Leading candy and chocolate manufacturers are reporting progress on commitments to transparency and portion guidance five years after making a pledge to the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA).

Companies including Mars Wrigley, Ferrero, Ferrara Candy Co., Lindt, Ghirardelli Chocolate and Russell Stover Chocolates have offered more products containing 200 calories or fewer and with front-of-pack calorie labels, as outlined in a new report from PHA and the National Confectioners Association (NCA).

Specifically, half of individually-wrapped products manufactured by participating manufacturers are available in sizes with 200 calories or fewer. That’s up 38.3 percent from 2016. Additionally, nearly 95 percent of confectionery products have front-of-pack calorie labels, up 53.7 percent from 2016.

At retail checkout — where many unplanned confectionery purchases occur — 98 percent of chocolate and candy packaging have front-of-pack calorie labels.

“The results of this commitment show that companies have the opportunity to impact change while still maintaining their business models and keeping consumers front and center,” said Nancy E. Roman, PHA president and CEO. “We applaud these companies for stepping up and helping consumers manage their sugar intake through innovation, transparency and education.”

In 2017, participating companies set goals to provide more transparency, offer options with greater portion control in innovative packaging, and educate consumers about how chocolate and candy can be an occasional treat in a balanced lifestyle. 

By 2022, the companies pledged that:

  • Half of their individually wrapped products would be available in sizes that contain 200 calories or fewer per pack
  • 90 percent of their best-selling treats would have calorie information printed on the front of the pack 

The NCA also vowed to transform AlwaysATreat.com into a digital resource for consumers to better understand the role that confections play in a balanced lifestyle

“The scale of these major global competitors and their ability to collaborate and drive meaningful change related to offering more transparency, portion guidance options and educational tools for consumers seeking to manage their sugar intake is unmatched,” said NCA President and CEO John Downs. “We are proud of the results of our commitment to PHA, and our industry is continuing to focus on innovation in packaging and products to meet our consumers and retail partners' needs and desires for great-tasting treats.”

Each of the commitment elements have been verified by a third party and are publicly reported in PHA’s annual progress report. This commitment was monitored and reported by verifiers with Georgetown University. 

During a press conference, Hank Cardello, executive director of leadership solutions for Health + Prosperity at Georgetown University’s Business for Impact Center, noted participating companies met these benchmarks by launching new products and changing portion sizes of existing products. He also pointed to a decline in products with larger portion sizes. 

The firms used national IRI data to assess product changes and the number of individual items, Cardello added.

“The data tells the story of an industry that has stepped up and done the right thing for the consumer without losing sight of where they want their business to go in the future,” he said. “This proactive action by the companies to support consumers is a win-win, showing that the confectionery industry can do well by doing good.”

While there are no formal plans to expand the initiative, Cardello said many manufacturers are already following suit.

“We have seen really strong directional alignment from other confectionery companies,” he said. “They embrace the spirit of this commitment and some of the things they’re doing in the marketplace. We have our industry fully aligned with this commitment. This is a journey — we won’t stop the journey.”