I want my King-Sized Snickers!
On Monday I sauntered over to the grocery store. In the midst of picking up the usual necessities for the week, I also caught a pretty heavy sweet tooth. I found myself confused in the candy aisle, however, when I didn’t see the king-sized versions of my favorite chocolate bars. Interestingly enough, Reason published a relevant article today by Greg Beato:
In 1998, a Colorado handyman was snowmobiling in the mountains outside of Steamboat Springs when he got swept up in an avalanche that buried his vehicle and left him stranded in a blizzard. Provisioned with nothing more than two butane lighters and a Snickers bar, the man endured 40 mph winds and near-zero temperatures for five days and four nights as rescue teams struggled to locate him. Luckily, the Snickers bar he’d carried was the king-sized version. Every one of its 510 calories helped him persevere through the course of his ordeal.
In the future, anyone caught in similar circumstances better hope for a faster search and rescue team. Mars Inc., the manufacturer of Snickers and many other convenience store treats, has decided to phase out chocolate products that exceed 250 calories per portion. By the end of 2013, consumers will no longer be able to purchase king-sized Snickers bars. Instead, they’ll have to make do with a product that Mars introduced in 2009, Snickers 2 To Go, which features two 220-calorie bars in a single “resealable” wrapper. In addition, Mars will also need to reduce the size of a standard Snickers bar. It currently contains 280 calories and thus exceeds the new calorie cap by 12 percent.
Mars is implementing the 250-calorie threshold as part of an agreement with Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), a non-profit organization that aims to “broker meaningful commitments” from commercial food manufacturers like Mars to “end childhood obesity.” PHA was founded in 2010 in conjunction with the Let’s Move! program, First Lady Michelle Obama’s federally funded government initiative that aims to shape up the nation’s tubby youth through a vigorous regimen of legislation, regulation, and mass jumping jacks. Mrs. Obama serves as PHA’s honorary chair, and according to its website, PHA’s mandate is to “monitor and publicly report on the progress” of its private-sector partners like Mars, and, more generally, to “make the healthy choice the easy choice.”
This is ridiculous on so many levels. My main beef with this paternalist approach is that market demand will bring about change much more effectively and efficiently than the government.
Just look at the all-natural/organic food market. You don’t have to patron Whole Foods or any other incumbent organic grocer to avoid artificial ingredients in your diet anymore. But why? People started demanding ‘real food’ in increasing numbers, and businesses like Publix, Kroger, Target, Wal-Mart, and Costco met the demands of their customers. The end results are greater supply, choice, and variety that bring about cost-effective pricing mechanisms. It’s a pretty simple concept – one that benefits us all.
As far as the candy bars are concerned, consumers still have options. Buy less candy, don’t eat the entire king-sized bar in one sitting (hey, the freezer is there for a reason!), try a piece of fruit, etc. When consumers alter their behavior in the market place, those on the supply side will inevitably adapt to meet the demands of their customers. If they don’t adjust to the new landscape, competitors will step in and seize their market share. It’s all about incentives.
Just to put the icing on my grocery store cake, the cashier asked for my ID because I had lighters amongst my purchases. No booze, no smokes, just a pack of lighters.
Image via Google Images