By Bernard Pacyniak
Editor-in-Chief
Candy Industry
pacyniakb@bnpmedia.com

getting fresh: Prioritize safety, not stoplights

Slightly more than a week has passed since the PMCA hosted its 64th Production Conference in Hershey, Pa. As usual, the seminars at the show delivered, providing a good grounding in the popular Back to Basics program, which covered chocolate formulation, grinding and tempering.

Not all the presenters, however, focused on ingredient or processing technology. Alison Bodor, senior vice president of public policy and advocacy for the National Confectioners Association, regularly provides those attending the conference an update on regulatory issues facing confectioners. It’s always an informative and detailed presentation.

This year proved to be the same, although she didn’t mince words about what the industry can expect from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this year.

“The FDA will be more aggressive in audits, especially those who are using nuts,” she told confectionery professionals. Typical visits take a couple of days, with nearly 200 swab tests performed throughout the manufacturing facility. Let’s just say you should be prepared for a thorough scrub-down.

Obviously, this stems from the Peanut Corporation of America catastrophe last year involving salmonella. The Center for Disease Control linked more than 600 illnesses and nine deaths to the contaminated peanut products.

Dozens of large, midsized and small candy operations faced logistical nightmares determining whether their products were contaminated, not to mention millions of dollars in losses.

Hence, the FDA is on the prowl. Some might argue that it’s several days late and many dollars short. That’s probably been the case for the agency for several years pending. Unfortunately, it typically takes a disaster to point out deficiencies such as underfunding and understaffing. So now that the resources are there, so, too, are the audits.

Which really isn’t a bad thing. Candy makers, large and small, need to reaffirm that their food safety and quality-assurance programs are “world class.” As Bodor noted, there’s a shift that’s taking place now, one from personal responsibility to manufacturer responsibility. Be it ingredients or environmental issues, manufacturers have to go beyond being just a good corporate citizen; they need to be parental, as well.

So it’s imperative that every candymaker have his programs not only meet regulatory requirements, but exceed them. Moreover, confectionery customers often conduct their own audits, recognizing that finger-pointing doesn’t typically stop at the source.

Thus, re-examine your current food safety and quality assurance programs. Update them if necessary. Doing it right the first time takes on even greater importance today. And it saves you money.

While on the subject of money, let’s consider labeling. During her presentation, Bodor also emphasized pending labeling issues, particularly front-of-package proposals, which range from providing information on saturated fats and added sugars to “stoplight” recommendations. In case you weren’t aware, these traffic light symbols provide consumers an instant read about a particular product. Thus, red suggests there are high levels of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt; yellow suggests medium levels; and green suggests low or acceptable levels.

Before I started ranting about this, let me just qualify my pending comments with the fact that I typically support simplification. It’s conducive to focusing and executing the task. But do we need to dumb down nutrition and diet to stoplights? Isn’t ongoing nutritional and lifestyle education, particularly with youth, the long-term solution here?

I applaud full disclosure. So if we need to expand or add to our ingredient label, so be it. But come on now, let’s not play children’s games with nutritional labeling. Red light, yellow light, green light!

I warrant that consumers aren’t as simple-minded as some activists would like everyone to believe. Nutrition isn’t simple, either. There’s much more to discover and disseminate. Let’s do so with some perspective.

Thompson Brands appoints new CEO

Gene Dunkin, a seasoned leader of consumer businesses with more than 15 years of chocolate industry experience at Godiva Chocolatier, has been named CEO of Thompson Brands.

While at Godiva, Dunkin held several key functional and general management roles as SVP of Global Marketing and Sales, president of Europe and Asia, and president of North America. He also played a major role in increasing Godiva’s worldwide sales by more than 475% during his tenure.

Prior to Godiva, Dunkin progressed through a series of marketing and sales management positions of increasing responsibility at Cuisinarts, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson and Chesebrough-Pond’s.

Thompson Brands, founded in 1879 in Meriden, Conn., is one of America’s oldest chocolate companies.  Thompson is a leading manufacturer and marketer of premium chocolate molded novelties under the Thompson brand, private label products and infused chocolate health supplements under the Adora brand. For more information, visit www.thompsonbrands.com.

Endangered Species Chocolate to debut new co-exist line

In accordance with the belief that species, habitat and humanity are all interconnected, Endangered Species Chocolate, Indianapolis, is launching its new co-exist line this summer, featuring five flavors of ethically traded, all-natural dark chocolate covered nuts, berries and toffee.

