Political Correctness Can Be Deadly for New Products
Mary Ellen Kuhn
By now you may have heard about the untimely demise of Kraft Foods’ Trolli Road Kill Gummi Candy. The story broke late this winter with national media reports that animal rights activists had a beef with the new Trolli gummies. You see, the candy was in the form of partially flattened gummy critters complete with tire tracks running across them. That struck members of the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as a bad thing, and they complained that it might lead kids to think that harming animals is OK. Confronted with the threat of boycotts, Kraft—which is in the process of selling Trolli and several other brands to Wrigley—said that it would discontinue production.
It’s a shame that the company was pressured into this move. I mean, we are talking gummi candy here—not fur coats or foie gras. I submit that a new gummi candy has little potential to shape young minds—for good or for bad! I’m sorry, but I just can’t see the seven-year-olds of the world taking this literally. (i.e. “Hey, Mom and Dad, those Road Kill Gummies tasted great! Now let’s all pack into the minivan and see what we can run over!”)
I’m kidding, of course, but my point is a serious one. If we as an industry allow ourselves to be bullied by the arbiters of political correctness, then creativity will be compromised. Coming up with a truly inventive new product requires thinking outside the box. And that is a lot easier to do if you’re not bogged down with the fear that your idea will be deemed morally repugnant or otherwise offensive by some segment of the market with its own agenda.
When the Trolli story hit, my thoughts turned to a molded marzipan product I saw earlier this year at the International Sweets and Biscuits Fair in Germany. I won’t provide a graphic description here, but let’s just say that it features two slyly smiling little piggies doing that thing piggies do when they want to add to the piggy brood. I was told that the item is one of the company’s best sellers.
You may consider such a product a tad risqué or vulgar. Or—as so many German consumers apparently do—you may find it delightfully fun and silly. Either way, I think that consumers have the right to choose from a confectionery assortment that contains offerings geared to a myriad of different tastes and includes everything from a pair of busy little piggies to a bag of Road Kill Gummies. As long as it’s not truly cruel, pornographic or promoting a criminal activity, I say, bring it on!
Let’s hope that other candy marketers will not shy away from taking a few risks and having a little fun. Isn’t that what this industry is supposed to be all about? It’s my fervent wish that next month as I trek up and down the aisles at the All Candy Expo, I will be treated to the sight of some truly outrageous new products. Because without them, the candy set may find itself becoming deadly dull. And that’s not going to help sales at all.