Americans need no new excuses to eat candy. In fact, the US Census Bureau reported in 2017 that Americans consume about 22 pounds of candy year-round, much of it is chocolate. Over 2.2 million metric tons of chocolate are imported annually, and 61,000 Americans are employed in manufacturing sweets and treats. But Americans aren’t the only ones who have sugar cravings. A US News article reported that in 2016 China consumed 4.7 million pounds of candies, Germany consumed 2.4 million, and Russia 2.3 million.
We celebrate these sweet confections in our books and movies. Who can forget the chocolate bars and everlasting gobstoppers in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the Harry Potter™ Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans and chocolate frogs seen throughout the series, or even the children’s movie Wreck it Ralph, which features the fictional arcade video game Sugar Rush featuring King Candy. Famous television shows have highlighted candy in some of their most memorable scenes, like Lucy and Ethel working in the chocolate factory, or Seinfeld’s Mr. Pitt eating a chocolate bar with a knife and fork.
And despite the cries from nutritional experts and concerned parents, candy plays a dominant part in childhood games; one of the first being the board game, Candy Land, with Lord Licorice and Princess Lolly.
So it comes as no surprise that there is actually a National Candy Month – and it’s June. Started by the National Confectioner’s Association — a trade association that advances, protects and promotes chocolate, candy, gum and mints – National Candy Month is used as a way of celebrating over 100 years of candy production and its impact on the economy.
According to the National Confectioners Association press release, the organization recently launched National Candy Month Central, a digital hub for facts about chocolate, candy, gum and mints. The release reads:
“The confectionery industry is committed to providing consumers with information, options and support as they enjoy their favorite treats. Leading chocolate and candy makers have pledged to offer half of their individually wrapped products in sizes that contain 200 calories or less per pack by 2022, and 90 percent of their best-selling treats will display calorie information right on the front of the pack. This proactive effort is part of the Always A Treat Initiative, a five-year commitment with the Partnership for a Healthier America that began in 2017.”
This means that candy manufacturers may have to adjust their food safety and production technologies to accommodate new packaging and ingredients. We previously have written about how Packaging Trends Have Ripple Effect on Machinery. This new focus may affect food packaging demands because they may require new packaging materials, new packaging machinery, and new inspection equipment – or at least new procedures and methods throughout the plant. For example, metallized material that is automatically formed into bags with heat seals on either ends may become more common packaging for candy and chocolates. Folding cartons, composite cans, flexible material laminations and other packaging alternatives may also be customized for new offerings.
With these changes, it may be time to look at the existing product inspection equipment and see if the best solutions are in place. If candy companies are switching to metallized packaging, then maybe they should consider food X-ray inspection systems instead of food metal detectors to detect any foreign objects. X-ray inspection is one of the first lines of defense to identify the presence of foreign contaminants in food products before they have the chance to leave the processing plant. Unlike metal detectors that offer protection from many types of metal contaminants encountered in food production, X-ray systems can ‘ignore’ the packaging and find virtually any substance that is denser or sharper than the object containing it. (For details about which method is best, read the previously published article X-ray Inspection vs. Metal Detection.)
If metallized packaging is not a factor, maybe food processors should upgrade to latest technologies, including multiscan metal detectors, where five frequencies are run to help get the machine close to ideal for any type of metal you might encounter. Sensitivity is optimized, as you also have the optimal frequency running for each type of metal of concern. The result is that the probability of detection goes up exponentially and escapes are reduced.
And one more type of inspection equipment that is crucial to ensuring customer happiness: a checkweigher that helps ensure weights match the label, and consumers don’t get less than what they are promised. With manufacturers’ newest efforts to provide labeling information that puts calorie counts at one’s fingertips, it is mandatory that those counts are accurate. If the package doesn’t hold the exact amount of product, then the calorie and nutritional info will be inaccurate. Cutting down calories by offering serving size candy packages is one thing, but brand integrity goes out the window if someone opens a box of chocolates and one is missing, or a bag of jellybeans is only half-filled.
And it’s not just brand integrity or consumer happiness that could be damaged. The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act — which provides authority for FDA’s consumer-protection work — requires that labels on packaged food products in interstate commerce not be false or misleading in any way.
So make sure that package has the right amount of gummy worms, that there are no metal slivers in that lollipop, or that chocolate-covered almond treat is free from broken shells … so your consumers can have a Happy Candy month!