By Bernard Pacyniak
Candy Industry

getting fresh: Acts of kindness

Now that all this Mardi Gras partying has ended, and not just in New Orleans, it’s time to roll up one’s sleeves and face the sobering task of cleaning up and moving forward.

For Catholics – and many Christians – today marks the beginning of Lent. Ash Wednesday represents the start of 40 days of traditional fasting, alms giving and good works for many Catholics.

In the past, many people have focused on giving up things such as sweets, alcohol, specific foods, etc. Yours truly was never a big fan of this type of Lenten tradition. Luckily, some of the priests I’ve had a chance to listen to often encouraged a more proactive approach such as doing good works, turning the other cheek and even random acts of kindness, rather than just focusing on self-denial.

Given that I’m one of those who fall under the “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” category, I quickly got on that bandwagon. And while some of my more ardent Catholic friends often mock my Lenten approach, I’m thinking there’s room for both paths to spiritual renewal.

So what does my struggle with religious traditions have to do with all things confectionery? Well, more and more companies are getting involved in “good works” programs.

One, The Hershey Co. has come out with the clever idea of tying in the idea of “Random Acts of Kindness” week (Feb. 15-21) with the 100th anniversary celebration of the Milton Hershey School.

As most of you in the confectionery industry know, Milton Hershey not only revolutionized the chocolate industry in America with the introduction of inexpensive milk chocolate bars, he also was quite a philanthropist. One of his most lasting charitable acts was the founding of the Milton Hershey School for underprivileged children in 1909. Not only did Hershey establish the school, but he ensured its future by devoting his entire fortune to the project.

Earlier this week, The Hershey Co. and the Milton Hershey School teamed up to celebrate Milton’s not necessarily random but wonderful act of kindness by asking consumers to say thank you to those who do a variety of nice things for them.

The chocolate company and school thought it would be great for consumers to share a virtual Hershey’s chocolate bar with those they appreciate. By going towww.thehersheylegacy.comand clicking on the “connect with Facebook” button, visitors can arrange to send a treat to a friend or post it on their Facebook wall.

As Charlene Binder, senior v.p., chief people officer at Hershey says, “This is an opportunity to remind people of the profound impact one man had on children in need while thanking everyone who enjoys Hershey’s product. Through that random act of kindness, they enable Milton Hershey School to help children break the cycle of poverty and go on to live incredibly productive lives.”

In this age of ultimate cynicism, pseudo-reality shows and superficial relationships, it’s uplifting to see a straightforward approach to good works. Moreover, I’m confident that many other confectionery companies are performing such good works in a variety of ways, albeit in less publicized ways. It’s all good, and I commend you.

Now it’s up to me to live up to my spiritual commitment and try to do more. As my colleagues know, I’m not necessarily known for performing acts of kindness, random or otherwise. But hey, now that I have motivation from you all, I’ll give it my best shot.

Barry Callebaut and Mars sign cocoa flavanols agreement

Cocoa flavanols – the natural compounds found in the cocoa fruit that are linked to circulatory and other health benefits – soon will be easier to identify and obtain when making nutritional choices, thanks to a new cross-licensing and cooperation agreement between Mars, Inc. and Barry Callebaut AG.

The two have partnered in an effort to progress toward creating a commonly used standard for measuring useful flavanols in food, broadening acceptance and availability of flavanol-containing products with guaranteed flavanol content.

According to a release, cocoa flavanol-containing products can be a part of a healthy diet. However, it adds, simply having a higher percent cacao, being a dark chocolate or claiming antioxidants as the main benefit of cocoa misses the point – this demonstrates the need for a means to measure and indicate adequate levels of flavanols consistent with recent scientific studies.

“While flavanols are naturally abundant in cocoa, unless you are specifically measuring and carefully handling a product throughout the manufacturing process, there is just no guarantee the product contains meaningful levels of the flavanols,” explains Mary Wagner, general manager of Mars Botanical, a scientific unit of Mars, Inc. dedicated to flavanol research and product development that recently launchedCirkuHealth – a cocoa extract-based dietary supplement – in the Untied States.

“For nearly two decades, we’ve been studying the process of measuring and maximizing the retention  of cocoa flavanols and uncovering their related health benefits, resulting gin over 100 scientific publications and a broad patent portfolio,” she adds. “Over the last five years, we have also sold products likeCocoVia and continue to sell Dove Rich Dark Chocolate, both high in flavanol content. This agreement with Barry Callebaut will now guarantee reliable flavanol levels in more chocolate products around the globe.

Starting this month, Barry Callebaut AG began licensing Mars patents and will display the MarsCocoapro “bean in hand” logo on itsActicoa products in the United Sates and other markets with an assured consistently high level of cocoa flavanol content.

“Acticoa chocolate has been on the European market for nearly five years and this new cooperation will allow us to even better serve our customers worldwide …” says Hans P. Vriens, chief innovation officer at Barry Callebaut. “This agreement is an important step in making chocolate alternatives with clear flavanol levels available to a much broader audience, around the world. …

“Based on years of our own clinical studies,” he continues, “we know cocoa flavanols offer a potentially substantial health benefit, and we know consumers are increasingly seeking healthier products that offer added value. We can all gain through a consistent method to assure consumers that we’re delivering these important compounds in our products, and through an aligned way in which we communicate these levels.”

For more information,

Pop Rocks launches U-ROCK promo

Visitors towww.pop-rocks.comcan now enter for a chance to win a variety of prizes as part ofPop Rocks’U-ROCK promotion. Under the program, five limited-edition “I lovePOP ROCKSt-shirts will be awarded daily; one grand prize will be awarded monthly.

The sweepstakes are supported through in-store point-of-purchase merchandising starting this month. Packages of Pop Rocks strawberry, watermelon and tropical flavors will feature information about the promotion; these are available in 18-, 36- and 192-count shippers.

For more information, contactcustomerservice@pop-rocks.comor call 1-770-399-5575.

Q.bel adds two flavors to lineup

Nyack, New York-based Q.bel Foods has introduced Double Dark Chocolate 70% (vegan) and Mint Dark Chocolate varieties to its wafer bar line.

The bars are covered in Belgian chocolate and free from the chemical additives found in most commercially produced chocolate, according to Q.bel. All of Q.bel’s products are made with all-natural ingredients and contain no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, hydrogenated oils or high-fructose corn syrup.

The bars are available in Whole Foods Markets nationwide for $1.29-$1.59. The company plans to add additional varieties to its collection in spring 2010.

For more information,

sweet of the week: Baskin-Robbins Hard Candies

Mango Delight is the first fruit flavor to be added to Mooresville, N.C.-based Best Sweet, Inc.’sBaskin-Robbins Smooth & Creamy Hard Candies line. Made with rich cream and sweetened withSplenda, each piece features a natural swirl appearance and is available in both sugar and sugar-free varieties. The suggested retail price is $1.99 per 3.5-oz. bag or 2.75-oz. sugar-free bag. For more information,