Thursday, April 19, 2007

Post Editorializing on FDA Chocolate Changes

imageWhile working on my editorial for the LATimes I did a lot of research. I looked at the issue from a lot of different points of view in order to figure out the best way to frame my 700 words on the subject.

One of the points that a few commenters have made is that restricting confectioners through FDA regulations creates a nanny state. While I think this is true in general, I think that speaks more for keeping the definitions the way that they are. As consumers we’re just asking for consistency. We’re not saying that they can’t use vegetable oils, we’re just asking for the commonly accepted language to be maintained.

The naming convention also protects people who are buying products that are not individually labeled, such as chocolates from a bakery or candy shop. If you’re looking at a row of confectionery creations like chocolate covered strawberries, rocky road, chocolate croissants, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate dipped apples or chocolate pretzels you probably have an assumption about what that chocolate stuff is. With such a wide latitude under the new rules, are you going to be faced with playing 20 questions with the staff behind the counter about what exactly is in that chocolate? Do you seriously believe that they’ll be equipped to answer those questions? (Having worked in a bakery before, I’m going to say no.)

One of the other things I also examined was the value of real chocolate in the consumer candy market. I’m not talking about the high end stuff, I’m talking about plain old candy bars made with chocolate. I’ve said it over and over again, confectioners don’t need the FDA’s permission to make mockolate. They just want their blessing the relabel their existing products as real chocolate. I think it’s rather telling that of the top chocolate candy bars, there is one that is made with mockolate (Butterfinger). So success is possible with a non-chocolate product in the chocolate category (see chart below).

According to one of the articles I read, about 25% of chocolate is made from cocoa butter. Cocoa butter costs three times as much as vegetable oil substitutes. So the end product may cost 18% less for manufacturers. I can see why this is a tantalizing proposition for them (again, see chart below). The soda companies changed to high fructose corn sweeteners, check out Kate Hopkins analysis of that (note that the majority of a soda is water, not sweetener). Soda manufacturers who still use sugar are few and far between and charge a premium, Jones is the first one that comes to mind.

Don’t forget to spread the word and enter the Keep it Real Raffle.

Leading Chocolate Candy Bars (less than 3.5 ounces)
Candy Dollar Sales Unit Sales
M&Ms $83,900,000 147,300,000
Hershey's $83,400,000 168,000,000
Reese's $82,500,000 157,900,000
Snickers $69,100,000 124,000,000
KitKat $39,000,000 79,300,000
Twix $25,100,000 43,200,000
3 Musketeers $23,300,000 40,900,000
Nestle Crunch $23,000,000 60,300,000
Nestle Butterfinger* $21,100,000 55,000,000
York Peppermint Pattie $18,100,000 37,700,000

* mockolate
Source as of November 2006

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:56 am Tracker Pixel for Entry    

  1. My brother in-law works for the FDA (Hersey) and told me that the FDA approves chocolate that consumers eat containing a certain percentage of rat hairs because they cannot control the amount of rats/mice that are in a facility.
    Please verify

    Comment by Treva on 1/02/08 at 11:42 am #
  2. Cybele's avatar

    Treva - it’s true that the FDA allows a certain amount of animal material (insect bits, rodent hairs, etc.) in most food products:

    It’s not clear whether the material enters the product at the factory or sometime before when the beans are being dried or shipped.

    Comment by Cybele on 1/02/08 at 1:42 pm #
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