Saturday, September 20, 2008
I’ve gotten a few comments and emails and I thought I’d address them:
1. Palm Oil
Environmental matters aside, consider the health effects of merely eating Palm Oil. The World Health Organization believes it contributes to cardiovascular disease. New research reveals that not only does cocoa butter not harm us, it actually increases the antioxidant properties of chocolate and is neutral to our blood cholesterol levels. (But it’s not like the health benefits of a milk chocolate coating on a candy bar are in any way remarkable.)
There are a lot of stories, web pages and sites devoted to the issue, so you can read up on it elsewhere for a fuller picture than I can paint. (And in various posts I’ve made other helpful readers have left links to websites they recommend.)
2. Hershey’s New Facility in Mexico
UPDATE 8/14/2009: Hershey’s is now making the Hershey’s Miniatures in Mexico as well as the York Peppermint Pattie.
3. The Word Mockolate
Basically mockolate is any product which pretends to be chocolate but doesn’t qualify for one reason or another due to the FDA definition of chocolate. In the case of the Friends episode, I believe that product had absolutely no Theobroma cacao content at all. The present Hershey’s products do actually “contain” chocolate but for the most part the cocoa butter has been replaced completely or in part by other vegetable oils.
I use the word because in many of the cases where it appears in a confection it’s intended to act like chocolate. (And might have been a real chocolate product at one time.)
I did mention the Nestle mockolate products to the producers of Today, but that was not the focus of the piece (and that’s certainly their prerogative). So I confined my examples to Hershey’s products. There are also companies that have always made poor quality chocolate and mockolate. That’s not what this story was about either.
I provided as many candy products as I could find over the weekend that were both the old and new formula. That was pretty much the Kissables and Almond Joy (and since Hershey’s confirmed that they went back to milk chocolate, that became moot). Everything else was representative items of the “new versions”. I referred the producers to some great sources of what the wrappers used to look like: Mike’s Candy Wrappers and Brad Kent’s Wrappers (and even Flickr).
I think the Kissables change was a good example of how subtle it was ... removing one word and putting in a different one. Milk Chocolate became Chocolate Candy. It would have been great to have the old and new Mr. Goodbar, because the print is so much smaller for the new “made with CHOCOLATE AND PEANUTS” versus the former “PEANUTS IN CHOCOLATE.” (As of today the Hershey’s Mr. Goodbar page still displays both versions - the new one on the top of the page and the little one in the middle of the page.)
Kirk Saville, spokesman for Hershey Company said later to the Harrisburg Patriot News, “The Mr. Goodbar formula was changed to allow the peanut flavor to come through.” I take issue with this because there was never any change to the wrapper except for the legally obligated ones. No big splashy “better tasting!” or “more peanut flavor.” Instead it was done quietly and subtly.
Hershey’s has not left the venerable Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Kisses and KitKat untouched. While they are still milk chocolate products, the formula has changed. If you want to tell for yourself we’re in another crossover right now. The Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar now has PGPR in it. It’s an additional emulsifier to the soy lecithin that nearly all chocolate products have.
If you look sharp you should be able to find both products (and the previous PGPR free ones still fresh) and can compare for yourself.
(Long ago I called Hershey’s to ask about this PGPR stuff that I saw in the Kisses ingredients list, it took a lot of wrangling to find out the origin of the product, theirs comes from castor beans. For some reason they always state where the lecithin comes from but not the PGPR.)
While I don’t know if there is a real difference in the flavor or texture, but I have gotten two notes from readers that say that the Hershey’s Kisses do not behave the same when baking. (Specifically when making those thumbprint cookies the Kiss comes out chalky instead of fudgy.)
I never said boycott Hershey’s. I said that I will not be buying the inferior products any longer (basically the Kissables and Take 5 - I stopped buying the 5th Avenue years ago), I’ve not taken all Hershey’s products off my list. A boycott is not when you simply don’t like a product any longer and don’t recommend it. I will still be buying products for review - that’s kind of what I do here.
