Everything good fades away, or the incredible shrinking candy bar
December 3, 2008 3:51 PM   Subscribe

Candy sizes are shrinking and cocoa content is being reduced using different strategies, like introducing cookie-fied versions of popular candy bars, i.e. jamming cookies where there used to be chocolate. Is there a niche website out there systematically tracking the shrinkage?

Also, Hershey Bars taste like sweet brown crayons. Is this greed on the part of manufacturers or a response to rising chocolate prices?
posted by mecran01 to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: On the Consumerist.com website (warning: Gawker Media) there is a tag for "Grocery Shrink-Ray." It's not a systematic catalog, but there is a lot of what you're looking for in there, as well as opinions and explanations as to why it's happening.

As for Hershey Bars tasting funny, in 2007 Hershey has added lactose, milk fat, and PGPR to their recipes. Not sure if this makes it taste like delicious, sweet, tasty brown crayons, though.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:22 PM on December 3, 2008

Perhaps answering the second question, Hershey is replacing more expensive cocoa butter with cheaper vegetable oil in some of their chocolate "chocolatey" sweets, what some critics call "mockolate". If you like chocolate, anyway, Hershey is not very good stuff and I'd suggest visiting a local chocolatier. Just watch out for the frauds.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:27 PM on December 3, 2008

FWIWfilter: The proprietor of CandyBarLab plans to review 50 candy bars in 50 days. That might give you some raw data. You might also want to have a look at Candyblog and its commentary on Hershey's reformulation of its products.

In a recent and random conversation with a stranger who works in Hershey's home factory, I was told that only the 70 percent cocoa candy products were worth eating anymore. The other products have gone downhill in quality, he said. (Wish I had prolonged that chat!)
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:44 PM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hershey's has always been crappy- even before the rising cocoa prices. So it's greed and relying on the lack of taste of Americans who don't know any better. I've never heard a prol say Hershey's is horrible chocolate. Everyone loves Dunkin Donuts for the same reason: they really don't know how better doughnuts are supposed to taste.

It's not just Hershey, it's all U.S. candy makers in that niche. They can get away with calling their swill "chocolate" because there's no real food regulation here.

Obviously you can go and drop a wad of coin on fine chocolates like Neuhaus, but some supermarkets have "foreign food" sections that sell the Euro version of candy like Mars, Kit Kat, etc.. That's how I get my fix when I'm in the States. I'd rather spend $2 on a Mars Bar from Europe than $15 on crappy Godiva (which is made by The Campbell's Soup Company).
posted by Zambrano at 4:49 PM on December 3, 2008

Once you retrain your taste buds to appreciate 70% chocolate (or more), you will never be tempted by a Hershey or Snickers bar again. And if you want the children of Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire to be as happy as your taste buds, you'll check out fair trade brands like Divine or Equal Exchange, or single-origin stuff that pulls high prices. It's costlier, but it's a much better treat. And no chocolate is worth supporting child slavery.
posted by rikschell at 5:26 PM on December 3, 2008

Response by poster: I know Hershey's sucks. I'm primarily interested in tracking and graphing shrinkage. Also, 70 percent doesn't mean anything unless they leave in the cocoa butter, as has been noted. Thanks for the initial links, keep them coming!
posted by mecran01 at 5:40 PM on December 3, 2008

Best answer: This is decades old, but you may appreciate Stephen Jay Gould's "Phyletic Size Decrease in Hershey Bars", found in his collection Hen's Teeth and Horses' Toes. Discusses price and size changes from 1949 through 1979.

Review: "And Zebra Stripes and Chocolate Bars", New York Times, May 8, 1983.

The article itself does not appear to be online.

I do agree that Hershey is the king of chocolates.
posted by kurumi at 5:53 PM on December 3, 2008

Response by poster: Here's a discussion of price increases from the excellent candyblog, which I found will googling for the Gould essay.
posted by mecran01 at 6:57 PM on December 3, 2008

Best answer: And here's the graph I was hoping for, although I would love to have the raw data behind it:

via Candyblog, hosted on Flickr.
posted by mecran01 at 6:59 PM on December 3, 2008

Not exactly a scientifically rigorous study, but I thought you might get a kick out of this.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:22 PM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Rhaomi: That is great! And interesting to see that B.J. Novak's talk show persona is eerily similar to the character he plays on the office. Shrinking Cadbury eggs!
posted by mecran01 at 10:51 PM on December 3, 2008

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