If you watched “Seinfeld” religiously like many Americans did at the peak of its day, you’ll fondly remember “The Sponge” episode in which Elaine, the quirky, candid, love-crazed, lead female leads a personal revolution to save every last “birth control” sponge before it is abolished all together by the FDA. She then contemplates whether George’s fiance, Susan, is sponge “worthy” only after George tries to reason his case, pleading Elaine to release just one solitary sponge from her cold-hearted grip to give to Susan. Though Elaine could have chosen from a wide variety of reliable and satisfactory contraceptives available on the market, no one could deter her thoughts from hoarding every last, surviving sponge.
In many ways, I think we find a little “Elaine,” in all of us. When rumors surface about companies wanting to change their products, our initial reaction is to question their decision with a look of disbelief etched across our faces. Almost instinctively, we run for the last “sponge” we can get our hands on. However, we may not be aware of why companies alter their formulas. In many cases, changes are brought on by economic, health and environmental issues. Just recently, the Wall Street Journal broke news regarding the serious environmental issue the Girl Scout organization faces. According to the Wall Street Journal, the organization has discovered that the palm-oil used in their cookies derived from palm plantations in Southeast Asia, is putting the orangutan species and habitats in danger. As a result, many Girl Scouts have poured their outrage on social sites like Twitter and Facebook. Some refuse to sell the cookie until something can be done about it, even if it means altering the recipe. But will the substitute yield a different texture and flavor?
Many companies substitute cheaper or “blended” versions, of the original recipe. Others add fillers to cut costs. And food manufacturers are not the only ones new to this concept. Chain restaurants have been tampering with their popular recipes for years, looking for ways to cut costs or because the environment needs to intercede. Gas prices also play a major role in this equation. Whether it be by sea, air or road, the food service is dependent upon this finite resource. That said, here are a couple of food manufacturers that have changed their ingredients throughout the years. For better or for worse is ultimately up to you.
News of these chocolate moguls broke in 2008, when the company opted for vegetable oil instead of the traditional cocoa butter. According to Today.com, the company stood by its firm decision citing, “there are high -quality oils available which are equal to or better than cocoa butter in taste, nutrition, texture and function, and are preferred by consumers.” Naturally, loyal patrons were outraged. Some claimed they had been cheated, and that the benefits of cocoa butter outweighed the vegetable oil. Today, crowd-pleasing favorites such as Hershey Kissables and Mr. Goodbar, are no longer considered to be milk chocolates, but chocolate candy, as reported by Today.com.
Personal disclosure: a friend convinced me to travel to Dublin, Texas, to try the cane sugar soft drink and learn about the history of America’s favorite, frothy drink. Here’s what I found:
The year was 1885, when a pharmacist named Charles Alderton, in Waco, Texas, served up the first soft drink. Known as the “Waco” drink back then, the secret formula consisted of real cane sugar. Then, in the 1970s, Cuba, which was one of the world’s largest suppliers of cane sugar at the time, was under a serious social revolution under the direction of Fidel Castro. In response, the United States cut the quota of sugar purchases and began rationing supplies. The Dr. Pepper company quickly began seeking other options, working hard to avoid compromising taste and quality. Today, Dr. Pepper is made with corn syrup. Though cost-effective and in abundance, some lucky enough to have tried the real concoction believe their is no comparison to its corn syrup counterpart.
Breyer’s Ice Cream
Ahh… I can recall quite vividly a little boy reading the ingredients off of some competitor’s carton, struggling with words like sodium alginate and ammonium bicarbonate. Claiming that only four natural ingredients existed in a carton of Breyer’s ice cream, tara gum has become the fifth. According to a site called A Daily Scoop, a spokesman for Breyers said their decision to use tara gum came when refrozen ice cream, after long shipping, produced poor texture, and consumers complained about the quality. Though according to Daily Scoop, studies show no harmful effects (except for the fact that high quantities did serious damage to rats and dogs), and the company continues to claim that this natural plant derivative makes the ice cream creamier and gives it a longer shelf life.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, this leading marketer of convenient snack foods has cut back on one of the nastiest preservatives of all time. MSG. Monosodium glutamate is a preservative that is commonly used as a flavor enhancer and tricks your brain into thinking it’s good. However, high levels of MSG can lead to psychological and physical problems, with some cases leading to strokes, seizures and heart attacks. Be that as it may, the Wall Street Journal reports that the company has convoluted a bold goal for 2011: to make half of its products with natural ingredients.
While many of these products still produce lucrative profits, what will happen to the classic cookie line? Will the Girl Scout cookies keep their patrons or lose them? If the Girl Scout cookies change their mouth-watering recipes, their options could include the bland vegetable shortening most store cookies are made of. And while preserving mother nature is a top priority, will a cookie that has been sold since 1917, loose its luster if it were to sacrifice flavor and texture or will people even recognize the difference? Only time will tell. In the meantime, grab your yearly stash as close to your heart and prepare to embrace a possible replacement.
Mike Esteri, “Can This Chip Be Saved” Wall Street Journal
“Breyers Natural Ice Cream and Tara Gum: Unilever’s Response” A Daily Scoop: Ice Cream Reviews
Laura T. Coffey, “Chocoholics Sour On New Hershey’s Formula” Today.com
Julie Jargon, “Cookie Crumbles for Girl Scouts, as Teens Launch Palm-Oil Crusade” Wall Street Journal