Posts filed under ‘Current Candy News’

Chocolate Library gets OK; can Candy University be far behind?

Byron Bennett wants to sell candy from a shop in lower Manhattan. He has an idea: lots of different kinds of chocolate from all over the world, including the obscure, the hard-to-find, the hand-made. He decides to call his shop “The Chocolate Library.”

Enter the Department of Education. NO! They decree. “Library” is a protected term, along with words like academy, museum, university: these terms can only designate institutions and entities that promote education and learning. Which seems, in principle, a good idea. Mr. Bennett may be offering many things, but an actual library is not one of them.

Do our laws leave room for metaphors? Mr. Bennett thought so, and so did a reporter for the New York Times. Power of the Press! The Times ran a story in its on-line Diners Journal, The Chocolate Library got another look, and the state bureaucrats decided to give him a pass, so long as he promised to confine his activities to retailing confections. The relevant NY Business Corporation law says that if you are not an educational institution,  you cannot use terms like “library” or “school” or “college” if they would “mislead or confuse” the public into thinking you are offering educational services. Everybody put their heads together and concluded that “The Chocolate Library” was obviously a place to BUY chocolate, not a place to borrow chocolate for two weeks and then return it or risk overdue fines.

Since Mr. Bennett had never intended to operate or maintain a library in the traditional sense of the word, much less a school or museum, promising never to do so was an easy concession. But I can think of several chocovores who would contest the notion that eating one’s way through the chocolate catalog is not inherently educational.

The whole episode got the Candy Professor team thinking. Once we get the Candy University off the ground, we’re going to need a Chocolate Library. Also a Caramel Library, a Licorice Library, and a Gum Drop Library. And many, many librarians.

Here’s the whole story (and hats off to Bao Ong for his journalist activism on behalf of the candy-eating public):

Bao Ong, No Chocolate in the Library, New York Times Diners Journal, 10 Dec 2010

Bao Ong, O.K., You’re a Library, State Tells Chocolate Shop, New York Times Diners Journal, 1 Feb 2010

 

February 10, 2011 at 9:46 am 4 comments

Chocolate Vitamins: A “Healthy Indulgence”?

Decadent chocolate indulgence. Luscious pleasure. X-rated snacking. It feels good, but oh, the guilt.

Not any more, ladies. Hero Nutritionals to the rescue. The diet and supplement company has just launched the first ever ‘multivitamin dark chocolate supplement,’ part of the “Healthy Indulgence” line of chocolates. It’s 60 percent cacao solids dark chocolate, with a multivitamin thrown in the mix.

Founder and CEO Jennifer Hodges explains:

“Our goal was to develop the most premium supplement for women that makes taking vitamins enjoyable and satisfies chocolate cravings without guilt. … [They are] completely natural and utterly indulgent.”

Indulge, satisfy your chocolate cravings, without the guilt. Which is to say, if your chocolate doesn’t have vitamins mixed in, you should feel guilty about it, because it’ s just candy. But if you sprinkle a little vitamin C and vitamin B-12 on top, you’ve got a “nutritional supplement.”

But don’t we need vitamins? If you are a healthy person eating a diverse diet, you’re getting plenty of vitamins. Vitamin deficiency is a disease of poverty and dietary inadequacy. People who buy “Healthy Indulgences” and gummy bear vitamins are not suffering from a lack of vitamins in their diets.

It appears that the pleasure of chocolate is only allowed when it is cloaked as being “therapeutic.” Don’t enjoy it unless it’s good for you. Pleasure is medicalized: enjoy your body by prescription, under a doctors orders.

This is also another example of the miracle of candy transfiguration: add this or that and it’s not candy any more, and if it isn’t quite food, it nevertheless can stand in for health, purity, and virtue.

“Healthy Indulgences” are being marketed to women: the imagery and language clearly evoke a specifically female sensual pleasure. I’m not sure what dad’s candy vitamin is going to look like, but we can surely look forward to a day in the not too distant future when the whole family will be eating candy gummy vitamins and chocolate vitamin supplements, and still feel so righteous for taking care of their health by avoiding candy.

