America’s largest chocolate manufacturer, the Hershey Company (Hershey’s), has responded to accusations that it has replaced ingredients traditionally contained in its products with cheaper alternatives.
Reports have circulated in the mainstream media that several of Hershey’s products no longer contain cocoa butter, the substance used in the manufacture of chocolate, but that it has been replaced with vegetable oil.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not allow a product to be labeled as “chocolate” if it contains vegetable oil in place of cocoa butter. The Hershey Company has responded by changing the description on the packaging on some of its products. Hershey’s Kissables, for instance, are now labelled “chocolate candy” instead of “milk chocolate”. Other products are listed as being “made with chocolate” or “chocolatey”.
Hershey’s has pointed out that it still uses real milk chocolate in about 85 per cent of its products, including its Kisses and its Peanut Butter Cups.
The National Confectioners Association, of which Hershey’s is a member, says that the confectionery industry is suffering from the same rising production costs as other sectors of food manufacturing. By switching to cheaper ingredients, manufacturers can avoid passing extra costs on to consumers.
In 2007, the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, of which Hershey’s is also a member, petitioned the FDA to change the legal definition of chocolate to enable producers to use partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in their products in place of cocoa butter.
Mars going for a healthy image
Confectionery giant Mars is making an attempt to distance itself from the current image of chocolate as unhealthy through its “Raising the Bar” campaign.
Under the program, changes will be made to various Mars products in order to appeal to consumers looking for a healthier way to snack. The company is planning to reduce saturated fats in all its products, as well as providing nutritional information offering details of the recommended daily allowances of calories and fats on each pack.
Levels of obesity are rising at alarming rates in many European countries and consumers are being advised to watch their intake of calories, sugars and fats, especially saturated fat. Confectionery manufacturers are under pressure to provide consumers with healthier alternatives.
Since 2002, Mars claims to have reduced trans fats by 85 per cent, as well as removing artificial colours and flavours from its biggest-selling products.
In the health and wellness arena there are two approaches - removing potentially harmful ingredients, such as saturated fats, salt and sugar, or adding potentially health promoting ingredients, like vitamins, minerals, plant sterols, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Mars has been pro-active in research into the potential health benefits of flavanols from cocoa and has been sponsoring researchers in Germany and the US for about 15 years.
CocoaVia, from Mars, and Acticoa, by Barry Callebaut, both boast high polyphenol contents and are marketed as healthy options.