Saturday, September 20, 2008

Today Show Interview: What Wasn’t Covered

I’ve gotten a few comments and emails and I thought I’d address them:

Kissables King!1. Palm Oil
Yes, one of the oils in the array on the ingredients list is Palm Oil and/or Palm Kernel Oil. If you’re following along with the environmental coverage on this issue, things are not at all rosy with these products. They’re linked to widescale deforestation in places like Indonesia and Malaysia. The plantations do not process as much CO2 from the atmosphere as the former rainforests, there is a devastating loss of habitat (which threatens the existence of the Orangutan in Borneo), loss of topsoil and clean water (as natural watersheds are contaminated with runoff).

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.)

Reese's Select Cluster2. Hershey’s New Facility in Mexico
I have talked about this a bit on the blog in other places, though only long-time readers have probably seen all of my commentary. Here it is: Hershey’s closed two of their major plants, one here in California at Oakdale. That facility was purchased by Sconza and will be up and running soon though not employing nearly as many people. The second was in Smith Falls, Ontario. Those were just the Hershey’s branded factories, they also shut down a few smaller facilities in Reading, PA and Nagatuck, CT. What some people think is that Hershey’s has moved completely to Mexico and the products we’re getting on the shelves now are made in Mexico. This is untrue, they’ve only moved some of their manufacturing there and much of it was candy products that were for export anyway at this time. (Though that could obviously change.) The only product with the Hershey’s brand on it that I’ve seen from Mexico was the new Reese’s Clusters. Hershey’s still makes their famous Milk Chocolate and Kisses in Hershey, Pennsylvania. However, they have outsourced the production of their cocoa liquor, which means they are no longer a bean to bar company and it’s unclear if that will always be produced in the United States.

UPDATE 8/14/2009: Hershey’s is now making the Hershey’s Miniatures in Mexico as well as the York Peppermint Pattie.

Hershey's Heart's Desire3. The Word Mockolate
I did not coin this term, though in the past 18 months I might owe its creator some serious royalties. I first heard it on an episode of Friends (Episode 32, “The One with the List”), though I’ve also heard that it may have appeared in The Simpsons. I was really hoping the Today show would play one of the clips from the show.

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.)

Nestle Carlos V Dark Knight - It's got Chocolate Style4. Other Companies Making Substandard Products

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.

Old and new Kissables5. Images and Examples

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 Almond6. Other Changes

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.)

Hershey's Krackel Miniatures (Faux)7. Action to Take

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.

1-800-468-1714
Monday - Friday
9 AM to 4 PM ET

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).

Related Candies

  1. Hershey’s Website Inaccuracies
  2. Today Show: Kissed Off!
  3. ReeseSticks (Revisit)
  4. Hershey’s Miniatures
  5. Nestle Crunch Crisp
  6. What Made Hershey’s Want to Change Chocolate?

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:32 am Tracker Pixel for Entry     CandyFeatured NewsNews

Comments
  1. I just wanted to mention how immensely gratified I am that you’re putting this information out there. It saves the rest of us from having to heavily scrutinize every purchase. Since candy is a treat and not a necessity, I wish they’re raise prices rather than cut quality.

    Comment by Orchid64 on 9/20/08 at 2:25 pm #
  2. Yurei's avatar

    I emailed Hershey’s already and told them how dissatisfied I was with their new formulas after trying a “new ” Mr. Goodbar. It’s going to be quite a while until my ire cools enough for me to buy ANY Hershey products. Months at least, now that i’ve found Green & Black’s, Frey’s and Ritter sport (mmm… cornflakes… *drools*)

    Wait, i’ve got ritter sport, what do I need hershey’s for again? seriously smile

    Comment by Yurei on 9/21/08 at 3:52 pm #
  3. After watching the Today show spot, and seeing that Americans didn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between the Kissables with palm oil and the ones with cocoa butter, the question really becomes: Does it matter?

    That is, does cocoa butter make Kissables, or any Hershey’s chocolate, a significantly better product?

    If not, then Hershey is right to use a cheaper oil and sell the cocoa butter to someone who will use it wisely.

    As long as good chocolates are made, and that seems to be a growing trend, then what is really happening is a futher stratification of the tastes of Americans: between those who put the cost over the result, and those who search out really fine products.

    Comment by joe_btsfplk on 9/21/08 at 7:36 pm #
  4. Cybele's avatar

    Joe - that is an interesting question. Does it matter to me? Yes, for several reasons. They product is priced in a category where consumers expect a real product with cocoa butter. Kissables are the same price as M&Ms;. So why would I want an inferior product for the same price?

    And why do I call it inferior? As I mentioned, palm oil has a host of environmental, political and health implications. Cocoa butter is actually good for you. (In moderation, of course.)

