Giant snacks – meant for two, eaten by one

Andrew Martin chooses the smaller bar – and no sharing

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The Independent Online

The coalition has gone for a voluntary rather than a regulatory approach to portion size, so food manufacturers can now boast about how they are inflicting fewer of their unhealthiest products on us. Accordingly, it was announced last week that Mars will magnanimously reduce the size of Mars bars, in order to lower the calorie content without changing the actual taste of a Mars, which I like.

I eat at least one Mars bar a week, but I have never eaten a Mars Duo: that, is, two Mars bars in one pack, and I wonder whether Mars would agree to reduce the Mars Duo by a factor of 50 per cent, this coming full circle back to one Mars bar. And will it evict that sinister interloper, the third Twix finger, from that dietary and linguistic anomaly, the Twix Xtra? And will Cadbury consider removing the "and a half" from its extra-long bar-and-a-half of Dairy Milk ?

All these moves would bring closure to a nightmare of greed and gigantism that has negated all those homilies of my childhood, such as: "I hope you're not going to eat all of that", or "Now, save some of that for later", or "You'll be sharing that around, I assume".

Apparently, the defence for the Mars Duo and other freaks is that "they are made for sharing". But when was the last time anyone asked you, "Would you like half of my Mars Duo because if I eat it all myself, I'm going to be sick?"

People do not purchase confectionery by committee. I can just about imagine someone buying a Mars Duo, thinking, "I'll give the other half to X when I get back home" ... but as to whether that other half would still be in their pocket, as opposed to their stomach, by the time they stepped through the front door ... that is another matter entirely.

I say remove the temptation. When it comes to chocolate, and crisps, more is less. Incidentally, regarding crisps, Walkers defends its introduction of the charmingly named, and extra large, Grab Bag (50g as against the standard size of 35g) by saying that most of its bags of crisps are sold in 25g packs. But these come in multi-packs, so what appears to be fewer crisps is in fact more crisps.

At the risk of sounding pious, I will mention that my favourite snack as a boy in the Seventies was a two-finger Kit-Kat, and I used to be fascinated by the way that these were made in a bigger building in the Rowntree factory at York (town of my birth) than that which produced the four-finger version. Then again, two-finger Kit-Kats where everywhere in those days, whereas I hardly ever seem to see them now ... only, perhaps, in dusty sweet shops run by tremulous old ladies who still offer two ounces of Midget Gems instead of a quarter pound.

There is a sweet shop in a seaside town I know whose proprietor superficially fits that bill: she is old, tremulous, and she hasn't gone metric, but she is modern enough to refuse to serve two ounces of Midget Gems even if the alternative is that I won't buy any at all. She is determined to break down what remains of the Protestant self-denial that used to inform our approach to food.

So it is with the bar tenders who serve me a medium glass of wine (175ml) when I ask for a "small" (which is, officially, 125ml) ... and the sellers of popcorn in cinemas. A decade ago the annoying sound of someone munching their way through a carton of popcorn would stop a quarter of the way through the film because they had run out of popcorn, but now that the stuff is served in dustbins, they're still at it when the credits roll.

The idea of "meal times" now seems impossibly genteel. A continuum of eating has been established in this country, and it's going to take more than "a voluntary approach" to turn back the clock.