So you enjoy working in the confectionery industry, right? But tell me this, are you producing snacks, or are they treats? Hey, I realized the words are often used interchangeably. Nevertheless, there is a difference.

For example, you don’t hear anyone saying they “snack myself” do you? But, treating oneself is perfectly OK. Now we know a treat can be a snack, but can a snack be a treat? Of course it can. Yet, as we all know, treats are not considered meal replacements, although I’ve often hear from many that chocolate is the perfect food.

On the other hand, when you look at some of the snack bars, they are considered and used as meal replacements. Now, be patient readers, I’m not just splitting nonpareils here. This is serious business.

Listen, if two of the industry’s major players see this distinction as important enough to dictate strategies, I believe it’s important to take a deep dive about this polemic.

Consider the article Todd Tillemans, president – U.S., The Hershey Co.,  put up on his company’s website earlier this year, titled, “2018: The Year of the Snacking Powerhouse.”

Ask anyone on the street what Hershey is, and they’ll tell you we’re a chocolate company,” he wrote. “And, in part, that’s true — we have a long, successful history in Sweets and Refreshments, with iconic brands that generations of consumers have fallen in love with.

“But it is also true that we have a substantial position in snacking, and we’re poised to achieve even more. For example, we recently welcomed into the fold Amplify Snacking Brands, with its stable of snacks like Skinny Pop popcorn, Paqui chips and Oatmega cookies. Amplify is our biggest acquisition ever, with brands that appeal to consumers’ growing preference for better-for-you snacks. These iconic brands are beloved by consumers and retailers alike. We are confident that the strength of our newly acquired brands, coupled with Hershey’s growing product portfolio outside of core confection, will enable us to capture more consumer snacking occasions.”

As Tillemans concluded, "Snacking leadership? We’re already there. We’re ready to take it to the next level, and we have the people, the insights, the confidence and the resolve to lead the way.”

No doubt that’s where The Hershey Co. is headed.

But that’s not the direction Mars Wrigley Confectionery is going. A recently published whitepaper — “The Mars Wrigley Confectionery Treat Report: U.S. Consumer Insights on Treats and Treating” — underscores its position.

“As the world’s largest manufacturer of chocolate, candy, gum and mints, Mars Wrigley Confectionery is an expert on treats and the role they play in our lives,” the report emphasized.

Updating an earlier survey on how consumers view treats, the company released findings gleaned last year from such research.

“Findings show that across all age groups, Americans see treats as a special indulgence. Nearly all (98 percent) of respondents believe that a healthy lifestyle includes an occasional sweet treat.

This is in line with what Mars Wrigley Confectionery believes – that chocolate and candy is a treat, not a snack or meal replacement. That’s why we’ve partnered with the Partnership for a Healthier America to purposefully position chocolate and candy as a treat, and have committed to give consumers the information, options and support they need as they choose how to enjoy their favorite treats.”

So, which approach is best suited for the confectionery industry? Can one embrace both? Of course. Let’s face it, better-for-you snacking and permissible indulgence are two of the hottest trends out there. As I’ve always maintained, consumers need both during the course of the day/week.

Time-pressed Millennials need a grab-and-go breakfast item or a “will eat later” lunch alternate. This same group also requires a coffee break pick-me-up or “I can exhale now” piece of chocolate at the end of the day.

Just don’t misrepresent one for the other. And this can be a tricky. The classic example: a chocolate-covered pretzel. Typically, pretzels have been perceived as a healthy snack. Yes, they are low in fat but are deficient in protein and fiber. And the sodium content is high. Cover it in chocolate, you’ve increased calories, fat and added a little protein. So what was considered to be a healthy snack (open to debate) is now an indulgent treat.

No easy answers, varying strategies. The best thing to remember is that in this world of endless snacking and permissible indulgence, it’s important to know that one can do both and still lead a healthy lifestyle. Let’s keep that in the forefront.