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The Rise and Fall of 'King-Size' Chocolate Bars (UK)

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In the mid-1980s some new versions of a few well-known chocolate bars started appearing on shop shelves in the UK - the king-size chocolate bar had arrived. Usually between 30% to 50% larger than its standard counterpart, the 'man-size' bars may have been aimed primarily at the male market. It is common for confectionery companies to have a stereotypical 'target market' in mind when developing new confectionery or when redesigning existing products, and they will make use of this stereotype in their advertising campaign.

Does Size Matter?

Consumers, both male and female, were content to purchase larger versions of their favourite chocolate bar; the king-size grew in popularity and thousands were sold every year. The value for money aspect may have helped, with some bars being as little as 10p extra for up to 50% bigger bar.

For nearly 20 years the king-size bars were produced, distributed, purchased and consumed without any known negative effects. Until a report, published by the Commons Health Select Committee in 2004, issued a warning that the king-size bars were partially responsible for increasing obesity in the UK. Included in the report was that some king-size bars contained up to 500 calories, which is a quarter of a woman's daily-recommended requirement. As waistlines grew, so did the concerns. It was the Snickers king-size bar that was scrutinised and criticised the most, maybe because it weighed 100g (that's 3.5oz). The report also stated that the king-size Snickers, made by Mars (Masterfood), 'contained more calories than a meal of sirloin steak, potatoes and broccoli'.

Government health officials and nutritional organisations were concerned about their effect in connection with the ever-increasing obesity of the UK populace. Although there was general consensus that obesity is caused by many factors, the king-size bars were considered to encourage gluttony in the weak-willed.

End of a Reign

In September, 2004 the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), an organisation that represents various food and drink manufactures, including confectionery companies, released its 'Manifesto for Food and Health'. It was this document that inadvertently hammered the nails in the coffin of nearly all of the king-size bars1. Part of the FDF manifesto was seven pledges of action to encourage the food and drink industry to be more health conscience. Reducing portion size, clearer food labels, reduction of the levels of fat, sugar and salt were among the FDF pledges aimed at the wide-ranging food and drinks industry, not just the confectioneries.

In a BBC Radio 4 Today programme interview in September, 2004, Martin Patterson, the FDF's director general stated:

There is an awful lot here for individual consumers to think about, but the industry thinks that it can play its part too. If, for example, we mark up a product for sharing, and that is backed by a general understanding that perhaps two products in one day is more than moderate, then we are starting to get somewhere.

Cadbury responded with a pledge to discontinue their king-size bars. The company committed to:

Phase out all non-segmented/non-portioned king-size bars and discontinue the king-size nomenclature.

In February, 2005, Cadbury began withdrawing their king-size versions. They then launched their '8 Chunk' variety, including three different varieties of eight-chunk 'Dairy Milk' bars which weigh almost 50% more than standard Dairy Milk bars. Cadbury later defended the '8 Chunk' launch by claiming they could be broken into chunks that could be saved for later or shared.

Mars pledged to phase out their king-size bars in 2005 and replace them with shareable bars. A Mars spokesman said:

Our king-size bars that come in one portion will be changed so they are shareable or can be consumed on more than one occasion. The name king-size will be phased out.

However, some bars were simply renamed 'The Big One', rather than phased out. These were eventually replaced by the 'Duo', a twin bar pack. Duos are the same weight as the king-size but split into two bars, the idea of which is to share or save one bar for another time. The packaging even has step-by-step picture instuctions of how to open your 'Duo' into two bars, in four easy-to-follow actions.

Some king-size products which were suitable for sharing, or once opened could be sealed with a peg and saved for later were simply renamed. The king-size 'Twix' has been renamed 'Xtra', and king-size 'Maltesers’ are now called 'Big Bag'.

The exception is Nestlé, who took a different stance and refused to follow their rivals. They claimed 'young men with active lifestyles' mainly consumed their king-size products, which made up only a small part of their market. As of 2006, Nestlé were still producing their king-size bars, though they are not being stocked by all shops.

1King-size chocolate bars are still available in other countries, including the US.

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