Can a Candy Bar Save the World?
The last thing we need is more junk food, but Americans have a love affair with junk food that will not soon be broken.
Candy is a $30 billion industry, growing at $1 billion a year. At Halloween alone, about $2.3 billion of candy is sold—an estimated 600 million pounds—and most of it is given to 10 million kids between the ages of 4 and 14.
The childhood obesity problem is getting worse, except in New York City where Michael Bloomberg has restricted access to junk food by banning items like metabolism-blocking trans fats.
In just seven years, between 2000 and 2008, prediabetes and diabetes in teenagers has gone from 9% to 23%. In the last 15 years, the percent of new cases of type 2 diabetes (formerly called adult onset diabetes) in children went from 3% to almost 50%.
Yet, processed food sales now top $3.2 trillion worldwide and the food industry is the second largest employer in the country (after the federal government), making up more than 10% of our gross domestic product.
A stream of junk food seems to be filling our stores in a flood too strong to change. Or is it?
The food industry will not go away, and it has no reason to change its ways while consumers, heavily marketed to and lacking real choices, continue to buy their products.
"Junk" -- the ingredients in junk food that promote obesity and diabetes -- is cheaper to use than real, whole food ingredients. If we keep eating it, then the food industry will keep supplying it.
But, if motivated to, they could unjunk their junk food. Mars recently said that it took them five years and millions of dollars to simply reduce saturated fat in two of their products by 15 percent.
Five years and millions of dollars to make two products slightly less junky? Can this really be what it takes?
Perhaps not. A new company, UnReal, just might be the help we need in demanding more of the food industry.
We are used to “healthier” versions of junk food, but we have to find them at specialty stores, like Whole Foods. They cost more and, for the average person, taste different than our favorite junk foods, like candy.
We generally don’t believe that healthier processed foods can be created with the same great taste and sold at the same price as our favorite junk.
But what if someone could create a new brand that beat the food industry at its own game -– hitting the trifecta of the same good taste, better ingredients and improved nutritional value (i.e., no chemicals, no artificial colors or flavors, no corn syrup or hydrogenated oils, no GMOs, lots less sugar, more protein and fiber, responsibly sourced, real food ingredients), and have it available at the same places at the same low prices.
Can’t be done, right?
Well that’s exactly what a very small group of entrepreneurs have done. Innovation most often does not come from within industry, but from a disrupter who changes the game for all.
UnReal may be that disruptive force. It is a brand new kind of food company with a big idea.
UnReal's goal is not to get kids to eat more candy; it is to be a catalyst to get the big guys to change their practices and show that a few people with a good idea can create what the food giants say is impossible.
UnReal's products replicate some of the top selling favorite candy –- Snickers, Reese’s, Milky Way, M&M’s, and Peanut M&M’s.
The idea came from a 13-year-old kid, Nicky Bronner, borne out of a fight with his parents over Halloween candy. After a successful harvest, his parents threw out most of his mother lode.
Incensed, he tried to prove his parents wrong – that the candy was not so bad. But a quick search on Google helped him learn the harmful effects of trans fats, high fructose corn syrup and artificial dyes and chemicals on the human body and nervous system.
And so he asked the question -- why can't we make healthier candy? -- and it was answered with the creation of UnReal.
This game-changing candy is being launched in a true revolutionary spirit to disrupt the marketplace by going straight to the heart of the food giants: the checkout counter in 30,000 retail outlets where everyday people typically shop.
Major retailers, including CVS, grocery store chains, Staples and, soon, Target and 7-11, are giving UnReal candy prime space at their checkout counters.
They are taking a chance on this idea that we can unjunk our food, and offering alternatives that hit all the buttons on taste, price and real food ingredients.
The success of this revolutionary idea won’t be in getting kids to eat healthier candy, which is after all an oxymoron; it will be in getting adults and kids to ask the question “why?" -- ”why does our food need to made with junk to taste good?”
Some may say that kids will feel free to eat more, undoing the benefits of the better-for- you versions, but that is like saying someone will drive more miles if they switch from a Hummer to a Prius.
The candy and treats and the $3.2 trillion food industry are not going away - this industry is only growing.
If consumers vote with their wallets, and parents and kids pick the unjunked versions of their favorite treats, then they will motivate the food giants to change their game and innovate.
UnReal can be a catalyst that will show the world that junk food doesn’t need to have junk in it to taste great and if it can be done with candy, then it can be done with everything else.
What’s next from UnReal? Soda? I hope so.
Mark Hyman, MD, has dedicated his career to identifying and addressing the root causes of chronic illness through a groundbreaking, whole-systems approach known as functional medicine. A family physician and five times #1 New York Times best-selling author, he is an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator and advocate in his field. Mark is founder and medical director of the UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, and was awarded its 2009 Linus Pauling Award for Leadership in Functional Medicine. He is a board member of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, and the Environmental Working Group and advisor to Dr. Mehmet Oz’s HealthCorps and the Dr. Oz Show. He is a medical editor of the Huffington Post. He co-created The Daniel Plan with Rick Warren, Dr. Oz and Dr. Amen, a faith based initiative that helped a church lose 250,000 pounds. Please join him in helping us all take back our health at www.drhyman.com, follow him on twitter @markhymanmd and on Facebook at facebook.com/drmarkhyman.