Mars Breaks Rank, Promises Consumers It Will Keep Using Real Chocolate

On Monday, Mars Snackfoods US—makers of “pokin’ at you pokin’ at you” Snickers bars, M&Ms, and other popular office meal replacement systems—announced that it would not seek FDA permission to replace its cocoa butter with cheaper vegetable oil, which is what the rest of the industry is lobbying for. Okay, first of all, yech, just… vegetable oil? But second of all, yay for Mars for drawing a line somewhere on poor product quality.

The replacement ingredients would cost 25% to 33% of what it costs today to use cocoa butter, which is why Hershey Co. and the major industry trade group in the U.S. are in favor of changing the “legal definition” of it. Mars, however, said that it doesn’t think consumers want the definition of chocolate changed. (Note to Hershey: they’re right—we don’t. We don’t want slaves harvesting it, but we don’t want it made out of corn or soy, either.)

Says the president of Mars, “Our Snickers bar tastes the same as it did 77 years ago when we introduced it. Changing the definition of what chocolate is would be a mistake. . . . American consumers are passionate about chocolate.”

The FDA is currently considering the proposal.

“Mars vows not to water down its chocolate” [LA Times]

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  1. crashman2600 says:

    Yum, vegatable oil chocolate which I am sure would be made in China which would then have some manufacturing defect and we would get poisoned by it. Oh, and it would still cost the consumer the same as it does now. Then Hersheys would come out either with A: “Premium Chocolate” which is just the chocolate we have now or B: “Chocolate Classic” which is what we are eating now.

    Note to Chocolate companies, Don’t screw with what has worked for the last 100 years!

  2. UpsetPanda says:

    If they’ve been operating under these costs for such a long time, I can see how when everyone else is trying to cut costs, they can boost their profits just by taking a stand. Hershey’s is one of the biggest candy manufacturers, if not THE biggest, and they could potentially end up reaping the benefits if the redefinition passes and they are the only ones who can actually say, “we have real cocoa” and not vegetable oil, blech.

  3. thepounder says:

    Milton Hershey is flipping in his grave. Growing up I went to Hershey several times & it made for some great memories.
    I don’t believe I’d ever go back if they go ahead with this bastardization of what chocolate really is.
    I bet the people who run Cadbury Schweppes are loving to hear this though… Hershey headed in the tank (on purpose, apparently) & they could muscle in a bit more than their Creme Eggs. (anyone else had the treat of enjoying some good British candy bars? Oh so good.)

  4. homerjay says:

    I thought I was the only one that thought of that old Paula Poundstone act when I thought of the Snickers bar.

  5. UpsetPanda says:

    OOPS! I actually meant to say that Mars could reap the benefits by using real chocolate. I saw the Hershey’s photo, mind did not communicate that line of thought to fingers typing.

    Not Hershey’s, Mars. Go Mars.

  6. JiminyChristmas says:

    This all reminds me of when one of my junior high science teachers taught us about reading ingredient labels as part of a chemistry lesson.

    What I learned: Cheese and Processed Cheese Food (e.g.: Kraft Singles, Velveeta) are very different things. It would be a shame if my own descendants had to learn the same lesson about chocolate.

  7. catnapped says:

    @thepounder: The only thing the Hershey company of today is concerned with is PROFIT$. They’d gladly sell you reconstituted dog crap in the Hershey wrapper if they could get away with it.

  8. thepounder says:

    Apparently Hershey imports the Cadbury Creme Eggs too… as well as making stuff with Cadbury’s name on it. I wonder how the production of these items would change.

    That sucks.

    Okay then… It’s only Ritter Sport bars for me from now on to get my chocolate fix.

  9. CoffeeAddict says:

    Why any company would think they can pass off veg oil for cocoa butter is out to lunch. Good for Mars by standing firm on making a good quality product.

  10. d0x says:

    @thepounder: I’ve been to Hershey park as well and it was a great time but I’ll stop buying Chocolate if they are going to change it.

    American Chocolate when compared to British is already cheap crap.

