Healthy Hershey’s

I don’t like to stir things up too much around here. Last time I did that, I got my ass kicked in the comments. Truth be told, I’m a people-person and try to see the good in everything and everybody no matter what.

Heck, I’m even listening to Up With People! as I’m typing right now…

I don’t like to trash people or companies in general. But sometimes, every once in a while, someone needs to get their pee-pee smacked.

And in this case, it’s Hershey’s.

hersheyhealthychocolate

Normally I make it a point to eat the best-quality chocolate I can since the good stuff has the same amount of calories as the bad stuff. Because I live in Paris, depending on how you feel about it, I don’t eat much Hershey’s chocolate. But when you have a blog, no matter where you like, you get ‘sales pitches’ from pr folks wanting to send you products to that they hope you’ll mention favorably on your blog. I like to try new American products and since I don’t live where they’re easily found, I let the ones that sound interesting come my way.

But one French company insisted (repeatedly, against my better judgment) on sending me a food basket of goodies a while back.


When I opened the bottle of artificially-flavored coconut sugar tucked inside, one unfortunate sniff and I dumped it in the trash. (I couldn’t imagine what you’d do with it otherwise.) I later learned that that was a big mistake since my apartment reeked of fake coconut for days and days afterwards. There was also a little bottle of sugary-sweet bright-purple liquid, labeled an ‘aperitif’, whose odor bore an uncanny resemblance to mouse urine. That one I wish I hadn’t bothered to open at all.

Although I thought it might make a clever blog entry at the time, since I’m such a nice person, I decided not to write about it since I’m sure their hearts were in the right place.
You think?

So.
Last week a package arrived from Hershey’s, who’s not only been trying to go ‘up market’ with their purchase of ScharffenBerger and Dagoba, but has been introducing ‘high-percentage’ chocolate (up to 67%), with fancy-schmancy labels boasting the names of exotic plantations as well.

I’m not going to get into the health benefits of chocolate here, since you can get that here. Although cocoa beans (not double-chocolate cheesecake, but the cocoa beans themselves) are very high in antioxidants, much of that gets lost during the fermentation. So the points raised concerning ‘healthy chocolate’ is often null. But a few enterprising companies, anxious to use the word ‘healthy’ on their packaging, have been working hard and spending a lot of money developing chocolates which retain their antioxidants so that people will buy them, thinking they’re doing someone good for themselves. (Why can’t people just enjoy chocolate? Does it have to say ‘healthy’ on it?)

One of the chocolates Hershey’s sent to me was labeled ‘Whole Bean Chocolate’. I have no idea what that means. It’s like saying ‘Whole Cabbage Cole Slaw’. Once the cacao beans are shelled and winnowed, of course you’d use the whole bean. So what’s the point of advertising that?

Another bag was labeled ‘Natural Flavanol Antioxidant Milk Chocolate’, which boasted “more antioxidants than the leading dark chocolate”. Does anyone know what the “leading dark chocolate” actually is that they’re referring to?

Since I was miffed about being made to feel like a complete idiot, and felt too biased to issue an honest opinion (in spite of my normally-cheery ‘people-person’ persona) I thought I’d get a Frenchman to taste the chocolates and tell me what he thought. He immediately dispatched with the packaging, which he said reminded him of the chocolates you get with your coffee in Parisian cafés. But once he tore open the dark chocolate, he thought it tasted pretty good.

But the milk chocolate was another story.
Europeans, in general, have pretty strong reactions to Hershey’s milk chocolate. It has a certain flavor, which is said to be because the milk used is cultured or fermented. We Americans are used to it. But to others, it’s not-so-tasty. He grimaced and put the tablet back on the table, refusing to finish it. (Which I’ll admit that I did. But I’m not proud of it.)

Conclusions:
While I have no objections to companies promoting the health benefits of chocolate, I don’t like being made to feel like a dum-dum.

