If you could compare me to a candy I would like to invent my own - pop rocks covered in chocolate! Doesn’t sound like the most delicious concoction, but it describes me well - sweet on the outside, yet bursting on the inside, always wanting to get outside or experience some event in Chicago.
My name is Grace Weitz. I’m a senior journalism major at Northwestern University and for the last four years I’ve spent much of my pent-up energy touching a soccer ball as a varsity member of the women’s soccer team.
In November, I decided to forgo a fifth year on the squad and end my tenure as a collegiate athlete. Shortly thereafter, I came to Candy Industry as a part of the journalism residency program, a required quarter-long internship that every student majoring in Medill must complete.
My first day on the job, in fact, my first hour inside the building, Bernie Pacyniak (my new editor-in-chief) handed me one of many confectionery samples to come - Maramor Premium Dark Chocolate with Probiotics. Thinking probiotics sounded like a type of alien race that might be discovered by Starship Enterprise, I popped the chocolate into my mouth and enjoyed my mid-morning snack, noting it tasted just like any regular chocolate bar (and that I hadn’t turned into a six-headed human). Because I was tasked with crafting a new product write-up on this item, I decided to determine exactly what my mystery ingredient was. Considered beneficial bacteria, probiotics have been proven to help the digestive system. To my surprise, I had just eaten a confection that was not only tasty, but good for me too. How was this possible? I couldn’t wrap my head around this idea of “healthy chocolate.” I mean, after all, I had always considered candy, well just that… a dessert.
As an athlete, eating candy was never a concern of mine. In my mind, whatever less nutritious things I ate during the day would be burned off in practice. To me it was simple… if it tasted good I ate it - pumpkin pie, cookie dough straight from the tub and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups included. I guess you could say my relationship with candy was purely physical - I wanted it, I ate it and I didn’t think twice about it.
When I tackled two stories on nutritious indulgences - one on energy bars, another on fortified products - for our March issue, I began to realize that confectionery companies and consumers spent a lot of time considering the nutritional value of something that some perceive as unhealthy. According to the National Confectioners Association’s 2009 Industry Trend Report, 45% of experts have noted an emerging trend toward healthier chocolate. It’s a burgeoning market and it had never occurred to me before just how many functional confections existed beyond the Maramor treat I tried my first day on the job. For example did you know that Xan Confections just released a new chocolate bar specifically developed to help pregnant women!? The list goes on, including: products with super fruits, energy inducing fatty acids called omega-3’s, calcium, vitamin D3 and more.
To me candy will always be an indulgence, but especially since I no longer play sports at such a competitive level, I’m more aware of what I put in my body and I understand why consumers care so much about this supposed oxymoron - “healthy chocolate.” I have to tell you, it makes sense: if I’m going to eat chocolate why not eat a more nutritious version? Makes me think what could be next - healthy chocolate cake, nutritious banana splits, or maybe even, dare I say it, a sinfully beneficial chocolate chip cookie.
I’d love to have my cookie and eat it too.