10 Questions With ... Larry Graham

The whole diet and health issue is important to our industry. There is childhood obesity in this country. We believe that the science shows we're not causing that. We don't have anything to do with that. our products are 2.8 percent of the calories in an adolescent's diet, and those are government figures, so we feel you can have a little bit of sweetness in your diet, in moderation, and you can enjoy Easter and Halloween. So we're battling some of those issues.

Under one of the legislative things in the Obama administration, there's no longer candy in schools and vending in schools. We didn't fight that. We felt that was probably a losing battle. And, secondly, what we are saying — candy should be available when parents are present and in fundraising at schools. So it seems to me you could sell it at football games and basketball games. There are parents there. And also at fundraising, and it's not kid-to-kid fundraising, it's kids trying to raise from their parents and from adults. So that is something we're trying to maintain.

We feel that we've marketed candy as a treat. It's not a meal replacement. Also, our industry — it's clear what's in our products, on the labeling. And one of the things that they've done is come up with, almost all candies are available now in small pieces. So if you want to just have a few little pieces — everything's available in pieces.

Do you butt heads with Michelle Obama and her childhood obesity campaign?

No, actually, we support her program, and actually she's been reasonable on this. She has specifically said you can have some sweets and ice cream and candy in your diet. She allows her own kids to have that. So I think the White House has been reasonable. We're participating in the Easter Egg Roll. About a dozen of our companies or so will be providing candy for that. We've worked with the White House on that.

Who's your favorite member of Congress?

We do favor the members of Congress who are against the sugar program. Senator Durbin is with us. Illinois is a big confectionary state, with many, many candy companies. Immigrants at the turn of the century came and they had bakeries and then turned them into confectionary companies. Lugar's been very good. Jeanne Shaheen.

They're supportive of small business and they're supportive of getting rid of the sugar program. We are not a heavily regulated industry in the sense of oil and gas or something. So when it comes to our issues, it really stands out when a member supports us.

Generally speaking, Republicans seem to be more favorable to business but really we're pretty nonpartisan in the sense that there's a lot of Democrats that have supported us, too.

Looking at the presidential field of candidates, which seem to be the most pro-candy, or pro-sugar?

Where do they stand on business issues? And small business in particular. I think Romney has been more outspoken about that. Our members have some concerns with what they see as an increased regulatory environment in the Obama administration. I think our guys are pretty bipartisan. The president of one candy company told me, "Both Democrats and Republicans eat my candy."

I'm independent. I don't think I voted in the primary because I was traveling.

Choose a side: Sour versus chocolate candy.

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