And ‘whole bean’ chocolate?
What the heck is that supposed to mean? And I don’t think putting ANTIOXIDANTS in bold letters on your packaging is providing much of a service to consumers, in spite of the “everything in moderation and as part of a healthy lifestyle” admonitions written elsewhere. I like the fact Hershey’s claims to have reduced the sugar in these chocolates and the dark chocolate makes a nice snack, even if you’re French. But if you’re looking to get healthy, I’m not so sure eating a chocolate bar is the way to get there

A better idea might be just to make very good chocolate and any health benefits could be seen as an added bonus.

You can read more about these chocolates from Hershey’s here.

Or just stop by my place.
I still have a few bags leftover.

40 comments

  • David, man…I love that you make me laugh! First with your choice of music… but the entire post is fab!

    I am considering wallpapering my bathroom with your funniest posts. You WILL take that as a complement, right?

  • This is too good. I haven’t had Hershey’s in years. They can put all the health claims they want on their chocolates, but I won’t be buying. Do those advertising people really think we’re such dummies as to fall for that kind of packaging? Apparently they do. Thanks for serving as our guinea pig.

  • you’re right. hershey’s has this distinct weird taste that you just know it screams “HERSHEY’S”. i hate that! – and i’m NOT european. i even avoid their cocoa powder and, one time i tried buying prepared betty crocker’s frosting in chocolate, i can taste the hershey’s in it. never bought another can. and their chocolates are often too sweet.

    i rather go with cadbury’s, or others.

  • From working at a chocolate factory, I can tell you that people DO fall for the gimmick of chocolate being healthy! We do not advertise our chocolate as being especially healthy (just fair trade and organic), but women (especially) would come in having just read an article about the health benefits of chocolate taking it as a permit to binge on chocolate. Chocolate can definitely be a part of a healthy diet, just under the knowledge that it is a generous source of fat and calories and is to be enjoyed, not guzzled. I think Hershey’s is silly as well, but I can’t say that I am not suprised at this effort… especially with the “French women don’t get fat” phenomenon. ~Great post David!

  • Alisa: Papering the walls of the bathroom is okay.

    It’s this I’d be more upset about.

  • Doesn’t Hersheys put, like, flour in their chocolate bars? Or at least they used to? I have never liked the stuff – tastes chalky and fake to me. The label on the packaging cracks me up – how is antioxidant in larger font than anything else but the brand-name??

  • “Whole bean” undoubtedly means “costs more.” The problem with this post is that it reminds me how, um, susceptible many consumers are to the blandishments of pr-speak! (Taste-wise, Hershey’s isn’t the only offender. I recently bit into a Nestle Crunch bar, for some reason, and I swear if I hadn’t seen the wrapper I could not have identified its flavor as chocolate.)

  • Wow. Wow wow wow. First of all, great post. There’s nothing like waking up to coffee and reading about mouse urine. Totally hot, love it, thanks.

    As a food marketer and the designer of a gazillion packages, this Hershey’s thang really chaps my hide. I guess anything to make a buck, no?

  • Luisa – I’ve collected a lot of candy wrappers over the years and find no record of them adding flour to the bars.

    David – I also got this assortment from some Hershey’s folks.

    I was very surprised that the milk chocolate one tasted like Hershey’s regular milk chocolate (though a little smoother).

    I liken the distinctive taste to yogurt. Not a good thing or a bad thing, just their thing. I find that Cadbury and other European milk chocolates taste like powdered milk. Again, not good or bad, it just is (and I don’t care much for it as I associate powdered milk for those years as a child when we couldn’t afford fresh milk).

  • David, love your blog! I used to work as a copywriter for an advertising agency and my main account was M&M/Mars. I ate a lot of gross chocolate and candy in those years. What I really hated was working on promotional materials that went to school cafeteria managers. “Kids need fat! Chocolate is part of a healthy diet! Buy Snickers!” Oy.

