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New Smarties box encourages consumers to count calories

New packaging makes it easier for consumers to divvy up chocolates into healthier portion sizes

The famous Smarties jingle used to ask chocolate lovers if they ate the red ones last.

Now, Nestle Canada is asking consumers to consider eating fewer of the candy-coated chocolate treats and save the red ones for later.

The company is revamping the packaging of Smarties products to make it easier for consumers to parcel out the candies into healthier portion sizes.

"I think it's probably no surprise to anybody that we've lost a bit of our sense of what an appropriate-size portion is of food,'' said Catherine O'Brien, vice-president of corporate affairs at Nestle Canada in Toronto.

"What we're doing is providing a package that really is a tangible way for consumers to be a bit more mindful about their choices when they're having a treat. It's a physical disruption to your eating pattern, just to make you think before you overdo it.''

The new Canadian-developed package is slightly smaller–down to 45 grams from 50–and each box is divided into three compartments. Each compartment contains 15 Smarties, which add up to 70 calories.

Those 15 Smarties contain just shy of 11 grams of sugar, or the equivalent of about three cubes' worth.

"The package is an actual physical separation of portion, with the notion of enjoy some now and enjoy some at another time,'' said O'Brien.

The company is discontinuing its king-size Smarties boxes. Bags of Smarties weighing 203 grams are being replaced with recyclable canisters, with lids that double as measuring cups to help consumers pour out a 70-calorie, 15 Smartie portion.

"I could see where it would be useful for those people who are health-conscious and aware or trying to manage their portion sizes,'' said registered dietitian Shannon Crocker.

"I could also see where it wouldn't work for everybody. My teenager would blow through all (three) sections (of a box) with no trouble,'' added the mother of two boys, aged 11 and 13.

"I think it could be a good instructional tool for parents ... to help teach kids how we can enjoy treats in moderation. We know from research that restricting foods that kids love as a strategy to force healthy eating backfires.''

Crocker and O'Brien both remind consumers that candy is not nutritious and should not be eaten regularly. Canada's Food Guide advises limiting foods and beverages that are high in calories, fat, sugar or salt.

O'Brien said Nestle Canada, which also makes ice cream, pizza, frozen meals, beverages and items for special diets, is re-examining its portion sizes and the nutritional information on products, particularly those geared toward children. Smarties is considered a children's brand globally, although in Canada it's consumed more by teens and adults, according to the company.

The company also said its products not meeting recommendations of the World Health Organization and the Institute of Medicine will no longer be sold, such as Sundae Smarties and the 750-gram size of Nesquick.

The new Smarties packages are in select stores, and the company expects to roll them out across the country by the end of March.

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