Chocolate Lovers Pained by Candy Changes

There's a difference between the old Hershey's Kissables wrapper (above, courtesy of www.candyblog.net) and the new one. Candy critic Cybele May says the new wrapper no longer says "milk chocolate" because the candy's formula has changed.

Such combinations of oils and that "and/or" conjunction can be found on other candy wrappers too. It gives candy companies the flexibility to change which ingredients they use when vegetable oil prices fluctuate, said Barry Swanson, spokesperson for Institute of Food Technologists and a professor of food science at Washington State University.

"If one of those fats or oils becomes very expensive, they'll just use less of it," Swanson said.

"I think anytime we're looking at increased costs, you're going to find more, shall we say, creative formulations to try to reduce the cost involved in producing a product," he said.

Cocoa Substitutes

May said that Hershey's isn't the only company that uses substitutes for cocoa butter. Baby Ruth bars by Nestle -- the third-biggest chocolate-seller in the U.S. -- once contained "real chocolate" but haven't had it for a long time, she said.

Ingredients for Baby Ruth Miniatures include cocoa but also hydrogenated palm kernel and coconut oil.

Nestle also recently introduced a Mexican bar in the United States called Carlos V. May said that the Mexican version of the bar was made of chocolate, but the American version is not.

Attempts to reach Nestle's Mexican branch were unsuccessful.

Patricia Bowles, the communications manager of Nestle Confections and Snacks for Nestle's U.S. branch, said that the changes to Baby Ruth's ingredients took place before Nestle purchased the brand in the 1990s.

Overall, she said, economic conditions haven't led Nestle to change the formulas for its products.

"We are not quick to change something that we know our consumers love," she said.

Changing ingredients isn't the only way candymakers and other food producers cope with rising food costs; they can also change the sizes of their products and, most noticeably to consumers, they can raise prices. Both Mars and Hershey announced wholesale price increases earlier this month.

Nestle, which also sells bottled water, frozen meals and other food products, has reported its 2008 profits were bolstered by price increases for its goods.

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