    I was upset to hear that Hershey’s bought ScharffenBerger since they are one of my faves for baking and eating ;) Not as good as Cluizel but they’re in a whole other league…

    Btw, I’m making several batches of matzoh crunch today. I made it last year and now it’s being requested again!

  • Whole Cabbage Coleslaw is priceless. I will always refer to that when I make it in the future!!

  • Ok, were you *really* listening to Up With People? Because if so, you can help me out. I remember this song about saying hello in ten languages but I can only remember nine of them! Konichiwa, he he, jumbo, hola, ni how, aloha, salutary, strasvay, ciao. (Obviously not spelled correctly.) By any chance is that one of the songs?

    Thanks for letting me tangent. I look to you, now, not only for baking thoughts and little bits of French fun, but also obscure international touring company lyrics!

    And Hershey’s. Ugh.

  • “Whole bean chocolate” reminds me of a raw food person who was raving to me about the “raw” cocoa nibs she had bought. I pointed out that cocoa nibs were fermented and roasted, and only “raw” in the sense that they weren’t processed into chocolate, but it fell on deaf ears.

    Anyway, chocolate is *mental* health food, as far as I’m concerned, and I’ll stick with the good stuff, thanks anyway Hershey’s.

  • ugh. hershey’s anything = chalk.

    chalklate.

  • Why I should have settled in Switzerland after eight years instead of repatriating myself.

    Typical American way: Don’t compete on quality, just increase the marketing budget.

    The whole health aspect of chocolate is overblown anyway. You’d have to eat a lot (and I mean a lot) of chocolate to really get all the benefit that’s currently being talked about.

    If you want to eat chocolate, eat it for the pleasure and make sure it’s good chocolate. End-of-story.

  • Waitaminit. I’ve had a change of heart from a sudden brainstorm.

    Maybe Hershey’s is on to something, trying to ride the wave of all this chocolate health. Y’know, they could really pull ahead of the leading chocolate by adding fluoride. Then they could say “Hershey’s Premium. Chocolate with fewer cavities!” Watch out, Crest!

  • And, just think, that would mean you could brush your teeth with it!

  • Wow, after reading this, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I consumed a Hershey “antioxidant” offering — it was dark chocolate with dried blueberries and cranberries and almonds — and not so bad, either! I don’t eat sweets for my health… I just thought the combination sounded good. And even though I don’t buy Hershey’s on a regular basis, I’m willing to support chocolate innovations that go beyond combinations of crispy bits, caramel, and peanut butter (nothing against those, of course — but when was the last time anything really different came out for mass-market consumption?).
    And I DO think that the latest health craze can be key to promoting new flavors in the market… think about how many things got sold under the shadow of “low carb” — though it’s slipping my mind whether any of those things taste good.

  • wonder if the french dislike hershey’s milk choco is something of an historical artifact–but that’s a completely politically incorrect thing to say, isn’t it? and actually, red-ish blooded american that i am, i don’t much like hershey’s milk choco either. it’s like chocolate with training wheels–once my weekly allowance allowed me to reach beyond the fifty cent candy bar, there was no reason to eat hershey’s.

  • So that baby formula taste in Hersheys chocolate is not my imagination but fermented milk. Bleah.

  • One of the reasons marketers have to come up with lame health benefits for chocolate is so American consumers won’t look at a nice dark piece of chocolate and say oh I can’t eat that…….it will make me fat ….. as they walk off carrying a Mac Burger bag ……ugh. I just can’t figure us out any more.

  • Oh chocolate toothpaste pretty funny !

  • Hersheys tastes like wax. I wouldn’t eat it, even if it did prevent cavities.

  • I got a freebie pack of “single origin” Hershey and at the chocolate show saw another set of different bars. They seem to be all over the map literally playing catchup with the serious chocolate makers.
    Total loss of identity and the pricing is almost the same, so why buy Hershey when the taste is very so-so?

  • How ironic that scientists just found out that all the claims about antioxidant-full foods and health were bullsh*t.