November 17, 2010 at 8:49 am 1 comment

Halloween Aftermath

Keeping that candy out of junior’s mouth isn’t easy. But the cavities! Now, pediatric dentists expose the candy secret: eat up! just all at once please. It’s not the quantity of candy, it’ s the duration: candy over a longer period extends the time for cavity-causing toxic acid mouth bath. So go ahead and stuff it in, quick!

If you still have too much candy left over after two days of gorging (all at once, of course) here’s an idea from our friends in Canada:

“How can a responsible parent let a kid enjoy candy without letting him stuff himself with junk?” asks Sharon Bowers in her well-timed book, “Candy Construction” (Storey Publishing, 2010). “The trick is not to EAT it but to make something WITH it.”

So how was it in your neighborhood on Sunday? What about those kids at the door that are just a bit too old for Trick-or-Treat. And what’s with their “costumes”: dude, lipstick does not cut it. Now we have a word: they’re “Halloweenagers.” But admit it, you did it too when you were 15.

And kids, why is that Halloween booty such a big deal? I mean, you can buy that candy and save the effort. Or you can try this stunt, reported at MyFoxDC.com:

Fourteen-year-old Khalel Turner says he was trick-or-treating with friends Thursday night when a gunman got out of a vehicle, and flashed a firearm.

He demanded the teen give him all of his candy or he would shoot him.

Crazy and sad. That was in Columbus, Ohio. But the same thing happened in Peterborough, Canada. In York, Pennsylvania, a girl was shot with a BB gun for candy. Another candy heist was reported in Springfield, Ohio, but at least there they just knocked the kid down. Sheesh! Kid on kid violence. For candy. Something is not right.

Mischief has a long pedigree on Halloween. But the firearms are disturbing.

November 3, 2010 at 8:44 am 3 comments

Three Course Meals Coming Soon to a Gum Near You

Every time gum has more than one flavor, somebody starts talking about Willy Wonka. You know the scene: against Wonka’s express instructions, the unfortunate Violet Beauregard, ugly American chewing gum fanatic, pops that experimental stick in her mouth and enjoys the taste of luscious tomato soup followed by succulent roast beef, only to swell up like a super-size blueberry when the pie course comes along. What if? we wonder, as we chew thoughtfully on Stride Shift, hoping to capture the Wonka Magic as berry fades to faded mint.

Well, meat and pie lovers seeking full-meal gum satisfaction need dream no more, according to a recent report in The Telegraph (UK).

Actually, this story of invention and mastication begins in the pharmaceutical lab. For some time, drug makers have been using nanotechnology to create “microcapsules”: protective shells around the drug molecule that do not dissolve immediately in the stomach, allowing the drug to pass to the colon undigested.

Mad food scientists got wind of these slowly dissolving capsules and got to tinkering. If theses capsules can delay the release of drugs, could they be jiggered to delay the release of flavors?

Here’s the idea, according to food scientist Dave Hart of the Institute of Food Research (Norwich, UK):

“Tiny nanostructures within the gum would contain each of the different flavours. These would be broken up and released upon contact with saliva or after a certain amount of chewing – providing a sequential taste explosion as you chew harder.”

State-side, physicists at the University of Massachusetts have already begun to figure out how encapsulate flavor molecules in microcapsules. The Wonka future is now.

I’ve got to say, my first reaction to this story is: so this is what the finest scientific minds of our age are working on? I’d better get moving on that Chinese language class…

Gum. It’s getting more exciting every day.

October 25, 2010 at 8:56 am Leave a comment

Gum Passion

What’s your passion? What gets you really excited? Is it…gum?

