Candy Trade Group Seeks PR Help as Sugar is Blamed For Americans' Obesity

National Confectioners Association In Talks With Four Agencies

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A candy industry trade group is conducting a PR agency review as health advocates increasingly point to sugar as the top culprit for the nation's obesity problems.

The Washington D.C.-based National Confectioners Association is currently in talks with four shops, said one person familiar with the matter. According to the executive, the group is looking for both public affairs and consumer-facing marketing support.

Among its many members are Mars Chocolate North America, Mondelez International, Nestle Confections and Snacks and The Hershey Company.

Another industry executive said the scope will involve social and digital media targeting moms, as well as national media outreach. The budget is about $2 million, sizeable for a PR assignment.

Work by a new agency will likely supplement the association's existing efforts, such as a website redesign and a recent "Treat Right" campaign, which, according to Confectionery News, is a voluntary measure that encourages candy manufacturers to move calorie counts to the front of packaging.

The review is likely part of an attempt to deter greater regulation as the government and the public hone in on the health risks associated with sugar.

For example, the Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a petition asking the FDA to establishing a recommended safe level of added sugars, particularly in beverages. While the FDA has recommended daily allowances for sodium and fat, it has no such measure for sugar. Also, federal dietary guidelines will come out in 2015, and industry watchers expect revised consumption estimates for sugar.

The agency review also comes on the heels of one of the most public campaigns for regulation of sugar consumption: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempted ban of the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks.

Such action has kept the Confectioners Association busy on the lobbying front. According to Opensecrets.org, the Confectioners Association spent $420,000 on lobbying in 2012, far exceeding spending in any other year.

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