Americans love candy. I mean, we really love candy. The United States consumes about 18 percent of the world’s chocolate, according to a report by NBC. That’s double the amount consumed in the United Kingdom and four percent higher than all of Asia combined. So, it’s not surprising that American candy makers love their country’s appetite for their product.
What might surprise some people is that a consortium of domestic candy companies are now getting together to try to reduce the calorie count in some of their most popular items. Mars, Nestle, Ferrero, and Lindt are getting together to see what they can do to make their confections less disastrous for the American diet.
Ideas being thrown around include smaller portions and clearer package labeling. While, on the surface, these ideas might seem like a drop of water in a hurricane, if the companies decide to take more drastic action, it could lead to a major change in the US candy market. Together, these four companies market some of the biggest brands in candy, including M&M’s, Nestle Crunch, Nutella, Brach’s, Ghiradelli, and Russell Stover.
Mars had gone on record, setting a strict bar and daring others to follow: saying its products will contain no more than 200 calories by 2022. This, of course, applies for individually packaged candies, not the big bags or even the ‘sharing size’ offerings. There’s also some talk that these companies will push out a stronger marketing message that “candy is a treat” rather than an everyday snack and certainly not a meal replacement.
So, how much would these steps impact a nation of people who were raised on these candies, some literally marketed as meal replacements (“hungry, grab a …”) … bet you can finish that sentence all on our own. But times may be changing. Mars is reportedly working with nonprofit group Partnership for a Healthier America, which is devoted to reducing childhood obesity. In addition, a think tank called The Hudson Institute will provide oversight and accountability to see how well – or even if – the candy makers made good on their promises.
There are more than a few skeptics. Some say this is good – albeit tough to swallow – public relations. Others simply think this won’t make much difference if only half the country’s candy makers make any effort along these lines. How long will they continue to take this action if their candy isn’t as tasty as the competition’s? And that’s the big question: can Mars, et al., make a difference in their candy calorie count without taking away the taste?
Daniel Palmier is a leading Boston CEO, Real Estate Investment Manager, and Founder of UC Funds.