The new line is kosher-certified and available in a 3-oz. pouches that will include the following flavors: dark chocolate-covered cherries, dark chocolate-covered almonds, dark chocolate covered-cashews, dark chocolate-covered hazelnut toffee, and dark chocolate-covered cranberries and almonds. It was created after the company, headed by New Product Development Director Becky Kingery, conducted extensive research into new products for its core consumers.

“When we decided it was time to launch a new product line, we really wanted to know what types of products our consumers were wanting, so we conducted an online survey and several focus groups to get their feedback,” Kingery say. “In addition to co-exist, we will be adding several more new products to both our Web store and retail during the next year, all of which reflects the feedback we received from our research.”

Co-exist will be available exclusively at Whole Foods beginning in June and will roll out nationwide in August. For more information visit www.chocolatebar.com.

Morinaga America launches new HI-CHEW Web site

Morinaga America, Inc., Los Angeles, has created a new Web site (www.hi-chew.com) to introduce America to the candy that’s been the No. 1-selling fruit chew in Japan for more than 30 years.  The URL highlights Morinaga’s HI-CHEW line of six fruit flavors and tempts visitors with chances to win free candy.

HI-CHEW Fruit Chews are like nothing you’ve ever tasted before,” explainx Toshiya Yasuda, president of Morinaga America, marketing and distribution channel for HI-CHEW Fruit Chews in the United States. “Our tag line, ‘Little Piece of Heaven,’ really captures the essence of the HI-CHEW taste sensation of the smooth, juicy, chewy texture and long-lasting flavors of Strawberry, Green Apple, Mango, Melon and Orange.  Equally exciting is the introduction of the newest flavor, Banana, to coincide with the launch of the Web site.”

To help generate excitement and stimulate curiosity in the HI-CHEW brand, Morinaga America is sponsoring a video/photo contest, HI-CHEW “Anywhere, Anytime,” which encourages people to submit video or photos of friends or family enjoying the product. Once a month, an image is chosen from submissions, and the winner receives a 30-day supply of their favorite HI-CHEW flavor.  The winning video/photo is featured on the Web site. Contest details are available online at www.hi-chew.com/#/club-hi-chew.

HI-CHEW fans also will have a chance to be among the select few who are chosen for the HI-CHEW Taste Team. The HI-CHEW Web site features a survey with a field for adding personal comments. Based on the comments, age, gender and geographic location of those who take the survey, 100 people will be tapped as members of the team and receive free HI-CHEW Fruit Chews to sample and provide feedback to Morinaga America. The survey can be found at www.hi-chew.com/#/club-hi-chew.

Other features of the new HI-CHEW Web site include a regularly updated news page about the company and its products, along with a calendar of tasting events. To keep current on the latest happenings, fans can join Club HI-CHEW and receive the Club’s eNewsletter. 

Distributed in the United States by Morinaga America (www.hi-chew.com), HI-CHEW Fruit Chews are primarily available on the West and East Coasts at 7-Eleven, Costco, am-pm/ARCO and Ralphs, among others.

Asher's names new VP of sales

Asher’s Chocolates, Souderton, Pa., has appointed Barton McBride to the position of vice president of sales, national accounts. In this position, McBride will directly the newly created National Accounts division, which targets retail, grocery and convenience store chains with products and packaging unique to these accounts.

Previously, McBride served as Western U.S. sales manager, where she he instrumental in developing the distribution and sales network that now services Asher’s customer base nationwide.

“We have a proud 118-year history with our core customers who rely on Asher’s Chocolates’ broad array of regular and sugar-free chocolates,” Jeff Asher, a principal at the company. “The foundation of our business is the candy stores, gift shops and regional department stores that we’ve grown with over four generations of the Asher family. Focusing on volume accounts with selected pieces allows us to continue to produce the hundreds of items our core customers rely on us for, and the National Accounts division is meant to handle this essentially as a separate business model.”

For more information about Asher’s Chocolates, visit www.ashers.com.

sweet of the week: Healthy Indulgence Chocolates

Orange County, Calif.-based Hero Nutritionals, creator of the original gummy vitamin, introduces Healthy Indulgence dark chocolate vitamins, combining 60% cacao with botanical extracts and nutrients. Available this summer, Healthy Indulgence will come in four varieties for women: Daily Wellness, Slender Nutrition, Tranquility and Bone Wise. The 39-calorie vitamins come 28 individually wrapped pieces to a bag. The suggested retail price is $28.99 for a 28-day supply. For more information, call 1-949-498-2280, or visit www.healthyindulgence.com or www.heronutritionals.com.