Snickers, Twix and other chocolate products from Mars Inc are coming down in size as part of a drive by the company to stop selling chocolate products containing more than 250 calories by the end of 2013. This means the 540-calorie king-size Snickers bar will become a thing of the past.

Virginia-based Mars Inc, which also makes pet foods, drinks and chewing gum, is the world’s leading confectioner and produces 7 of the best-selling global chocolate brands, including Mars, Dove/Galaxy and Snickers.

According to information on the company website, and a press announcement by a spokeswoman on Wednesday, the downsizing of chocolate products is part of an ongoing effort to enhance the nutritional content of the company’s brands and sell them in a more responsible way.

“We are aware of the high levels of obesity, heart disease and diabetes in some regions where we operate, and we are taking steps to enhance the nutritional content of our snacks. We are renovating our chocolate products to reduce saturated fats and decrease calories per serving and innovating to give consumers greater choice,” says a statement on the company’s Health and Nutrition web pages.

Some of the steps have already been completed. Between 2002 and 2010, the company has removed 97% of transfats from its chocolate products.

In the UK and major European markets, the brands Mars, Snickers, Milky Way and Topic, now contain 35 to 45% less saturated fat per 100 gms than the average of the top 25 chocolate brands in each market.

One way the company has implemented the commitment not to ship any products exceeding 250 calories per portion is by replacing the king size bar with two smaller ones.

In the UK for instance there is a new product called the Snickers Duo. In the US there is the 2toGo version, where each bar is packed in memory wrappers that can be twisted to close so consumers can save one for later.

In 2007, Mars was the first food company to announce a global commitment to stop advertising food, snack and confectionery products to children under 12.

As part of this commitment, the company says it does not buy advertising space if more than a quarter of the audience is likely to be children under 12, and their advertisements and promotions never show that age group eating or acting as spokespeople for Mars snack foods.

Written by Catharine Paddock PhD