    Third, the product used to have cocoa butter in it and Hershey’s has obfuscated this. Their marketing program of “pure chocolate” the teensy changes on the package and the complete LACK of changes on their website lead me to believe that they don’t want us to know. If they truly believe that the Mr. Goodbar is better without cocoa butter, why don’t they herald that on the front of the package and not hide the fact in the tiny print on the back?

    The plain truth is that this is not a chocolate monopoly - we have dozens of choices, even at grocery and drug stores without even going to specialty shops. They just made my choice a little easier.

    Yurei - I’m on the prowl for a new Krackel. Seeds of Change is organic and not even that expensive. Ritter Knusperflakes is pretty close as well, and pretty well priced. Does anyone make a plain old milk chocolate and peanuts bar?

    Orchid64 - I admit was concerned that this story was going to make me look like a nutjob, but I think the chocolate changes are just the canary in the coalmine ... read the labels!

    Comment by Cybele on 9/21/08 at 8:20 pm #
  5. I haven’t stopped buying Hershey’s products completely, but soon I probably will if I keep noticing differences in the ingredients and taste. Ingredients such as PGPR and TBHQ, sounds like scientifically engineered grossness to me. I looked them up and this is what I found…

    From one of the makers of PGPR, Danisco:

    http://www.danisco.com/cms/connect/corporate/products and services/product range/emulsifiers/pgpr/pgpr_en.htm

    TBHQ, a SYNTHETIC antioxidant? I wonder how my body reacts to TBHQ? 

    http://www.tbhq.org/products.htm

    If it isn’t broke, why fix it? Oh, right. To keep costs down and profits up.

    Comment by Kimberly on 9/22/08 at 7:42 am #
  6. Sorry about the first link above, just copy and paste the whole link in your browsers search bar.

    Comment by Kimberly on 9/22/08 at 7:47 am #
  7. Thank you for your tireless fight against mockolate. I haven’t touched a Hershey product in years. I don’t think I’d even want to have any Hershey candy anymore. Especially since there so much better chocolates out there that’s worth eating.

    Comment by AmyCR on 9/23/08 at 8:10 am #
  8. PGPR is much better at reducing viscosity than lecithin, which helps to save money by reducing the need for cocoa butter.  But, there are limits on how much you are allowed to put into chocolate (no more than 1% total emulsifier).  If you notice differences in the texture, it’s probably due to the reduction in fat.  I think it has a really strange flow characteristic also.  I’m not a fan of PGPR, but it’s not the worst thing in the world and it smells better than lecithin.

    Comment by Jennarator on 9/23/08 at 9:54 am #
  9. I seldom knowingly purchase Hershey products anymore.  The “Great American Chocolate Bar” has tasted waxy, bland, and very slightly burned for many years.  My friends thought I was a bit of a loon when I mentioned it.  The Kisses indeed have tasted chalky after baking for quite a while.  So much for Peanut Blossom Cookies on the cookie platter this holiday season.  Oh well, something else will replace it. So much for traditions, eh? smile  Thank you for the info and the terrific product reviews.

    Comment by skyeyes on 9/24/08 at 2:09 am #
  10. Too bad, as with most 60 second spots, this piece does not reveal the whole or even the accurate story. When it comes to pure chocolate Hershey has many high quality products that contain cocoa butter, which this story failed to mention. And as far as the tastings, they picked an item where chocolate is the minimum flavor ingredient and does not represent chocolate at all. Bad story over all.
    Also the above info about “The widescale deforestation in places like Indonesia and Malaysia. The plantations do not process as much CO2 from the atmosphere as the former rainforests, there is a devastating loss of habitat (which threatens the existence of the Orangutan in Borneo),”  Is by far the most irresponsible journalism I have seen on this issue. If you were to take the time to actually investigate the issue you would find that countries like Malaysia have the best practices relating to sustainability then any other vegetable crop in the world. You should also take the time to visit a site call RSPO Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (http://www.rspo.org  and http://www.greenpalm.org).  You do have a story here but you did not do enough research to make it a factual story and that is unfortunate.

    Comment by Ed on 9/26/08 at 6:54 am #
  11. Cybele's avatar

    Ed - Thank you for the links. I don’t think that Kissables are a product where “chocolate is the minimum flavor ingredient” but it was one where we could get a hold of both versions.

    As for not mentioning Hershey’s pure chocolate products (not something I had any control over), Hershey’s is doing a pretty poor job of that themselves as their own website can’t even keep their products straight.

    Would you mind telling readers who you work for? I have a pretty firm policy that people in the industry reveal their associations. (Hey, it may even make you look like an expert on the subject.)

    Oh, I’m not a journalist, this is a blog. You think that’s the worst piece of journalism you’ve seen on this issue? What have you been reading?