    I love English chocolate of any sort. Curley Wurley, Flakes, Swirls, and those incredible Caburys tins…mmm

  11. HungryGrrl says:

    Candy is definitely something to consult the ingredient list with. There’s lots of cheap fake chocolate out there in the novelty-candy and holiday-candy markets. Personally I have a soft spot for the fake white chocolate (aka “white confectionary” or something, it’s made out of sugar and vegetable oil) they use in the hollow Easter Bunnys, but I’ll chalk that up to childhood nostalgia- it doesn’t compare to REAL white chocolate.

    Hershey’s is pretty poor in general. Cadbury’s is where it’s at. I used to work in a great “European” bakery that carried lots of import Cadbury’s candys. I could really go for an Aero Bar right now.

  12. markrubi says:

    Has anyone seen the new original dr pepper out made with imperial cane sugar? It’s so much better than the HFCS kind. That’s high fructose corn syrup. Cadbury schwepps should goto real sugar. So should Coke also. I’m talking getting rid of HFCS all together. SOda tastes much better made with sugar.

  13. chili_dog says:

    Hey, I’m all for changing the formula. Make it taste like crap because then I would have a reason for not eating 3 pounds of Snickers a day.

  14. spinachdip says:

    “American consumers are passionate about chocolate.””

    Not to be an snobby asshole, but I beg to differ. Most mass-marketed chocolate products in this country are overly sweet and lacks the richness or the mild bitterness of actual chocolate. Passionate about candybars, perhaps, but chocolate? Nay, I say.

  15. MercuryPDX says:

    @crashman2600: Ahhhh but Hershey’s DOES already have that kind of distinction between their “plain chocolate” products. You can have a Hershey bar (ho-hum) or one with 35% Cacao (oooooo) or even 65% Cacao (AHHHHHH!). [Insert eyeroll here]

    @markrubi: I’ve had Jones REAL SUGAR Root Beer, and let me tell you…. heaven in a glass. It made the A&W taste fake in comparison. Coke that is Kosher for Passover uses real sugar. Look for the yellow cap on the bottle.

  16. Her Grace says:

    @markrubi: They don’t use HFCS in Australia, and Coke is made of pure joy. Seriously, it tastes much, much better.

  17. eelmonger says:

    If you want HFCS free Coke year round you can find it at your local Hispanic market in the form of Mexican Coke. Just look for the single glass bottles that are made in Mexico. Awesome stuff, way better than the regular stuff.

  18. HawkWolf says:

    @spinachdip: ding ding ding! we have a winner.

    I find exactly one use for ‘fake chocolate’: coverature. Tempering chocolate is a pain in the butt.

  19. Raanne says:

    I heard a story on NPR about this a while back – currently for something to be called chocolate, it must be made with 100% cocoa butter and real milk.

    Currently in the EU, up to 5% can be replaced with other types of vegetable oil.

    I don’t see this as being an all-bad thing – it will lead to a greater variety and different types of composition.

    I mean, sure, vegetable oil is gross – but have you ever looked at a stick of cocoa butter? that is exactly appetizing either…

  20. gafpromise says:

    I haven’t had Hershey in ages- way too sicky-sweet for my taste. This should give Mars even more of an edge in my opinion.

  21. harshmellow says:

    So if this is passed into law, Hershey bars will be 25 cents again? I thought not. Frankly, I don’t care if Hershey’s changes their recipe, it is their’s to change. However, all this “let’s get the government to change the definition of a word” is very deceitful. (See “organic”–the food industrial complex was successful there)

    Doesn’t Hershey’s (and all the other ones that are on their side) realize that it is this kind of mentality that got all kinds of harmful ingredients in food?

    -Replacing fat with hydrogenated oils
    -Replacing sugar with corn syrup
    -Replacing countless other natural ingredients with fake stuff that costs them less and hurts the consumer more.

    TEAM MARS
    TEAM CHOCOLATE

  22. swalve says:

    Cocoa butter IS vegetable oil.

    [en.wikipedia.org]

  23. Trai_Dep says:

    It’s a vegetable oil. But the mouth feel is different. Significantly.