  • PB: I agree. Especially since they bought Dagoba and ScharffenBerger. I’m happy they’re ‘perking up’ their identity, but the chocolate=health thing is kinda tired.

    Brenda: I never understood the overseas-aversion to Hershey’s. But now when I taste it, I do detect those flavors. They don’t really bother me (Je suis americain, bien sûr!) but they do conjure up some funny expressions of distaste.

    Gary: Interesting idea! Although I might advise not investing too heavily in it ; )

    Cybele: A chocolate expert told me Cadbury caramelizes their milk. I can’t eat it myself, especially now that they can’t even call it real milk chocolate anymore. It’s labeled ‘family’ chocolate.

    Christy: I love Up With People!..and even saw them at an outdoor concert back in 1976. They were just so darn positive and optimistic. I so aspire to walk in their uplifting footsteps…

    I don’t remember that particular song (in fact, I don’t remember much from that era, for some reason…) but maybe you can find it on eBay. Just keep humming.

    (Fun Fact: Did you know Glenn Close was in ‘Up With People!’ ? Unfortunately, to this day, she refuses to talk about it. To me, it’s a career-highlight!)

    (And yes, couldn’t agree more. Why invest so heavily in marketing when quality usually trumps out in the end?)

  • Who really eats chocolate because it’s healthy! I mean you eat it because it tastes good(the health benefit of good chocolate is a plus). But, if I wanted healthy – I would eat a bowl of steel cut oatmeal with flax seeds…now doesn’t chocolate sound better after that!!

  • honestly, as long as hershey’s doesn’t (pardon the vulgarity, i feel very strongly about this) f$#* with my scharffen-berger, they can put out whatever other crap they want. i live every day on edge, fearful that they’re going to muck things up with such a good brand.

    and i have to say, good dark chocolate can absolutely be a fun part of a healthy diet. looking forward to that piece or two i treat myself to at the end of the day makes me forget how much it hurt to be on the treadmill and/or forego the cookie earlier in the day!

  • I’m back. We hosted a woman from Denmark who was touring with Up With People. We’re still in touch. I didn’t know about Glenn Close. I’m off to check ebay for Up With People music – how could I not have thought of that? Perfect for my kids!

  • I’ve only tasted Hershey’s chocolate once – a friend left me some Hershey Kisses once. After trying one, I thought they’d gone off, because to me, they had a very unappealing sourness reminiscent of vomit. I think I actually spat it out. I offered them to an American friend who said, no, they were supposed to taste like that. Ugh.

    Having said that, much of our British “chocolate” (if you can call it that) isn’t much better, though at least we’re doing a nice line in artisinal stuff these days – a lot don’t even use soya lecithin, which is a bonus.

    One last point about marketing – Nestle are having a big drive here in the UK at the moment with their “Heaven” brand. I have a feeling they’re trying to capitalise on the fair trade “Divine” brand, thinking the word association may have people confused….

  • I could not get past the image of you listening to “Up With People,” David.

    It was a joke. Wasn’t it????

    As for Hershey’s, I agree with you. But I’d try it, just to see if it was good or awful. I’d give it a chance.

  • I ran into the “Whole Bean” chocolate over the weekend. I think I went back and looked at it three or four times in the store — totally puzzled. The only thing I can make of it is that “whole bean” chocolate is made with the husk (which would be illegal) as well as the “germ” which is hard, flavorless, like sand. Though it is usually included in most chocolate anyway simply because it is too time consuming to remove.

    All chocolate is made with the “whole bean” with the exception of these two potential ingredients. I couldn’t help but wonder about a bean (legume) dish. It would be normal for the skins to be included. Here “whole bean” would apply and people would consider it self evident. If the skins were not included, people would think that strange for “whole bean” to be used. Cocoa beans are different in that the skins normally aren’t included — for good reason, they taste like well ____. If the whole bean isn’t being used well… It isn’t “whole bean” chocolate is it?

