US confectionery giant Mars has “broken ranks” over the debate on what ingredients should be allowed for use in chocolate.

Mars said proposals to change the so-called “Standards of Identity” for chocolate – for example, allowing the use of cheaper vegetable fats instead of traditional cocoa butter – would “lower the bar” on quality.

Bodies including the US Chocolate Manufacturers Association want to change the guidelines on chocolate production. The proposals also allow for the use of lower-cost milk substitutes instead of genuine milk products.

Niche, speciality chocolate makers like Guittard Chocolate argue that the plans, if enacted, would change the taste and composition of chocolate in the US. Now Mars has joined those wanting to protect the current standards.

“Even though we could save millions of dollars, we simply won’t compromise the purity and authenticity of our chocolate by diluting it with a cocoa butter substitute,” said Todd Lachman, president of Mars Snackfoods US.

Marlene Machut, director of health and health communications at Mars, said the company is “breaking ranks” from the chocolate industry in the US.

“We’re listening to consumers; consumers are telling us this is what they want,” Machut told just-food this afternoon (17 September). “They don’t want cocoa butter substitutes.”