Maker of Snickers to put its chocolate on a diet

Wed Feb 15, 2012 8:20pm EST

Feb 15 (Reuters) - Mars Inc, the maker of Snickers and Twix candy bars, will stop selling chocolate products with more than 250 calories in them by the end of next year, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

The McClean, Virginia-based company, which also makes M&Ms and Skittles candies and Juicy Fruit chewing gum, said the goal is part of an ongoing effort to improve the nutritional value of its products and to sell them in a responsible way.

The new calorie limit target means fans of the 540-calorie king-size Snickers bar might want to enjoy the big bar while they can. Come 2014, it's going to be gone, part of what Mars says is a broader push for responsible snacking.

In 2007, the privately held company said it would stop buying advertising time or space if more than a quarter of the audience was likely to be under 12 years old.

Mars has also said it will reduce sodium levels in all its products 25 percent by 2015.

Spokeswoman Marlene Machut said the plan to stop shipping any chocolate product that exceeded 250 calories per portion by the end of 2013 - a target first announced last fall - was part of Mars' "broad-based commitment to health and nutrition."

Several media organizations, including National Public Radio, reported on the chocolate bar down-sizing this week.

Mars is one of the world's leading food manufacturers. In addition to candy, it makes Uncle Ben's rice and Dove ice cream bars as well as Pedigree and Whiskas brand pet food. (Reporting by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Todd Eastham)