    The only conclusion I could think of is that Hershey’s has PR/Marketing/Product Design people who clearly know more about PR/Marketing/Product Design than they do about chocolate. Then comes the question … What are they doing working for a chocolate company. And what about truth in advertising?

    The whole thing still has me puzzled even though it has been a couple of days …

    -Art

  • On a recent visit to micro-chocolate factory SOMA in Toronto, I learned that the taste of Hershey’s originated after one of the world wars when someone accidentally put spoiled milk in the mix. People liked the flavour so much that they replicated it. I’ve never liked Kisses and I believe that I’m in the minority. Of course, I still sometimes eat them (the caramel-filled ones are less heinous) but they don’t taste like chocolate. I also learned that Chocolate farmers sometimes dry their beans the road if the crop is large and they run out of space, resulting in chocolate that tastes of tar. Sounds delicious, no? No. SOMA roasts their beans immediately to clean them.

    You need to order some of their product. The owner trained in chocolate and they know their stuff.

  • Forgot what else I had to say:

    Your comment about “Whole Bean Chocolate” reminded me of the recent General Mills campaign that boasts that their cereal is made from whole grain.

    This type of marketing is typical and suckers (er, well-meaning people) fall for it. Ever compare labels for two different products belonging to one brand? Sometimes they have the exact same ingredients in the exact same proportions. Same sh*t, different label.

  • David, I have to say your posts are taking over on my site, and receiving many votes/grubs, so I had to come check you out and I am definitely blown away. I find your passion very admirable and I look forward to experiencing your future posts.

  • I just read this today and funnily enough I went into the break room at work and someone had put out a bar of Intelligent Nutrition Inner Calm chocolate. Absolutely awful. I experienced one of those moments when you put something in your mouth and it touches your tongue and you don’t want to close your mouth and let any other part of it touch the insides of your mouth. Needless to say the rest of the piece went into the trash. Beware of healthy chocolate!

  • I know I’m a bit late on commenting on this element, but I began to wonder last night if Hershey’s use of the “Whole Bean” moniker is in preparation of the new standards of chocolate proposed to the FDA (that would allow the substitution of vegatable oil for the cocoa butter). Maybe this would be the way they would identify the “pure” chocolate without having to say that the chocolate containing vegatable fats was “impure.”

  • I think it’s pretty sad (but not unsurprising) that Hershey’s are now forced to state the obvious (chocolate being made from the whole bean) which just goes to show that before, they probably sold the cocoa butter to the cosmetics industry (pays better) and used cheap vegetable fat instead. As for Cadbury’s, the weird flavour is not caramelisation, I believe, but alkali. used extensively in chocolate to cover up the taste of badly-fermented beans.

    Studies have shown that in the states, this practice was so popular that in tastings, people thought ‘Dutched’ chocolate (with added alkali) to be the better chocolate, and didn’t even know what real chocolate tasted like anymore. Sad, but true! I know this from own experience, after childhood years of eating Milka, I was surprised to find what depth of flavours you could experience in real chocolate.

  • Hi Johanna: The FDA ruling hasn’t been accepted yet to allow vegetables fats to be added to chocolate in the US yet, so I think the ‘Whole Bean’ is just a gimmick. The addition of caramelized milk in Cadbury bars was told to me by a chocolate-maker and expert who lives in the US and England. Since milk gets cooked for milk chocolate, or as they call ‘em, “Family chocolate” in England, it’s quite possible the lactose in the milk is indeed caramelized. (Sometimes they used dried milk powder in milk chocolate too.)

    Am not sure about those studies either about people thinking “dutched” chocolate was better. No one asked me!

    Although we Americans do love our Oreo’s…

  • Hey David!
    You may not post this, but I am hoping you may read it! :) I work at Kiss For A Cause, a non profit dedicated to helping orpphaned, abandoned, & homeless children in los angeles. I am trying to get in touch with Hershey for an event we are doing! Any tips? It would be much appreciated! You know a lot about this world, and I thought I would come to you! :)
    Take Care & Be Blessed!
    -Miriam