Thoughts on Candy and our big National Problem Mary Ellen Kuhn

“Sugar and spice and everything nice”… Was it really so long ago that sugar was considered a good thing? It’s beginning to seem that way.
Fast-forwarding to the present, we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a national obesity crisis and a climate in which there is no longer always a rosy aura surrounding sugar and candy. Now candy, soft drinks and some snack products have become potential targets for the news media and possibly even attorneys hungry for a lucrative judgment against “big food.”
That’s why we decided to zero in on the topic of candy and consumers’ diet/health concerns in a special report in this issue. We titled it “Fitting In” because it examines the way in which candy fits into consumers’ lives today, especially in view of negative media attention, anti-candy legislation and the low-carbohydrate dieting mania.
To get a better perspective on the diet and health issues most relevant to today’s consumers, I interviewed Linda Gilbert, president of HealthFocus International, St. Petersburg, Fla. She’s been tracking consumers’ diet and health concerns for 16 years and is one of the best sources I know on such matters. I was interested to hear that she thinks carb-consciousness is more of a fad than a long-term trend. And even more significantly, she points out that it’s not a long-term solution to the very real public health threat of obesity.
“If we’re saying we want to make meaningful contributions to public health, we have to reach farther than low-carb,” she says. “That’s not going to help solve the public health problem of obesity any more than low-fat did.
“We tell people to eat less fat,” Gilbert continues. “We tell them to eat fewer carbs. None of this is going to solve the obesity problem until we tell them to eat smaller portions.”
One of the food companies that has been devoting considerable time and effort to figuring out a responsible and profitable approach to the current marketplace is Kraft Foods. I think the 100 Calorie Packs featuring versions of some of the most popular Nabisco cookies and crackers are a really bright idea. These new packs make portion control simple for the consumer!
I also love the new Chick Chocolates targeted to women. The packaging is colorful and amusing. And a 1-ounce pack contains three wrapped pieces, so the consumer can choose whether to have one or all three. Even if you go for the latter option, the calorie total is 170 to 180. It’s not a “diet” product, but neither is it an over-the-top caloric investment. It’s simply loads of fun! Products such as these — along with the many new low-carb and sugar-free confections making their debut — give consumers choices, and that’s what it’s all about.
Later this month Confectioner’s parent company, Stagnito Communications, is sponsoring a conference on the topic of obesity and how it will affect the food industry. It’s slated for June 24-25 at the Indian Lakes Resort near Chicago, and it promises to be a provocative forum for the exchange of ideas. For more information, visit and click on Obesity Summit 2004, or call
1-866-265-1975 or 1-212-596-6006.