Friday, September 19, 2008

Hershey’s Website Inaccuracies

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needs to reflect what a consumer is most likely to find, some of the items on the Hershey’s website are far from just out of date, they’re inaccurate to the point of misleading.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.

imageThe 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:

First introduced in 1936, this chocolate peanut butter bar contributed to the war effort—and is still enjoyed today.

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:

HERSHEY’S KISSABLES Brand Chocolate Candies are miniature HERSHEY’S KISSES Brand chocolates coated with a colorful candy shell for eat-able, treat-able, here-able, there-able, unpredict-able fun!

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.

imageHershey’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:

Bite-size chocolate-covered caramels, MILK DUDS candy is a perfect snack for a night at the movies or anytime!

imageThe 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:

Will your P.M. snack be salty or sweet? With MR. GOODBAR’s combination of crunchy peanuts in chocolate, you don’t have to decide.

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:

MR. GOODBAR chocolate bar was one of Hershey’s original candy bars. Consumers have loved the delicious combination of creamy chocolate and crunchy peanuts since 1925. That’s a good bar, Mister.

imageThe 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.

image

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.

    Related Candies

    1. ReeseSticks (Revisit)
    2. Revisit: Take 5, Sunkist Fruit Gems & Snickers Almond
    3. Kissables (Reformulated)
    4. Reese’s Select Clusters
    5. Reese’s Whipps
    6. FDA & Mockolate - It’s not over
    7. FDA Chocolate Definition Change

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:20 pm Tracker Pixel for Entry     CandyFeatured NewsNews

    Comments
    1. That was not tedious. Thanks for documenting the, er disingenuousness of Hershey’s.

      Comment by Andrew Sherman on 9/19/08 at 2:00 pm #
    2. Thank you for posting about this. I’m quite disappointed in Hershey’s.

      Comment by VeggieGirl on 9/19/08 at 2:05 pm #
    3. Agreeing with the other commenters…I’m glad you brought this to our attention, it’s shameful that Hershey’s is trying to pull this fast one! If I wasn’t switching to other brands because of the lower quality of their “chocolate”, I’d switch because of the dishonesty in advertising and double-talk about “maintaining quality” while switching off to inferior mockolate.

      Comment by VMisery on 9/19/08 at 3:10 pm #
    4. You know what would be even better than Hershey’s rectifying their website inaccuracies? Hershey’s rectifying their candy so that it tasted good again and used real chocolate. I miss my Hershey’s kisses! :-(

      Comment by Jenn on 9/20/08 at 3:53 am #
    5. I’m confident Hershey’s has done extensive research, including polls and focus groups, that shows most consumers prefer them to lie on their website.

      Maybe it even helps drives consumers to their higher-priced, more profitable boutique websites, like the Scharffen Berger or Dagoba ones.

      Comment by Russ on 9/20/08 at 4:15 am #
    6. I enjoy the use of the Internet, and particularly a blog, to poke holes at the illegal use of an important word like “chocolate” in corporate marketing. But, Cybele, you buried the lede in the fifth paragraph.

      Maybe with blogs the blogger has a legitimate expectation for people to be following the story line. But your writing is usually so tight, I wonder if it’s just the pure outrage that you’re feeling that has you off your A game. That’s what I think.

      Comment by joe_btsfplk on 9/20/08 at 5:12 am #
    7. Ever since Lenny took over it seems like he is hell bent on destroying the good name
      of Hershey and doing a good job behind the customers back and not caring about what we the consumers think.
      Some people don’t care because all they is “as long as Hershey’s doesn’t stop making candy what do I care?”

      Comment by Barry Leeper on 9/20/08 at 7:18 am #
    8. bettyfelon's avatar

      I checked out the label of the York pattie I just ate and cocoa butter is listed as an ingredient and I saw so sign of the words vegetable or oil so does that mean the dark chocolate surrounding the mint is actual chocolate?

      Comment by bettyfelon on 9/20/08 at 12:48 pm #
    9. I found this post really interesting, not tedious. I’m glad you’re reporting all this on your blog.

      and congrats on the Today show!

      Comment by emi on 9/20/08 at 3:33 pm #
    10. For years my family has enjoyed the taste of Chocolate licorce, now it has a very waxy taste and is not the same at all. Has there been a change in that recipe?  B. Combs, Denver, CO

      Comment by Betty Combs on 9/22/08 at 4:52 am #
    11. I work for a grocery store where I have to sell Hershey products.One day not long after our grand opening, a group of Hershey reps. came in.One introduced himself as the vice president of some division and we began talking about their products.I asked him “when are you going to make candy-coated kisses?“Well, you should have seen them all light up.They had not thought of that before, so apparently my big mouth just gave them a million dollar idea!Of course I received nothing in return.I found out about 6 months later they were making Hershey’s
      Kissables.I personally don’t like them.I think they might taste better if I could sue Hershey for stealing my idea.

      Comment by Lola P. on 9/23/08 at 4:07 pm #
    12. I have the same question as bettyfelon, as it seems that both cocoa butter and PGPR appear in York Peppermint Patties. I thought one was supposed to replace the other! Personally, I’m rather saddened that it’s become increasingly difficult to get real chocolate without splurging on a higher-end bar. Something in mockolate makes me sick to my stomach, quite literally. :(

      Comment by maggie on 9/23/08 at 7:22 pm #
    13. I wonder who Mr. Joe is (joe_btsfplk)? 

