Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The News You've Been Anxious About: Ms. Green Takes the Prize

You know it's the silly season when urgent press releases from Mars circulate through the candy world as if heralding a vital breaking world news event. The moment had come to announce that Ms. Green is America's favorite M&M'S character.

On July 27, Mars Chocolate North America announced that Ms. Green nabbed nearly a quarter of the 3.4 million votes cast by fans with nothing better to do. You would think it goes without saying, but Mars made sure to say it, simultaneously announcing as they did the defeat of M&M'S characters Red, Yellow, Blue and Orange.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Enough Cacao Beans for Five Billion Chocolate Bars?

What's the story with the cocoa bean guy? Big screaming headlines around the world have been reporting on the mysterious hedge fund manager, Anthony Ward, who has really almost cornered the world market in cocoa. There are estimates that he has now stockpiled enough cocoa beans to make more than five billion chocolate bars.

Is he stockpiling cocoa in a bid to drive up already high prices so he can sell later at a big profit? Cocoa prices have now reached a 30-year high. Nobody knows exactly what he is doing, but chocolate manufacturers around the world are nervous. His private investment firm, Armajaro, now controls something like 7 percent of annual cocoa production worldwide. Armajaro maintains offices in West Africa, close to the source. Apparently the company name is an amalgam of the names of his and his business partner's four children. I wonder if he gives much thought to what he surely knows, that children in West Africa are performing slave labor to harvest a significant percentage of those cocoa beans?

True Confections was inspired by the troubling child slave labor on West African cacao plantations. From that issue grew my question: for whom would this be a moral dilemma? Who would be most personally confronted by this siuation? Someone with a chocolate candy factory. And from there came Zip's Candies and the Ziplinsky family. Who would tell the story, and why? From that question came Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky, the insider-outsider narrator. Chocolate candy seems like such a manufactured product, we can forget that it is derived from nature, from a plant, and far too often, from an agricultural industry that mistreats children.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Kids and Grownups Love It So!

At the spectacularly fun candy convention in Chicago in May, one of the most useful nuggets of information I acquired was the correct pronunciation of the name of the gigantic maker of all things gummy, or rather, gummi -- Haribo.

It's a name that has made me nervous for years. Harribou? Hairy bow? Harry boo? The nice Haribo lady presiding over the serpentine counter of glistening gummi goodness that is the Haribo space every year at the convention taught me the way to pronounce it, chanting their enduring slogan: "Kids and grown-ups love it so, the happy world of Haribo!"[harry-bow] This is a translation from the original German slogan, "Haribo macht kinder froh / und Erwachsene ebenso." A mouthful of gummi candy would make it easier to speak German, I think.

In True Confections, Zip's Candies has a red and black licorice line called Mumbo Jumbos, named for Little Black Sambo's parents. These are a pair of red and black licorice discs about the dimensions of a backgammmon piece. I await the call for product licensing for this among several of my more reasonable fictional candy lines. But of course, not all gummi lovers would accept Mumbo Jumbos or the nonfictional Red Vines and Twizzlers as gummi, per se. I regret that I didn't have Alice ponder the distinctions, the equatorial line dividing the gummi hemisphere and the licorice hemisphere.

I am not an indiscriminate gummi lover by any means. But I have a thing for those peculiar, nonpareil-ish raspberries. And after much scientific testing, I can say definitively that the dark ones do taste different from the red ones. I think. Not really sure. More testing is required.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It Probably Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Maybe this was the thinking:

Miley Cyrus, popular with kids, check.

Candy, popular with kids, check.

Hannah Montana Candy, genius!

Candy should be in the shape of a guitar, why not?

Candy should be flesh colored, okay, sure. BAD, BAD, IDEA!

Alice Ziplinsky made some serious miscalculations with some of her candy lines, but nothing was this bad. I regret that she didn't make mention of this product in defense of her Little Susies.

Friday, July 9, 2010

We're Having a Heat Wave! A Tropical Heat Wave!

Few of us who haven't served in a military operation in a tropical climate know the very muted joy of biting into a Hershey's Tropical Chocolate Bar.

In 1943 the Procurement Division of the United States Army asked Hershey's to develop a heat resistant bar for the troops. Voila, the Hershey's Tropical Chocolate Bar, formulated so the bar can hold its shape after one hour in heat up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. In True Confections it was noted that Eli was quite jealous of Hershey's military contracts and took particular delight when Kiss production was shut down during the War, because of a shortage of material for the foil wrappers.

Apparently, the Hershey's Tropical Chocolate Bar was not very yummy.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Is There a 4th of July Candy Tradition? No There is Not.

Candy is associated with many American holidays, but to the eternal sorrow and frustration of the candy industry, there is nothing really indelible about the 4th of July, candy-wise. The Hershey's people have been brilliant in recent years about cross-marketing the Hershey Bar with Nabisco Graham Crackers and Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows for some s'mores end cap and bin displays in supermarkets, but that's really about it. (See page 42 of True Confections for Alice Ziplinsky's views on this subject.) Most efforts to grab some 4th of July dollars from supermarket shoppers consist of feeble seasonal cellophane wrappers on boxes, but even then, what is the symbol for the 4th of July? Christmas is a tree or an ornament, Valentine's Day is a heart, but what is the 4th of July? Red white and blue, the American flag. Maybe there are some compelling patriotic jelly bean mixes out there. But red, white and blue and the flag are also symbols for Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, and also other [problematic to many of us] patriotic endeavors like "supporting" our troops, depending on context.

One company that has tried harder than most to corner the 4th of July candy dollar is Tootsie. But the flag labels don't convince me that Tootsie Rolls are a traditional element of the day, and I doubt that shoppers will ever make their lists for their 4th of July cookout or picnic so that right after hot dogs, hamburger, buns, ketchup, pickles, chips, anyone is going to write Tootsie Roll Midgees. But nice try, Tootsie!