Why Addition Matters More Than Subtraction

Mary Ellen Kuhn

With apologies to mathematicians everywhere, I submit that in the candy category right now, addition matters far more than subtraction. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me explain.
Lately I’ve been seeing a growing number of confectionery products positioned to deliver added value courtesy of functional and/or better-for-you formulations. It’s a strategy that is just right for the current marketplace in which concerns about the sugar, fat and calories in candy — and their alleged direct correlation to our population’s expanding girth — have cast a rather large shadow over the industry. And make no mistake about it, such concerns are not going away. In fact, just-released statistics from the NPD Group, a Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firm, show that 44 percent of American homemakers are extremely or very concerned about serving foods that contain sugar. That’s the highest level of concern about sugar since 1994.
Given this ongoing angst about such “nutritional no no’s,” it’s especially heartening to see so many confectionery products focused on positive messages. Rather than apologizing for the fact that, yes, confections do typically contain sugar and fat, they’re shifting the tenor of the discussion — moving it away from “bad” or “not healthy” to “value-added” and “does a body good,” to borrow from the longtime advertising campaign for milk. Thus it’s not about subtracting the “bad” as much as it’s about adding more of the “good stuff.”
I’m talking about the way in which Hershey’s Whole Bean Chocolate touts its fiber and antioxidant content, for example. Or how a whole host of premium chocolate offerings are shouting out added value in the form of higher cacao content. Kimmie Candy Company is introducing a full nutraceutical product line under the banner LiFuel. It’s a version of Kimmie’s Sunbursts candy-coated, chocolate-covered sunflower kernels enhanced with vitamins and functional ingredients like ginseng and caffeine. A confectionery/snack item positioned as “fuel” for life — wow! That’s smart.
Of course, I’ll be the first to point to the need for some caution in this arena. It’s been demonstrated that over-consuming herbal/botanical ingredients can be health-threatening. So product developers need to pay attention to current science.
Just as importantly, we must keep in mind that the best value-added products are those that have a real reason for being because they satisfy a need or solve a problem for consumers. Throwing a few vitamins or herbal ingredients into an existing formulation and calling it “new and value-added” won’t work. But introducing thoughtfully conceived products that deliver bona fide benefits and celebrating them with positive messages to consumers adds up to some pretty great potential for success.