The news media could create its own encyclopedia of made-up economic indicators – sweater sales, Starbucks, McDonalds, puppy dogs and more – and NBC added a new one to the list September 19: Hershey’s chocolate.
The “Today” show attacked the chocolate giant in a segment about its switch from cocoa butter to vegetable oils in some of its products.
NBC consumer correspondent Janice Lieberman went after the company for allegedly not informing its customers of the switch. She also said the switch was a sign of tough economic times.
“Experts say while other manufacturers deal with higher costs by raising prices or shrinking their products, Hershey’s switch to cheaper ingredients is designed to be less noticeable to consumers,” Lieberman said.
“I feel betrayed by Hershey’s. They’re giving me an inferior product and they’re not even telling me,” May said. However, candies’ ingredients are listed on the packaging and terminology has been changed from “milk chocolate” – a term regulated by the Food and Drug Administration – to less specific phrases.
“They’re musky,” May said of Milk Duds. ‘They taste a little bit like vitamins, children’s chewables,” she said of Kissables, adding that her readers have dubbed the new formulas “mockolate, which is basically a fake chocolate product.”
But NBC’s own taste test found that people generally couldn’t tell a difference. “While half our testers did like the old formula,” Lieberman said, “half liked new stuff even better.”
It was only when Lieberman revealed the change that taste-testers decided they were upset. One unnamed woman said she felt “kind of cheated.”
Lieberman didn’t include any voices in support of the switch, except for a brief mention of a statement from Hershey’s that “consumers love its products and all its candies are clearly labeled. It still offers real milk chocolate in Hershey’s Kisses, the classic chocolate bar and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups."