Confectionery ties to the Civil Rights movement are nothing new. As recently as 2012, Trayvon Martin was killed holding a bag of Skittles, and that was just one instance of the two being inextricably linked.

And it just seems absurd to write about anything other than the massive protests happening right now across the world and in all 50 states in support of Black Lives Matter.

So let’s talk about the candy industry and what it can do when it comes to diversity and civil rights. First, the most pertinent question: How diverse is the confectionery industry?

Here, we have some good news. According to 2019 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the manufacturing of sugar and confectionery products industry employs about 86,000 people, and in most cases, the numbers of each demographic line up with the general population.

Below is a look at how the demographics break down in the confectionery industry, compared to the population as a whole in parentheses, which is based on U.S. Census Bureau data from 2019. 

  • 34 percent are women (50.8 percent in general population)
  • 75.7 percent are white (76.5 percent in general population)
  • 18.6 percent are black or African American (13.4 percent in general population)
  • 4.6 percent are Asian (5.9 percent in general population)
  • 22.2 percent are Hispanic or Latino (18.3 percent in the general population)

Overall, the numbers related to race are pretty close — although there is still a gender gap.

And it’s important to remember that these numbers take into account the entire staff of the sugar and candy manufacturing industry. I’m skeptical these figures would hold up the further up the chain we go. 

Because let’s be honest — it’s no secret confectionery industry events are often a sea of mostly white faces, and that’s who is making the decisions in the candy industry. Being aware of that is an important first step.

Black Lives Matter is not a new movement, but it does seem to be gaining new momentum. And I’m seeing more of my white friends take racism seriously in light of recent events. 

I encourage confectionery brands to use their platform to adamantly speak out against racism. But beyond that, it’s so important to back up those words with actions. 

So take some time to learn more about how this country has actually treated black people — here’s a great reading list to start. And companies must continue to make diverse hiring a priority, but also, diverse promotion. 

And one last thing — give everyone at your company a mental health day because we could all use a break. And when they come back, openly acknowledge how stressful the world is right now, and in particular, how stressful it is for black people. 

Because Dwayne Reed said it best: “White supremacy won’t die until white people see it as a white issue they need to solve rather than a black issue they need to empathize with.”