suffered medical problems when undigested pieces became trapped in their intestines. A CNN report last year estimated at least 13 dogs had died of Greenies-related problems.

•Bookings at The Walt Disney Co.’s domestic theme parks are not reflecting a broader economic downturn, the company’s chief financial officer said Monday.

Travel bookings in the current quarter are up compared with the same period last year, Thomas Staggs told investors gathered at the Merrill Lynch Media and Entertainment conference.

International visits to the parks have still not recovered from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Staggs said. Those visits might be expected to increase because of the weak dollar, but difficulties in gaining travel visas to the United States are still having a negative impact, Staggs said.

The company will likely increase capital spending to beef up its lagging second park in California, Staggs said.

Disney’s California Adventure opened in 2001 next door to Disneyland and has been a disappointment to the company, which has steadily added attractions to the park. Disney is not likely to open any new parks in the United States in the foreseeable future, Staggs said.

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