How does supersize sell more?
Many have targeted the soda industry in regard to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Sugar in flavored milks has been attacked, but rarely does anyone talk about candy. Perhaps it’s because people need some small outlet. Compared to soda, candy consumption may be small. The question is whether it really is that small if in the 1970s the average customer could be satisfied with an average ¾ oz. candy bar, such as a Reese’s, and now cannot be satisfied with the 2.8 oz. king-size bar. Just 10 years ago this same candy sold at 1.6 oz.
What is it about today’s candy that keeps people coming for more (and more, and more and more)?
According to an April 2013 article in the Nutrition Journal there is “limited information…available regarding the impact of candy consumption on health.” It also stated that “frequency of candy consumption was not associated with the risk of obesity, overweight/obesity, elevated waist circumference, elevated skinfold thickness, blood pressure, low density lipoprotein (LDL) or high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, or insulin resistance.”
Really? How could that be?
Part of the reason could be that 65 percent of those that answered a food frequency questionnaire said they had no more than two per week. Another consideration is that the study did not focus on quantity, only frequency. Yet another consideration is people’s ability to remember things on a food questionnaire.
A short, and one of the first of its kind, study published in the June 2013 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition observed 12 men ages 18 to 35. It showed that the brain activity leading to appetite and craving was increased in the men ingesting a high load of sugar.
The American Association of Diabetes, while it doesn’t distinguish between the different types of sugars or processing involved, advocates carbohydrate counting and has professed watching sugar intake for a long time. In fact, other research shows that both the amount and the type of carbohydrate in food affect blood glucose levels. So how can king-size fit into a healthy diet? It can’t. The thing is though, the more king-size candies you put into your mouth, the more you want. Evidence has been shown that it’s easier for companies to count on their existing customers to eat more, then to try to convince those who don’t to try their product.
According to a New York Times article by Michael Moss, the big food processors (General Mills, Pilllsbury, Kraft) met in 1999 to discuss growing obesity and disease rates with the foresight that many of these diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, were caused by poor diet. Moss, an investigative reporter for the New York Times, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2010 for his meat industry expose. He interviewed scientists that studied the human brain and patterns to get people hooked on the salt, sugar and fatty foods because they were cheap and convenient. People probably aren’t talking about candy because, as Moss cited, “A mere half-cup of Prego Traditional, for instance, has the equivalent of more than two teaspoons of sugar, as much as two-plus Oreo cookies.”
Something happened to these cookies (and almost all cookie and candies) now though as two is just not enough. Is it the concept of having the regular customer eat more? Is it the genetically modified beet sugar? Is it the coal and tar-based dyes? The National Candy Association says nothing to date has proven genetically modified foods or dyes are harmful. Other studies show there is cause for concern about dyes and genetically-modified organisms (GMO’s) in regard to disease, but not necessarily in regard to appetite. Perhaps it is the slow desensitization to sugar from the unrealized amounts consumed in the products such as tomato sauce and yogurt and a very large part of most processed foods that get people hooked. After all, if sugar affects the part of the brain that excites appetite and craving, then it is likely that the overconsumption of candy and soda go hand-in-hand. The products are marketed together.
In the last part of 2008, manufacturers discovered that sale of king-size candies increased.
King-size candies were harder to get to the shelf. King-size became “a focal point opportunity in chocolates,” according to an April 2009 study, “Convenience, Confections & Profit.” The study was conducted by three groups: the American Wholesale Marketers Association (AWMA), NACS, The Association for Convenience and Petroleum Retailing and the National Confectioners Association (NCA) as a plan to increase sales. According to the report:
“As candy is often purchased with a beverage or salty snacks, there is an opportunity to increase volume by bundling or promoting candy with food service, non-carbonated soft drinks, carbonated soft drinks and salty snacks. By maximizing the positioning of candy items according to the store’s customary traffic patterns, and by appropriately bundling candy with other items, retailers have an opportunity to increase sales and profit per transaction and, in effect, squeeze every nickel possible out of every foot of available shelf space in the store.”
Researching candy wrapper archives reveals certain common candies, such as the Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cup, haven’t had much change in ingredients. Some of this information is possible for Hershey products, because “Hershey has provided nutritional information on a voluntary basis for the majority of its products since 1973 – years before it was require by the U.S. FDA.”
What has changed in ingredient lists, however, are the preservatives and emulsifiers they are using. TBHQ has shown up as a preservative in candies and other processed food in the last 20 years. Another more recent ingredient in candies and other foods is PGPR, an emulsifier.
TBHQ has been determined safe by the United States Federal Drug Administration (FDA) as long as TBHQ is not more than 0.2 percent of the oil or fat content of the food. It does also list consequences of nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation and collapse as some consequences of ingesting a gram of this chemical product. While you’re not likely to consume near that amount, one might want to consider how many food products this is added to now. Given the addictive qualities of many of the foods it’s added to, then it’s entirely possible many are coming close or exceeding since no one really knows how long it takes the body to clear it. This product helps maintain shelf-life.
PGPR is used in many chocolates now to reduce the amount of cocoa butter needed. This ingredient cuts costs and also adds to the shelf life. It may be added to chocolate up to 0.3 percent.
“Short-term studies are available in rat and chicken. Liver enlargement was noticed in two (same author) of eight studies in rats. Enlarged kidney and liver was reported in the only study conducted in chicken.”
These were at higher levels of 5 and 10 percent, but enlarged liver was noted as acceptable with liver overload. The higher levels of these chemicals in our candy and food along with HFCS, have not been replicated in studies. They have not been conducted on humans. The liver and kidney would be the organs trying to excrete these products, thus it might make sense if they were enlarged due to products designed for a long shelf life.
Sugar, whether genetically modified or not, will continue to be named in more causes of inflammation. So our occasional treat needs to be replaced with more organic, lower glycemic treats that weren’t designed to be around in a warehouse for six months to a year. In the meantime, however, according the U.S. Census Bureau, candy is still consumed at around 25 pounds per year by the average American.