Seriously. The gum market is looking for a way to expand, and consultants have decided that what gum consumers are looking for, what is really lacking in their gum, is excitement. This is the theory behind the marketing for recently introduced Stride Shift, a someone disappointing attempt at getting something to happen while you’re chewing gum. In a New York Times piece on the new gum marketing campaign, the Stride spokesman explains:

Stride speaks to younger consumers who chew gum not for functional reasons but for emotional reasons. Younger consumers have a disdain for the ordinary, and they like to be snapped out of boredom.

At the time, it seemed to me a little bit of a stretch. Little did I know that it was the first glimpse of a future of mandatory gum excitement.

Here’s the latest from Trident Layers, a promotion that is as far as I am concerned just one more symptom of American capitalism’s hurling of itself off the rails. It turns out that if the gum itself isn’t so exciting (after all, it’s just gum), promoters can certainly make a lot of noise around the gum to simulate excitement.

On October 21, rush to Times Square between 6:30 am and 2:30 pm, where you’ll be able to pay for a taxi ride anywhere in the city limits with a pack of new Trident Layers “Cool Mint+Melon Fresco” gum. And you don’t even need to buy the gum. Just take one of the sample packs, stand in a big long line, and play gum games while you wait for your taxi.

This doesn’t even make sense to me. If you need to go somewhere, why would you first go to Times Square to wait for a gum-accepting taxi? And as for excitement, do these people realize that waiting for a cab is one of the least exciting things to do in New York City? Gum or no gum?

The real kicker in all of this is that the whole theme seems to have gotten reversed. You’ve probably seen the TV commercials where teen babysitters get all excited about getting gum instead of money for their labors. Trident Layers is “So Good You’ll Want to Get Paid in Gum!” But its not the Times Square targets tourists who are going to get paid in gum. It’ s the taxi drivers. And if the gum is so good, why would people be willing to trade it for a taxi ride? But the whole thing kind falls apart if you say “it’s so good you’ll try to pay for stuff you’d rather have with the gum you’re happy to get rid of.” Obviously, none of this matters. What matters is EXCITEMENT! It’s gum, it’s taxis, it’s Times Square! Yeah!

I got riled up about this because of two other items that floated across my desk recently. One is a news story in the Chicago Tribune describing the accelerating pace of product innovation in gum:

Want to manage your weight, strengthen and whiten your teeth, increase your vitamin intake? Just bored out of your mind? Have some gum.

Candy manufacturers are rolling out gums for all occasions. Some of the gums seem to have been pulled from science fiction, or at least Willy Wonka’s factory.

Kraft Foods’ Stride Shift, for instance, changes flavor while you’re chewing. Trident Vitality, available early next year, contains vitamin C for those who can’t be bothered to eat fruit. Wrigley’s Extra Dessert Delights, meanwhile, gives dieters a reason to pass on cake, with flavors like chocolate mint chip and Key lime pie.

Gum is stagnating, it seems. What gum needs is a little excitement, something to make it “relevant” to today’s youthful gum chewers. That, according to the Buisness School models, is what consumers want. Not any simple thing like gum with a good texture and a flavor that doesn’t fade too fast or go off. That’s what us cranky oldsters want, evidently, and we don’t chew enough gum to really matter (and by oldster, I refer to anyone over 30, as per the gum marketing people).

Flavor? Texture? That is so twentieth century. These are gums to uplift! To inspire! To motivate! To cure! To indulge! Gum!

And then I came upon a press release from a market research company called NetBase which puts out periodical reports on their proprietary Brand Passion Index for various products, most recently Halloween candy.

I’m starting to catch on: marketing today is all about this  creepy idea that you should have intimate emotional relationships with the stuff you buy and consume. It’s not enough to think the gum tastes just fine. Tools like the Brand Passion Index will “help companies understand not only the intensity of passion consumers have, but more importantly why consumers feel the way they do about the brand.” You should be passionate about your gum. Intensely passionate. And if you’re not, someone wants to find out why, and fix it.

I have nothing against selling stuff. I just don’t like when its done in such a manipulative and cheesy way.