    Comment by Cybele on 9/26/08 at 7:07 am #
  12. To change the subject, but not: I found this blog to be extremely interesting. It brought to mind my experience with HoHo’s a couple of years ago. I’m reaching close to half a century old and I’ve been eating HoHo’s almost that long. They are truly my weakness. About two years ago I noticed the HoHo’s tasted really different! I thought I might have just gotten a fluke in a box or something, so I went out and purchased another box to treat my HoHo cravings. That box tasted as bad as the first one. The change in the taste was so noticeable that I actually wrote to Hostess and told them. They swore they hadn’t changed any recipe and sent me a bunch of coupons for my troubles and faithfulness for almost half a century. I didn’t even use one coupon. I knew better. I know they changed something and your blog has given me a good idea of what it was. Very interesting. Thanx!

    Comment by Jefa Ali on 9/26/08 at 9:37 am #
  13. I just had a new hersheys bar with almonds.  I’m a big fan of hersheys chocolate.  Something was up with the bar—so much so that I googled “hersheys recipe change” to see what was and ended up here.

    I’ll give them one more chance because it may have been a bad bar, but I won’t be buying any more hersheys if the next one tastes the same, cause I don’t know what that taste was but it wasn’t chocolate.

    —josh

    Comment by Josh on 7/16/09 at 7:51 am #
  14. The new taste of Hershey’s physically sickens me.  Hershey’s chocolate was my passion.  I used to eat a chocolate bar with almonds each day.  Now, with that turn of my stomach, my favorite treat is GONE.

    I am totally heartbroken.

    Comment by Connie on 12/25/09 at 4:30 pm #
  15. I am disappointed Hershey’s being the “great” chocolate manufacturer no longer add whole almonds to their chocolate bars.  How chincy can you get.

    Hershey’s runs plant tours and stores in Hershey PA for tourists.  They are not small potatoes.
    I have enjoyed my Hershey candy bars throughout the years but now I am not so sure I will remain a loyal customer. 

    Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken????

    Comment by ava on 11/04/10 at 5:43 pm #
  16. Here is a review I wrote for Hersheys Milk Chocolate with Almonds for a large online retailer relating to this matter, which I find very interesting and disturbing:

    These are probably the best of the Hershey original chocolate bars. They are the only size that still has whole almonds—the larger sizes have crushed up pieces of almonds and not nearly as many as they used, which completely changes the taste experience. Just another example of the degradation of their core products that Hershey has been perpetrating for the last 15 years or so. (I notice one reviewer notes that even this size bar has fewer almonds than it used to, even if they are still whole almonds.)

    These bars, and all their other bars have had ingredient and emulsifier changes so that they now have a rather gooey, gritty texture, and a more spoiled as opposed to sour milk flavor than before. One admitted reason they have done these things, including smaller almonds pieces and emulsifier changes, is to make it easier for the machinery to process the candy, but at the expense of quality, in my opinion. Quality-control also varies quite a bit—some bars are acceptable, others are terrible. They changed the emulsifiers in 1999, adding PGPR, resulting in the texture changes and they’ve added other milk ingredients to further change their bars. Hershey used to be my favorite chocolate but because of these quality changes I rarely eat it now.

    What they did to their Symphony bar is also terrible—when it first came out in in 1989 it was a nice balanced European-style chocolate. Sometime in the mid 90s they ruined it by adding nonfat milk powder, which bumped up the protein 1 gram but also overpowered the flavor with a powdered milk taste. The company seems to erase the history of these changes as far as customer service is concerned, so they can’t verify many of them (and they give bogus reasons for and information about changes), but I know because I carefully studied the ingredients, and in 1989 I talked to someone at a higher level in the marketing department at Hershey about the new Symphony bar and the original chocolate, when it was still possible, maybe by chance, to reach someone higher up than customer service. I hadn’t had a Symphony bar in many years untill I tried one recently and was surprised that it was changed yet again—they took out the nonfat milk powder but added butterfat, so that now there’s hardly any chocolate taste to it. The only chocolate that seems to taste like the original are the regular Hershey Kisses, for some reason. PS The original plain Hershey kisses (and some of the Bliss chocolate) are the only chocolate Hershey now makes that does not contain PGPR, the new emulsifier they added to their chocolates in 1999 that reduces the viscosity of the chocolate for processing. In larger amounts it can be used to replace the more expensive cocoa butter. I find chocolate that uses PGPR has an undesirable softer, waxier texture.


    Note that since your article was first written, Hershey may have taken the PGPR out of the regular original Hershey’s Kisses, if it had been added earlier, although all the other varieties of Hershey’s Kisses do have it.

     

    Comment by Stephen on 8/03/13 at 1:37 pm #

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