There's something to say for the powers of candy. Chocolate can heal a broken heart. A lollipop can calm an anxious child. A piece of taffy can bring back long forgotten memories of summer vacations passed.
But what if candy could do more? What if it could educate? Could help the environment?Could make people healthier?
Well, believe it or not, some candy is doing just that, and more. As the better-for-you category of confections continues to grow, customers are getting more than just a sugar high.
Getting (Un)real about ingredients
"It's a hard message to get across to people that candy doesn't have to be made out of a bunch of junk," says Melissa Burton, managing director for Goody Good Stuff. "It can be made out of ingredients you can find in your cupboard or the grocery store or on a farm."
As the trend toward creating cleaner products and cleaner ingredient labels gains steam, candy companies are forging ahead with products that are free of unhealthy fats and genetically modified ingredients.
From the start, UNREAL's mission has been to "unjunk" candy. A simple question from the founder's son got them to completely rethink and redo the way they approach candy. And it's a mission they want to spread to consumers and confectioners alike.
"Adults are very much preconditioned to the idea that if you're going to have candy, it's going to be bad for you," says Adam Melonas, co-founder of UNREAL."Our brands and our products are about humanizing the candy industry. It's in my DNA to look at food as food because that's how you can truly understand how to use it for the best of its abilities."
A trained chef, Melonas views candy as food, with a recipe that should be made from whole ingredients. For him, it is imperative that the end result is just as good, if not better, than the traditional candies found on shelves.
"When you remove all of those hyperindustrialized ingredients, you simply go back to the basics," says Melonas. "It's about old-fashioned ingredients with modern techniques."
And it takes a modern technique to make products that are all inclusive to every lifestyle. That was the aim with the creation of Goody Good Stuff's line of products.
"When I devised Goody Good Stuff, what I wanted to do was make a candy that was natural and make a candy that would be safe for everyone to eat," says Burton. As a vegetarian, Burton was having difficulty finding a gummy candy free of gelatin that she could enjoy guilt free. Now, all of Goody Good Stuff's treats are gelatin-free as well as being free of major all ergens such a dairy, gluten, and nuts. They are also kosherand halal-certified.
Locations, locations, locations
Once the products have been made, there s still another hurdle to jump. Getting people to buy them.
After creating his line of chocolate bars, Figamajigs cofounder, Matt Lefer was having a hard time finding broad distribution for his inventive product. Figamajigs are a blend of nutrient figs, cocoa powder and nuts or fruit that are then coated in chocolate to make what Lefer calls a "nutrient-rich candy bar."
"We've been around for awhile, but we've never really had national distribution or good representation out there," says Lefer.
Part of the challenge, Lefer admits, was finding the right hook to draw both buyers and customers in. In the beginning, there was confusion about whether or not Figamajigs was a candy bar or a nutrition bar. By being loaded with fiber and low in fat it's easy to say nut 'ition bar. But the delicious chocolate coating and sweet flavor le id itself to the label of candy.
"Our product is completely coated in chocolate, it's a satisfying candy treat," continues Lefer. "It just happens to be better for you. When we go to buyers, we like to go to the candy buyer, not the (nutrition) bar buyer. We are focused on being a healthy candy."
UNREAL, Goody Goody Stuff, andFigamajigs have something else in common besides being a better-for-you option amongst snackers. These companies are also taking old fan favorites and remaking them with fewer, more wholesome ingredients. As Lefer puts it, this is a way for distributors to get "healthier knockoffs" of beloved candies so that producers, sellers and buyers can all feel good about choices. As a result, these candies have seen a broader distribution amongst big name retailers and are gaining more fans every day.
Many better-for-you candies are also focused on being a tool for education.
Mother knows best
"Children are not in our target market at all," relays Melonas. "The ambassadors are mothers. We are educating parents.We would rather market our products on intelligence and moms in America are the strongest allies we can have."
This attempt at re-education will not be an easy one, as some consumers hold the notion that candy is the sugary hand of the devil. Burton has focused on making sure that people who choose Goody Good Stuff are still enjoying themselves, because that's what candy is about, after all.
"There's a lot of stuff that's trying to be better-for-you and we're having to sacrifice on our enjoyment," continues Burton."We made sure that our products were still really fun but embodied the core ethos that this was a natural product."
Lefer feels so positively about his products, that he and his whole family often enjoy them. And he knows other families are jumping on board too.
"Our products are universally loved," says Lefer. "People are on the go and they're so busy and (Figamajigs) are something people can grab and be satisfied with. We're helping people eat healthier."
Nicky Bronner, co-founder of UNREAL, thinks that candy can not only be better for consumers, but better for the world as a whole. After asking the simple question of "why is candy bad for you?", and vowing to make a change at only the age of 13, Bronner has seen the impact that better-for-you confections can have on customers and the community.
"We cut no corners, and we just continue to improve," says Bronner."People don't know about it, but we do it anyways because it's the right thing. We're all here to try and make the world a better place and anything that we can do, we do it to the best extent we can."
And it's this unwavering strive toward excellence that makes these treats better-for- you, better for everyone.