The White Chocolate Con: Part 3, Hershey should have known better

Of all the companies out there you would think that a US based chocolate company would know what has to be in a product in order for it to be called “White Chocolate”, don’t bet on it, sometimes they get sloppy.

An update from Hershey’s is at the end of this post.

Just to bring everybody up to speed, according to the regulations (CFR 163) in order to call something “white chocolate” or “white chocolate flavored”, you basically have to have cocoa butter in it (a simplified version of the rule).

All chocolate manufactures should know this, it’s pretty simple stuff, so what if I told you that one of the biggest US manufactures blew it..

I was walking through Publix (a grocery store in the south east) a few weeks ago and noticed some shelf stable milk. You’ve seen the stuff before, it’s milk but in little juice box like containers, it does not need to be refrigerated and parents can toss it in a lunchbox without thinking about it.

But something about a tiny box of milk being labeled as containing the most expensive bit from the cocoa bean (cocoa butter) just didn’t fit. So I took some pictures.

Hershey's White Chocolate Milk

So the front of the box says it’s flavored with white chocolate… lets see what the ingredient list says.

Hershey's White Chocolate Milk

Sorry Hershey there is no cocoa butter in that product.. it can not be legally called “White Chocolate” or “White Chocolate flavored.

 

It actually gets worse, on the web site version of the product they don’t even try to use “flavored”, but the ingredient list shows they should not call it white chocolate.. (below is a screenshot taken 8/10/2015)

Hershey's White Chocolate Milk

I tried to contact Hershey, let them know they had a labeling problem, listed the CFR (Federal regulations…) and all the rest.. and Hershey’s corporate passed me off to the people that make the milk for them… except it really was not the ones that made this product, the one they passed me to only made one size and didn’t make a white chocolate version. The helpdesk email reply that passed me off didn’t have a way to reply, re-open or anything along those lines… and I wanted as much as possible in writing..

 

Finally, weeks later, they sent me a survey to make sure my “inquiry” was handled correctly (today 8/10.. the initial contact was 7/14).. so I wrote the short version up again as part of the survey & I’ll update the post if they ever get back to me.

So who is really to blame?

Hershey’s has a duty to make sure everything produced in it’s name follows the FDA rules and regulations regarding labeling and naming, they also have a duty to their shareholders to not allow the licencees to do things that would tarnish the brand (and encourage lawsuits).

In this case the licencee appears to be (there may be other dairies involved.. this is the one behind the product website  screenshot above)

Diversified Foods, Inc
3115 6th Street
Metairie, LA 70002 U.S.A.

With a company that big they should have labeling experts, just too keep them out of trouble with the FDA.

Hershey’s was notified almost a month ago that the product was not named or labeled correctly and instead of doing the right thing they pushed it off on someone who didn’t even make the product under their name. Was the push off intentional, policy for when they got caught or just sloppiness?  We’ll see if they ever respond.

Quick Update 8/28: I received an helpdesk case from Hershey’s claiming that this post was incorrect, that there was an extract of cocoa butter in the “natural flavors” entry, and that was all that was needed (according to them) to meet the FDA regulations.  Now there is no way for you or I to verify that, we never know what is in the “natural flavors” section. It could be true, but if you look at the screen shot of the web page above , you’ll see that “flavored” is not on that label. There are also pictures on the web (taken by non-Hershey’s employees) showing the product was distributed without the “flavored” version of the label. It’s going to take some research (and time) to see if the current FDA guidance allows for an extract of a required ingredient fills the need for “flavored”, but the version without “flavored” still appears to be a problem for them,  and since I have to talk to the FDA anyway I might as well get both versions checked.

Hershey and the trade dress are the intellectual property and  trademarks of The Hershey Company.

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