      Good article Cybele - not tedious at all.  As a lot of us have said before - if Hershey truly believes they are doing nothing wrong and that the product they are giving people is exactly what they want - why the subterfuge?  Why not boldly face the world and say “YES! We have replaced cocoa butter with vegetable oils in many of our products and we’re PROUD of it!”  It’s because they AREN’T proud of it and they know a proclaimation like that would leave them with unhappy consumers and egg on their faces.  Thanks again Cybele for doing the research, contacting the company and making sure whoever cares will know about what’s going down.

      Comment by April on 9/24/08 at 7:36 am #
    14. Great tip in the comments above - a quick look at the local Walmart yielded still fresh, PGPR-free six packs of Hershey bars. I might have bought 3 packs grin. They are as yummy as I hoped!

      Comment by Jenn on 9/24/08 at 11:01 am #
    15. I miss the milk chocolate : (  I never would have realized the changes but thanks to fark.com (which has linked to you to share with the world the Hersey’s scandal) I’m now an informed consumer.  I’ve only been buying products labeled as milk chocolate thanks to you : )

      BTW, is there a federal definition of ‘dark chocolate’? Or do I need to worry about they messing with my favorite chocolate of all time?

      Comment by Addi on 9/24/08 at 5:16 pm #
    16. While we’re finally telling the truth about the trash Hershey sells, let’s talk about their other Wonder Ingredient: Carageenan.

      Carageenan is monosodium glutamate, friends. They don’t even have the courage to list it in a way consumers can find and avoid it.

      If I even look at a Hershey product, my fingers swell up.

      Comment by Kristen on 9/24/08 at 8:57 pm #
    17. As a chocophile, I’m as disgusted as anybody about this, though just as not-surprised that a major corporation would do pretty much anything to increase profit margins.

      To my point, though - carageenan is *not* MSG; MSG is a salt substitute. Carageenan is used to thicken whatever it’s put into. Based on what I’ve read, Hershey probably uses lambda-carageenan, which is more commonly added to stabilize dairy products (like milk “chocolate”, maybe). - thanks, Wikipedia!

      *important note* When reading the word “chocolate” above, be sure to make the finger gesture of gigantic quotation marks, kind of like Dr. Evil talking about his giant “laser”.

      Comment by Peter Kaiser on 9/25/08 at 9:06 am #
    18. I love your Web site and all the documenting you do!

      I am also frustrated with the Hershey’s Web site. Mainly, why is it so hard for them to keep a full roster of all the Limited Edition Kisses (all the ones ever released and the ones currently available)? There’s more than 50 in all, but there Web site only shows, like, five. Pitiful.

      Comment by Hanna on 10/30/08 at 6:38 am #
    19. Thanks, i enjoyed reading and it wasn’t tedious. smile Nice to know someone is keeping these companies on their toes.

      I’m from Australia, we do have hershey’s here, but i’ve never tried it before. I’d be less likely to now, knowing they are stingy with their chocolate like that.

      Comment by Kelly on 11/28/08 at 4:13 pm #
    20. Oh, it’s MSG all right.

      Comment by Kristen on 12/14/08 at 11:56 am #
    21. I Just bought some Hershey’s kisses and they had cocoa butter and pgpr, and i bought kissables too and they had cocoa butter, vegetable oil AND pgpr listed as ingredients! Why would that be? I thought pgpr or vege oil was used as a replacement for cocoa butter. The hershey’s tasted like vomit though…is that the pgpr?

      Comment by Kelly on 12/14/08 at 4:20 pm #
    22. May want to look at this again.  I didn’t see it on the ingredients, but just had a chocolate bar with almonds from Hersheys and it tasted dramatically different.  I eat them all the time, and this was so different that I googled about a possible recipe change and ended up here.

      Comment by Josh on 7/16/09 at 7:42 am #
    23. I have the same reaction most, of the Hershey bars taste like vomit now rather than having a slightly fermented milk taste. It may be partly the PGPR or they may have changed their manufacturing process for some their chocolate bars.When Hershey decided to build a second manufacturing plant (now, this was before they added a lot of their other lines of candy so they were relying on their original chocolate as their main product), they were so afraid that the new plant would not reproduce the correct fermentation of the milk that Milton Hershey chose as their signature taste when they first started, that even though the original plant was very inefficient and outdated, they copied it down to the last bolt to try to ensure the same result, and seemed to have achieved it, 95% at least. Who knows what practices they use today.

      When they originally stopped using whole almonds in all but the regular size bar with the rounded top, I was told by customer service that it was because that particular crop of almonds was too large for the equipment, so they had to break it up. Obviously a lie, or became a lie, because they never went back to whole almonds—they also claim they had the same amount of almonds, which also is not true.

      When they changed their listed ingredients to include lactose and butterfat separately (as Mars had with lactose for years), I asked customer service numerous times whether the changes just reflected government listing requirements, or whether they were real changes in the recipe. At first they said they just reflected the way the same ingredients were listed, but later they said, no ,they were actual different ingredients, but they kept contradicting themselves.

      One last thing; I remember back probably in the mid-to-late 90s, Hershey was acquiring numerous smaller companies, including the one that that made Swizter licorice (if I remember the name correctly)—they already owned Twizzler licorice. They were very similar products, however the Switzer was much better. Naturally, which one did they discontinue? Switzer.

      By the way, carrageenan is not MSG, although it can cause gastrointestinal problems or allergic reactions in some people. Alternative health advocates often try to say many things are or become MSG in the body, such as textured vegetable protein, isolated soy protein, etc. I’m not sure everything they include is accurate, although I would believe that disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate do combine to form MSG in the stomach—that combo is used in numerous snack products such as Cheese Doodles, and various other things.

      Comment by Stephen on 8/10/13 at 11:35 am #

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