Friday, September 19, 2008

Hershey's: We just don't care anymore.

Hershey's, for as long as I can remember, has made pretty crappy chocolate.

Not as bad as the hollow Easter bunnies, or the waxy chocolate foil covered eggs, but certainly nothing to be proud of. Hershey's was like the Plymouth Reliant of the chocolate world.

Even as a youngster picking through Halloween loot, I knew Nestle Crunch kicked the tar out of Hershey's Krackel. Then I went to Switzerland, tasted some of their plain old milk chocolate and realized that Hershey's wasn't even in the same league. No, forget that, they weren't even playing the same game. I couldn't understand how someone who worked for Hershey's could manage to pull themselves out of bed to go make that crap.

Yet still, when push came to shove and it was time to make s'mores - did I turn Judas like my brother-in-law and get Nestle chocolate? No - like a fool I let myself be tugged by nostalgia for the American icon and bought Hershey bars.

Until one day about 5 years ago I noticed something strange. The wrapper. It used to be a brown sleeve with the logo that surrounded an inner, silver foil. No more. Now it was a single wrapper, fashioned to look like the classic wrapper. Ugly Susie didn't even get a pretty dress anymore.

It was the last straw for me, but I was still saddened to see this:

Chocoholics sour on new Hershey’s formula
Former fans kissed off about replacement of cocoa butter with vegetable oil

What’s going on here? On Friday, TODAY consumer correspondent Janice Lieberman reported that Hershey’s has switched to less expensive ingredients in several of its products. In particular, cocoa butter — the ingredient famous for giving chocolate its creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture — has been replaced with vegetable oil.
The removal of cocoa butter violates the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s definition of milk chocolate, so subtle changes have appeared on the labels of the Hershey’s products with altered recipes. Products once labeled “milk chocolate” now say “chocolate candy,” “made with chocolate” or “chocolatey.”

Apparently cocoa butter costs a bit more than vegetable oil. Hey Hershey, guess what? I know where you can get tons of cow manure that's even cheaper than vegetable oil, why not just use that? You could rename the Take 5 to Take 6; pretzel, caramel, peanut ,peanut butter and cow poo.

Hershey, meanwhile, stands by its products. The company "is committed to making the world's best chocolate," said spokesman Kirk Saville.

Mister Saville is what we call a liar. And what he just said is what we call a whopper. Not to be confused with Whoppers, which are presumably no longer milk chocolate covered either.

You know what I think it is? This is the danger with a public company. And I'll admit that I'm talking out of my ass here as I'm not really well versed on the topic - but it seems to me this is the kind of thing that can happen when you have to answer to shareholders rather than a president who has one job - to keep his eye on the ball.

But my limited research into this fiasco did reveal something unexpected; Hershey's may have gone ahead with this boneheaded idea despite the FDA, but they were not alone in petitioning the FDA to allow them to use vegetable oil and still call it milk chocolate. They're part of an Axis of Evil known as The Chocolate Manufacturers Association whose members include Hershey, Nestlé, and Archer Daniels Midland.

Ah-ha. ADM. Say no more.

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