The candy industry is under a lot of pressure. With new information surfacing about the damage that sugar wreaks on the body, they’re having a hard time convincing the American public that candy is a viable part of a balanced diet. And with books like Gary Taube’s The Case Against Sugar and films like Fed Up making the general public more aware of sugar’s addictive properties, more and more people are wising up, ditching their Hershey’s bars, and, hopefully eating a piece of fruit (which delivers its sugar with fiber) to combat all those cravings. As if people weren’t worried about sugar’s effect on health before, new data has revealed that Alzheimer’s Disease may be connected to overconsumption of the sweet stuff.
But consumer awareness isn’t the only thing slowing the industry down. In 2016, the FDA announced new regulations for packaged foods that will include much more than just the usual numbers and ingredients. By 2018, nutritional information on the staples you buy at the grocery store will utilize new information — including the link between obesity and other diseases — to give the public an increased awareness of how much added sugars they’re taking in. According to the FDA, “scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar.” That’s something that brightly colored bags of cookies and candy bar labels will soon have to reflect — which is likely to be bad for business.
So what’s the sugar industry doing? They’re getting in bed with Donald Trump. Or, at least, they’re hoping to. While the industry denies that they’ve in any way tried to collude or win favor with the president, a recent Washington Post article reveals that not only did the National Confectioners’ Association hold their recent convention at a Trump property — Trump National Doral resort in Florida — but that they’ll hold their next two major meetings at a Trump property in Washington, D.C.
The group also booked their 2016 meeting at Trump International Hotel in the capital before it was even finished. While Trump wasn’t president then, the candy industry’s continued patronage of his facilities combined with the reality that Trump hasn’t divested himself from his companies (another way in which he broke tradition with past leaders) is leading to a lot of questions about how much of a hold the industry will have on the government.
What the group hopes to accomplish in the near future is a reduction in sugar subsidies, which WaPo reports is driving up prices on candy. This could potentially save the industry $280 million in costs:
“We have a very narrow window of time now with the current administration and political dynamics to win this fight,” the group’s president and chief executive, John H. Downs Jr., wrote to the board of trustees in the days before this week’s Doral meeting.
Downs added that the group has “significant opportunities to go on offense” on other matters, including its push to end Obama-era regulations on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and food labeling.
The National Confectioners’ Association is the first special interests group to patronize Trump while he is sitting president. The group’s spokesperson has said that the decision to host these events at properties Trump still has financial ties to is “completely unrelated” to his current position, but considering that the group has already admitted they have a “narrow window” to get the current administration’s ear about their concerns, it feels disingenuous for them to deny that there’s something going on, even if it’s not out-and-out collusion.
Ethics experts have already expressed fear that Trump’s continued connection with his businesses may lead to special interests groups jockeying for position by infusing money into the president’s hotels and restaurants, and there’s already concern that the sugar cane industry may try to “even out the playing field” by also holding their events at Trump-owned businesses in a bid to show that they can play ball, too.
Most worrying of all? WaPo reports that after inquiring about the candy industry’s “lobbying goals and strategic materials,” the documents describing these details were wiped from The National Confectioners’ Association’s website.