Want to buy a day's worth of carbon offsets with your chocolate bar?
How about donating to breast cancer research with your breath mints?
Or saving the animals with a candy dispenser?
Candy with a conscience is one of the latest trends to come out of the annual confectioners’ convention as manufacturers jostle to grab the attention of consumers on increasingly crowded store shelves.
New Zealand’s Bloomsberry chocolates had been selling trendy, tongue-in-cheek chocolate bars in the US for less than two years when they were approached by Whole Foods to develop Climate Change Chocolate.
Wind turbines and a huge footprint cover the chocolate bar’s boxes and the wrapper is speckled with tips on how to be more green — such as “Let the sun shine in. Opening curtains and blinds to capture the warmth of the sun saves on heating and your cat will love you for it!”
Marketed as the “first taste of a lower-carbon lifestyle,” Bloomsberry donates US$0.55 from each bar to TerraPass to pay for 133 pounds (60.3kg) of carbon offsets, which is the average American’s daily carbon impact.
“We’ve sold enough in the first quarter that it’s comparable to taking 900 cars off the road for a year,” said Kerry Laramie, vice president sales and marketing for Bloomsberry’s US division. “That’s 9.3 million pounds [4.2 million kilograms] of carbon offsets.”
The bars, which were launched in the US in January and may eventually be sold overseas, come at an opportune time: about 36 percent of US shoppers said in a recent survey that they regularly buy “green” products, up from just 12 percent in 2006.
For California-based Hint Mint, the decision to sell breast cancer awareness containers was more personal: the marketing director’s mother is a breast cancer survivor.
“It’s not about if we sell 5,000 tins: it’s about the ability to give back,” Wendy Sims said.
“When you’re in a group of people and you pull out a mint you’re going to offer it around,” she said.
“If someone pulls out that tin and offers it around it may make me think I’m 35 and haven’t had a mammogram yet,” she said.
Hint Mint, which touts itself as the Gucci of breath mints and only sells in high-end outlets, was surprised by the popularity of the pink tins which are now sold at breast cancer awareness events.
The trend is also sweeping up more traditional candy companies, like Hong Kong-based au’some.
Au’some grabs the attention of kids with “interactive” candy, like a Nintendo Wii controller that shoots out candy, handy candy tools and a candy yo-yo. But it wins over the parents with healthier treats like fat and gluten-free fruit snacks.
It has recently partnered with the Wildlife Conservation Society to sell animal-shaped gum drops and candy dispensers topped with pandas, monkeys and penguins which help protect endangered species.
“What we’re really trying to do is send the message that candy companies aren’t just about sugary sweets,” said assistant business manager Evelyn Chan.
“We care as well, and also send the message of eat healthy, be active, be au’some,” she said.
Candy and chocolate are largely recession proof and sales have been climbing steadily for years, hitting US$29.1 billion last year in the US alone.
“Candy and chocolate are small indulgences — they’re what people use to make themselves feel good, which is that wonderful little taste,” said Susan Smith, senior vice president for public affairs at the National Confectioners’ Association.
“So even though people might not be buying a new house or a new car they’re always going to be helping themselves feel a little bit better with a new candy or chocolate product,” she said.
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