And now, I feel a SOAP BOX coming on. Gum is not life. Passion is not relevant to buying gum or detergent or ball point pens. Genuine passion is about our real relationships and real projects and real goals. If gum owns passion, there’s not much meaning or value left for the real stuff.

So go ahead, chew your gum. Enjoy it. But save your passion for things that really matter.

October 18, 2010 at 10:21 am 1 comment

Fiber Candies to Come?

Candy question of the day: why is the trade newspaper ConfectioneryNews.com publishing an article about FIBER?

“Novel Fiber May Blunt Blood Sugar Spikes” (8 Oct 2010) describes recently published research results on PGX, a “novel fiber supplement.” This research did not involve candy. Researchers spiked breakfast cereal with this soluble fiber and studied the blood sugar response to eating. Subjects who ate the fiber had more even blood sugar response.

Now confectioners are not in the cereal business. They are in the candy business. This coverage is very suggestive. There is a hint at food uses to come:

PolyGlycopleX (PGX) is a newly developed highly viscous polysaccharide complex that is reported to demonstrate a delayed onset of peak viscosity, “allowing for a more palatable and easy-to-use functional fiber,” state the authors. … The authors noted that the beneficial effects of functional fibers are highly dependent on the food matrix, adding that unpublished data has suggested PGX to be “just as effective when sprinkled on food as dissolved in water.”

Fiber that is soluble, more palatable, easy to use, and regulates blood sugar. Doesn’t need to be dissolved in water. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Stay tuned for the next generation of functional candies…

October 12, 2010 at 6:47 pm 1 comment

Candy Currency

Many years ago, back before the EU and the Euro and the whole globalization thing, I was tootling around in Europe. In my admittedly hazy recollection, French francs were 6 to the dollar, German marks were 2 to the dollar, and Italian lire were something like 1,000 to the dollar.

In the decades after WWII, Italy had some serious money problems: bills with so many zeros they make your eyes swim. And small change? It was just too crazy. The smallest bill was 500 lira. 5 lira coins and 10 lira coins, valued at less than a penny, were hardly worth the trouble, but many kinds of purchases ended up with these small amounts in play. The mint couldn’t keep enough coins in circulation to meet the need for small shops. So most of the time, when you went to buy groceries or a pack of kleenex or a newspaper, you’d pay with a bill and get your change in, well, stuff. I got bandaids once, and a pencil another time. But the most popular alternative was candy.

This seemed quaint and charming to me at the time,  a happy traveler just passing through. But there were problems. Because it turns out that although the shop can give you candy as change, they are unlikely to accept candy as credit toward the purchase of something else.  Modern economies depend on MONEY as a single currency of exchange in every direction. Candy just doesn’t do.

Well, Italy solved its problem when everybody joined the Union and the Euro took the place of their desperate currency in 2002.  But it turns out that the candy money problem pops up in other places as well.

For example: in Indonesia, a recent study revealed that 10 percent of the country’s retailers are giving change in candy. This has evidently been a long standing problem. In  July, the retailers association agreed to stop doing the candy thing, and use only coins. The government promised to make more coins so no one would have the excuse of coin shortage. But still, the candy rules the cash register. The shop keepers claim they are charged a 1 percent premium by the banks for stocking change, so they prefer using candy.

Consumer advocates advise paying with the exact amount to avoid the candy change trap. No representatives of candy-lovers were interviewed as part of the study, but I suspect at least one group of consumers has been happy with the current arrangement:  the kids sent to the store to pick up some items for Mama need make no excuses when they come home with a fist full of candy sticks on the side.

Read the story: Irvan Tisnabuti, “Many ‘Naughty’ Indonesian Retailers Still Make Change in Candy” Jakarta Globe Sept 12, 2010 You can read a description of the Italian problem in a Life Magazine article from 1971, “The Licorice Lira Problem” and more in  “Numismatics on the Autostrada” in Texas Monthly, 1975.

September 17, 2010 at 12:56 pm 2 comments

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