Hershey is getting ready to move away from high-fructose corn syrup. The candy king is looking to replace the controversial ingredient it uses in its sweets, but the brand needs to communicate a lot more to consumers about the potential switch.
Will Papa, chief research and development officer at The Hershey Co., told The Associated Press the company uses a mix of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in its products but that it is "moving more toward sugar."
“Our aim is to be transparent with our consumers about the ingredients we use in our products. Once we have more information to share, we will be back in touch," Hershey added in news statement.
Hershey told AP that the replacement of high-fructose corn syrup “is just underway” and that it did not have a timeframe on when it might be complete.
The health dangers of high-fructose corn syrup continue to be debated within the medical and scientific sectors.
The American Medical Association, for example, has said there’s not enough evidence to specifically restrict the use of corn syrup while the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which advocates food has said there’s no evidence that corn syrup is nutritionally worse than sugar, per the AP.
The Corn Refiners Association, naturally, has been trying to counter the negative perceptions about corn syrup.
Nonetheless, consumers seem to have made up their minds—what with people cutting back on sodas, which contain a good deal of corn syrup—and Hershey is apparently listening.
But Hershey leaves a few questions unanswered. Is the company simply exploring replacing corn syrup or is it committed to the change? When can consumers expect the changes to kick in? How would such a move affect the taste of Hershey’s products, which include Almond Joy, PayDay and York Peppermint Patty.
How Hershey communicates the plan could have had a significant impact on the company’s top and bottom lines, not to mention reputation and consumer relations. It might also change the perception—in a positive way—of the notoriously secretive company.
It’s time for PR to sink its teeth into the situation.
Follow Matthew Schwartz on Twitter: @mpsjourno1