I don’t think that this issue has enough traction to be a successful boycott anyway. However, as was demonstrated with the information at the end of the segment, Hershey’s did bring the milk chocolate coating back to the Almond Joy after consumer feedback. So maybe that’s all that’s required here.
Have you eaten something you weren’t happy with? Have a concern about an ingredient? Don’t like the way something’s advertised? Call them or send them a note.
Or via their online contact form (be prepared to tell them how old you are and they’ll ask you lots of other personal info that you probably don’t have to answer).
Friday, September 19, 2008
This is a tedious post and I don’t really expect folks to read it in earnest. It’s here for my reference and yours.
Since the whole change in Kissables, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the Hershey’s website and even did a screen grab on August 27th, 2008 before they started changing it in the past couple weeks after the ABCNews.com story. (I don’t know that was definitely the motivator.)
While Hershey’s has a clear disclaimer on the product pages with the nutrition information that reads: Hershey’s goal is to keep each product’s nutrition information up-to-date and accurate but please consult the label on the product’s packaging before using. If you notice that something is different on a product’s label than appears on our website, please call us for more information at (800) 468-1714. I can tell you from personal experience that getting information about Hershey’s about what’s actually in their products isn’t as easy as calling or emailing.
I understand that often in times of product formulation transition that the website needs to reflect what a consumer is most likely to find, some of the items on the Hershey’s website are far from just out of date, they’re inaccurate to the point of misleading. Here’s the last saved version of products page from March 2008 via Archive.org. (Images are not archived, so they may be linking to current images, not those that appeared during the time the archive was made.)
Plainly put, the descriptions on the Hershey’s Chocolate Products page don’t match what’s currently available in stores, further, what they say is in the products is inaccurate.
The first was the 5th Avenue, which shifted from a milk chocolate coated bar to a rich chocolatey coating bar back in 2006. The image on the site and the text both said that it was milk chocolate. The image has since been changed out, Google’s cache from September 4th still showed it as a milk chocolate bar image & text), but the text still reads:
While it’s accurate to say that it was a chocolate bar in 1936, they’re not exactly saying that it’s not any longer - you have to look at the picture and the caption just says “chocolate.”
The next is the Kissables description:
While the classic Kisses are still considered milk chocolate, the Kissables are not, so saying that they’re just mini Kisses covered with candy is misleading because, well, it’s simply not true.
Hershey’s Miniatures were a recent disappointment to me. I don’t know if they can get away with calling the product Hershey’s Miniature chocolate bars when I found that 41% of my package were not chocolate bars at all.
Milk Duds haven’t been chocolate for years, but the description is still there:
The Mr. Goodbar section is full of inaccuracies. The name of it is Mr. Goodbar chocolate bar and the image on the directory page says peanuts in chocolate and the description says:
On the actual product page the header image shows made with chocolate and peanuts but the image below it and the caption still say peanuts in milk chocolate. The description there goes further into the history which confuses matters because it once was a real chocolate bar:
The final one in the Hershey’s repertoire is the Take 5. The description is shown there in the screengrab and it says that it’s covered in milk chocolate. (Which I’m guessing is a selling point, it was for me.)
The Hershey’s product page for the Take 5 has been heavily edited now. There were four versions of the bars (White, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookie and for a while a Marshmallow) listed there earlier this year. The current product page is now completely accurate with its images and description. I can only be disappointed by my memories.
Hershey’s has several mini-sites. One of the major ones is for their Reese’s line of products. It was relaunched just last week with an intricate flash-based page (which means no way to link to individual product pages). I would expect that this would mean that the info would be especially accurate. Sadly it’s not so.
The Reese’s subsite lists 11 Reese’s products. Four are characterized erroneously as real chocolate products in the copy that accompanies them.
ReeseSticks (which I revisted in today’s review) is described as milk chocolate though the image is correct
Nutrageous is described as a “chocolatey candy” on the wrapper (and in the image) but the accompanying text says that it’s, “loaded with crunchy roasted peanuts, smooth rich caramel, chocolate and the distinctive taste of Reese’s Peanut Butter.”
Reese’s Whipps is a new product and has never had a smooth milk chocolate on it. So while this whole “transition” thing with new products might be forgiveable, this is not.
Reese’s Crispy Crunchy is a little older than the Whipps, but also never sported a “smooth chocolate coating.”
So there you have it. Hershey’s says that their changes are transparent to the consumers and that everything is clearly marked on the packages. While going straight from the package, with no previous experience with the product might mean that consumers understand fully what they’re eating, the rest of this noise - the fact that the wrappers are designed to look so incredibly similar and that the supporting materials like the Hershey’s website don’t reflect what’s truly in the bar - provides evidence the Hershey’s wants us to be confused.
I fully expect that many of these inaccuracies will be rectified soon. I know that Hershey’s staff members and their PR companies read this site.
The above web images were taken on September 18, 2008 for the Reese’s Whipps page and September 17, 2008 for the Hershey’s items.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Name: Tootsie Pop Drops
UPDATE 3/22/2008: They are pretty much like the original, a little smaller but a very good return. Here’s the review with photos.
Name: Reese’s Select Clusters Candy
Name: Werther’s Original Caramel Chocolate (Milk & Dark)
(Images courtesy of the respective manufacturers.)
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Technically this happened last week, not this week, but bear with me. Last Friday I got to meet another one of my fellow candy bloggers (I have a set of three in-person meets so far!). Joanna from SugarSavvy.net was in town and we went out to lunch at the Farmers Market (because it was the densest candy location I could think of near my office). We had a little lunch with the incredible view of Littlejohn’s Toffee & Fudge. They were wrapping their slick and gorgeous caramel kisses (caramel covered marshmallows). Joanna bought some penuche, a pecan praline for a friend and I also got a praline and a piece of honeycomb (because it looked so good on Rosa’s post over at SugarSavvy ... but I ate it and can’t review it now). I probably jabbered on a lot about candy, but it’s pretty rare that I get to talk to anyone about candy except through the blog.
She also gave me a wonderful selection of four chocolates by Xocolatl de David. I’ve gobbled them up without taking their picture or reviewing them. (I’m sure I’ll have them again and do some coverage.) Mmmm ... dark and scorched fleur de sel caramels coated in rich chocolate. I definitely have to visit Portland one of these days.
As another update, the winner for the Ultimate Candy Expo Box was Kimberly. It was a little warm in both our locations last week, so I’m boxing up a list of her top requests and a bunch of other stuff to send off on Monday. There were 537 valid entries (a few doubles on the comment thread and a few that came in via email). I’m kind of 21st century in my drawing method. I export the entire list to an spreadsheet. Sort it (in this case by email address) and then have a random number generator tell me which entry won.
I’m thinking about running another giveaway, this time filled with Limited Edition items (some you may have loved, many you may have hated!). Any thoughts?
As a little follow up to another post earlier this week, Hershey’s has named Richard Lenny’s replacement. They’re promoting from within and have tapped David J. West (43) as the new President, CEO and Director. West’s current position is Chief Operating Officer, Exec. VP, Sr. VP and Pres of the North American Commercial Group (see, he’ll have a much shorter title!). Don’t worry about Lenny (55), he’s leaving with plenty of compensation for his hard work this year: a $1.1 million base salary and $10.25 million in long-term compensations ... that’s just this year. (He has some other yet unexercised options worth $23.5 million.) More about Lenny’s history with the company here. Of the 20 top executives in Hershey, West was the youngest in senior management.
Chew on That has their monthly roundup of answers from bloggers. October’s topic is “What is the one thing in your refrigerator or pantry that you cannot live without?” As I’m not the cook in my household, my answer isn’t an ingredient, just something I eat.
Monday: Reese’s Whipps (4 out of 10)
Tuesday: Java Twix (8 out of 10)
Wednesday: Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Kisses (5 out of 10)
Thursday: GudFud Stuffed Marshmallows (6 out of 10)
Friday: Chocolate Poppers (6 out of 10)
Healthy Friday Bonus: Welch’s Fruit ‘n Yogurt Snacks (6 out of 10)
Weekly average was 5.833 with 50% chocolate content.
