November 3, 2014

Candy Marketers Know Just How To Push Your (Gumdrop) Buttons

With Halloween behind us and the food-filled holiday season looming, America’s sugar intake is a hot topic. John Oliver’s recent takedown of the sugar industry is just one of many pushes to reexamine our traditions. This time of year is dominated by a craving for sweets, with Halloween at the helm of sugar-filled holidays that dominate American culture. Most people associate Easter with chocolate eggs than the actual meaning of the holiday and Christmas is rarely mentioned without candy canes. Children have come to think of Halloween as a “candy Purge,” where their parents’ rules about eating fruits and vegetables are lost in favor of sweets, chocolates, and whatever those popcorn ball things are.

And who’s to blame for the holidays being associated with candy? Marketers, of course. Russell Stover’s website actually has a calendar with different dates that correspond to different occasions for buying chocolates. For example, did you know that May 12 is National Nutty Fudge Day? And July 28 is National Milk Chocolate Day! Not to be confused with National White Chocolate Day, which is September 22. Mark your calendars!

Michelle Obama’s push for health awareness and healthier eating is part of a growing push toward healthier eating. Specifically, the recent focus has been toward sugar-free, which may cause the culture created by candy marketers to change.

According to an article published in the Washington Post, Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the culture created by holiday marketing is soon to change. Wootan has successfully implemented healthier eating in schools, insisting that children should have a proper diet for lunch and only healthy snacks in vending machines. “By taking candy out of schools we’re saying candy is not an every day food, and it’s something you should be eating a lot less of,” Wootan says.

Experts estimate that children bring home between 3,000-7,500 calories of candy in their Halloween bags. The Washington Post estimates this to be roughly 14.5 hours playing full court basketball. So the choice is yours: do you stay healthy, or do you cave to marketing peer pressure? And if candy features so heavily in a good portion of our nation’s favorite holidays, will we really be able to watch our intake?