Are Healthy Sweets an Oxymoron?
By Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire
The message is finally getting
through. Sorta kinda. Consumers want to eat whatever they want. And be healthy.
And have choice. They want manufacturers and retailers to help. So does the
Last month, at Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago, manufacturers were
doing their best to show they had got the message. More products than ever
calories, less sugar and more social responsibility," as the Los Angeles
Times reported. From marble-sized Reese’s Minis to sugar-free Dove chocolates
and Mars’ goodnessKnows snack squares said to contain "phytonutrients
that have been shown to help support healthy circulation," the message
was that people can consume with confidence because manufacturers are looking
after them. Sarah Endline of Sweetriot was promoting dark chocolate-covered
cacao nibs "the size of a pencil tip" with only two calories each. "You
can get your fix in one bite and know it is good for your body and good for
the world," she said.
This is where relativity enters the equation. Size
matters — which is why some snacks are getting smaller.
"Candy and chocolate are treats, part of life’s little pleasures," Susan
Smith, spokeswoman for the confectioners association, told the Times. "As
with most foods, candy should be consumed in moderation."
But Michael Jacobson
of the Center for Science in the Public Interest argues that even though chocolate
bars or other candies are often touted as healthy because they contain peanuts,
milk or other ingredients, it’s hard to promote many as healthy.
bar is typically a lot of calories and not a lot of nutrition," he
added. "That’s really the bottom line."
Consumers have complained
for years about confusing labels and have pleaded with manufacturers and retailers
for help in making good choices about what they eat.
Manufacturers and retailers
have responded in different ways, including trying to help with portion control
or using "natural" ingredients that
are marketed as being "better" in some unspecified or unproven
way. Whatever the label says about it being healthful or healthier, though,
it still may not be healthy. In the end, even with so many new formulas, the
choice is individual.
Discussion Questions: Should sweets try to position themselves as "healthy" alternatives?
Can sweets be promoted as an acceptable lifestyle choice if they are eaten
in moderation only?
[Author’s commentary] Semantics is important for
people wanting to take responsibility for what they eat. The word diet, for
necessarily imply that someone is trying to lose weight. Everything we eat
comprises our diet — some are more likely to keep us healthy (or not)
and/or slim (or not) than others. Freedom of choice means we can control portions
if we want to but we must consider everything on the label, not just the panel
that assures us the product is "healthful."