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Chocolate bars on a diet?!

Last week, Mars, Inc. announced it will stop shipping chocolate bars that “exceed 250 calories per portion by the end of 2013.” The company has made the pledge as part of an agreement with Michelle Obama’s Partnership for a Healthier America. Mars and 16 other manufacturers have pledged to reduce 1.5 trillion calories by the end of 2015 by offering lower-calorie options and reducing portion sizes.

Mars, Inc. writes on its website:

  • “We are committed to making sure the products we offer, and the ingredients they contain, can fit into a balanced diet – whether whole grain rice or a delicious Mars chocolate bar. We are also committed to marketing and selling our products in a responsible way.”

This sounds like good news considering that Mars makes some of the top-selling brands of chocolate products in the world including Snickers, M&Ms, 3 Musketeers, Mars, and Twix. And all of these products come in king size portions as well as the regular size portions.  Currently, the regular size Snickers bar has 280 calories, while the king size has 510 calories.

Most consumers—myself included–took the announcement to mean that the company will stop marketing chocolate bars with more than 250 calories. So would that mean an end to king size bars?

Wishful thinking. The issue surrounds the definition of what constitutes a “portion.” Is a portion a “piece” or “the entire contents of what is in the package”? Most people that I know would say the latter.  After all, the package is marketed as one portion for one person.

After reading the fine print on Mars’ website, here is what the company intends to do. They write:

  • “We have committed not to ship any chocolate products that exceed 250 calories per portion by the end of 2013. In many markets, we have replaced SNICKERS® King Size — one large chocolate bar — with two smaller bars. The new product is called the SNICKERS® Duo, in the U.K, for example. In the U.S., our “2toGo” bars are packed in memory wrappers that can be twisted to close, giving people the choice to save one portion for later.”

As reported succinctly in the LA Times, “…it means packaging will change: hefty King Size portions will be subdivided into smaller “2toGo” sub-portions, designed to make it easier to put one serving aside for later.”

Good luck with that. Are most people really going to put the other piece aside for later?!  Perhaps, but probably just in theory.

Here are my thoughts:

If Mars were to actually stop selling chocolate bars with more than 250 calories, it would be a step in the right direction. Even though a 250 calorie chocolate bar is too caloric, it would still mean  progress, given the high calorie count in some of today’s candy bars.

But the company still plans to sell chocolate candy with more than 250 calories in one package—they are just going to “package” the contents differently.

On the website for the new bar, here is how Mars describes  the new Snickers 2toGo:

  • “It’s two pieces in one Snickers 2toGo. Enjoy twice the roasted peanuts, nougat, caramel, and milk chocolate wrapped in one resealable twist wrap package.”

And the new “2toGo” sub-portioned Snickers package weighs in at 3.3 ounces and  contains 440 calories! Yikes. It also looks pretty big to me when compared to the regular size 2.1 ounce bar. [See photo.]

While the 2toGo bar is an improvement from the 510 calorie king-size bar, it is still too big and contains far too many calories, especially for a candy bar.   While Mars’ efforts are a small step in the right direction, how about doing away with jumbo candy bars altogether?! Instead of selling “2toGo” bars in one package, why not sell each individual 1.7 ounce–and 220 calorie—“portion” as its own individually wrapped candy bar. Now that would be real progress and the portion would actually contain fewer than 250 calories.

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