Monday, October 1, 2007
Richard H. Lenny, the CEO, President and Chair of The Hershey Company is calling it quits at the end of the year. He took his current position in 2001.
You can read the press release below, which is obviously geared towards investors and not consumers, because not once does it mention anything good that’s happened since Lenny took over ... a period which saw the addition of PGPR to Hershey’s chocolate, the swapping of real milk chocolate in the Fifth Avenue bar to subpar mockolate and of course their support for the Grocery Manufacturers Association proposal to lower the standards of identity for chocolate (a reversal from their earlier position logged in 2000). Oh, yeah, and the closing of the Smith Falls, ONT and Oakdale, CA along with many smaller factories totalling at least 1,500 people directly.
If I were in charge, I’d go private. If I were the Hershey Trust, I’d slowly buy the company back. They have (or at least it looks like they have) the capital to do it. Move away from all for the profit business and move to become and socially and ecologically responsible company both in the United States and abroad. Mars has a huge advantage over Hershey’s in that it is privately owned and can take bigger risks when the consumer confectionery market is in flux as it is now.
Hershey’s should get back to making quality confectionery products at affordable prices, pay people a decent wage and the Hershey Trust will be able to continue the Milton Hershey School without problems. After all, the Trust is there to help mold disadvantaged youth - give them the education and boost that they need. Are they really teaching them anything if they abandon the town, communities and ideals that Hershey built?
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I met up with Ginny for a little while and we walked around the floor and talked about candy (of course). Here are her thoughts from the show.
The AV Club (at the Onion) got all sugared up. They have a roundup of the products that stood out to them.
Sera, Brian & Bonnie from CandyAddict.com were on hand and have copious (and continuing) coverage of the Expo here.
Chicagoist returned with a great list with lots of stuff that didn’t make as much noise as the big boys.
Kim from ChicagoParent.com has a great write up from a mom’s point of view.
Marketwatch: Can’t Eat Candy? Think of Gum as a Sweet Treat.
Chicago Tribune Blog: Sweet Discoveries at All Candy Expo (they saw the tea flavored Bali’s Best candies that I completely missed)
Brandweek: Dateline: Chicago’s All Candy Expo (includes mention of the new limited edition movie tie-is)
Chicago Sun Times: A Mixed Bag of Tasty Treats
Here’s the official press release from the All Candy Expo where they talked about the different trends (you can see how many of the reporters parroted that in their listings).
Of course some of the coverage was about Mars coming out in support of higher standards for chocolate identity and pledging no matter what the FDA decides they can do, they’re going to Keep it Real
Other Coverage by Me
If you haven’t already, take a listen to Munchcast (and of course bookmark it for the future!). Yes, I know my voice makes me sound like I’m twelve, but I promise I’m a grown woman.
Finally, the National Confectioners Association site also has a nice roundup of coverage including video links!
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
I got word during All Candy Expo that Good ‘n Fruity, the fruity version of Good & Plenty is returning next year.
The original Good ‘n Fruity was a clear sweet jelly center with a variety of fruit flavored candy shells. According to Wikipedia, back in 1988 the centers were changed to improve the flavor and were rather like pieces of fruit licorice with a candy shell.
I have no recollection of ever eating Good ‘n Fruity, I always preferred the licorice parent. But I’ll give it a whirl! If only to find out if they’ve squandered their Dr. Frankenstien powers on this candy instead of reviving the Bar None.
We’ll find out in late February 2008 whether Zombie candies are as good as the original ones.
UPDATE 3/11/2008: I finally got a hold of a box via CandyWarehouse ... here’s the review.
Mars has many new products in store for us in the coming months, most in the limited edition realm:
Name: Wildly Cherry M&Ms
Name: Twizzlers Pull n Peel Cinnamon Fire Candy
Name: Batman Reese’s Peanut Butter Bats in Dark Chocolate
Name: Indiana Jones Crispy Mint M&Ms
Name: Snickers Adventure Bar
(All photos courtesy of the respective companies’ press kits.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.