  24. Maeg says:

    Me = Team Mars. I don’t like people screwing with my chocolate, even if its crappy American ultra-sweet chocolate.

    Do they not realize that the masses of estrogen-laden consumers (like myself) might just rise up in arms against such blasphemy, especially during PMS time?

    Ladies! Synch with me, and I shall lead the way to Hershey, PA! To arms! To arms!

  25. FightOnTrojans says:

    Anybody ever try Ghirardelli chocolate? IMO, some of the best chocolate ever made. Expensive, yes, but well worth the price. Olive Garden used to have a cheesecake with a layer of Ghirardelli chocolate. I thought that was the best dessert ever, and they got rid of it several years ago.

    How about the “World’s Finest Chocolates”? Remember selling those in elementary school for $1? Those were very good, too. Now… ehh… not so good. They still go for $1, but the bars are shorter and thinner, and the almonds are ground up into little pieces rather than left whole.

    I hope Mars continues to resist the race to the bottom. I prefer the good quality chocolate over cheap chocolate any day.

    Alright, so who wants to join me for a “Pure Chocolate” at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf?

  26. HaxRomana says:

    @FightOnTrojans: I love Ghirardelli…they just started selling it at my store and my bank account and waistline are both upset about it. A good book + Ghirardelli Twilight Delight bar = The most enjoyable experience you can have with your clothes on. The caramel filled one isn’t bad either.

  27. UpsetPanda says:

    Ghiradelli is fantastic stuff. Lindt is great as well (truffles are divine) and I’m also a big fan of Harry and Davids chocolates. I am a big fan of dark chocolate, and some of the best dark chocolate I’ve ever had came from a little shop in Brussels.

  28. yetiwisdom says:

    Good for Mars. There’s something to be said about a privately-held company like Mars being able to sensibly look beyond the short-term gain that a publicly-held firm like Hershey (HSY) must have stockholders salivating over. It’s sad that a name like Hershey would sacrifice the quality of its product for one quarters’ or one years’ gains. I say that as a fan of Hershey and a regular visitor to “the sweetest place on earth.”

    Those other makers are basically providing Mars with a readymade product differentiator: “our Chocolate is REAL Chocolate!”

  29. magus_melchior says:

    “You’ll never get burnt with Crisco, ever, because when you start to sizzle, you move your ass!”

    @HawkWolf: There’s always ganache (chocolate & scalded cream) or cheap, quick & dirty chocolate frosting, AKA chocolate chips and butter nuked with microwaves. Not quite tempered chocolate, but great stuff on ice cream. If tempered chocolate is absolutely necessary, you could try using a heating pad and thermometer, and melt tempered bulk chocolate to 90-92 degrees F (admittedly, that’s aiming for a small target range, but at least you don’t have to jump through the hoops of classic tempering).

    Ghirardelli was already mentioned, but it usually doesn’t hurt to explore names you don’t recognize (y’know, other than Hershey’s—pity, Scharffenberger was consumed by them).

    If you’re feeling a bit authentic and patient, you could go with Mexican chocolate melted in hot milk, and add a touch of cinnamon and cayenne pepper.

  30. captainvegetable says:

    It’s interesting to laud Mars, which makes crappy chocolate-containing sweets, while yelling at Hershey, which, yeah, changing the legal definition of chocolate is bad, but we are talking about a company that currently OWNS half several higher-end chocolatiers, including Ghiradelli, Josesph Schmidt, and (I believe) Dagoba. Hershey is all over the place, and I guess if they make it easier to get actually good chocolate (i.e. not their own) in more places, that’s not a bad thing.

  31. tessma says:

    Hmmm. I see another “New Coke” fiasco on the horizon. Regardless of how they spin this or how pretty their ads will be I’m convinced it will turn out to be product suicide.

  32. K-9 says:

    And people wonder why only eat imported Dutch or Belgian chocolates and think Toblerone is second rate. I stopped eating commercial brand chocolates a decade ago because something in the taste changed.