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Candy Crush? Aligning Health, Business, and Pleasure in the Chocolate Industry

Welcome to the Candy Crush website. Click here to access an inspection copy of the case. 

New! The "Candy Crush" case won the 3rd Prize in the “Corporate Sustainability” track of the oikos Case Writing Competition 2018 

Case summary

After winning important battles against soda, governments and health activists are targeting chocolate bars because of their high sugar content, and some, like the UK government in 2017, have set strict targets on the amount of sugar and calories that can be contained in each chocolate bar. In addition to stricter regulation, large incumbent chocolate makers like Nestlé, Mars, Hershey, Cadbury, and Ferrero must manage evolving consumer tastes as well as new competition from healthier bars and snacks. How they respond can significantly impact public health and business performance, as well as the everyday experience of eating treats. Can health, business, and pleasure ever align in the chocolate industry?

Teaching objectives

Students are asked to take the position of a leading manufacturer of chocolate in North America and Western Europe, choose a strategy, and implement it at the level of the brand and corporation.

The case can be taught in a marketing course (management, strategy, or branding), focusing on these three broad options:

  1. Reformulate existing chocolate bars by reducing the sugar content to below nutrition thresholds, without compromising actual or perceived taste – but how?
  2. Reduce product or portion sizes while minimize negative reactions – but how?
  3. Find other ways to nudge consumers toward healthier consumption– but how? How can you make healthy eating attractive without sounding patronizing? Are there other benefits than health that can be used?

The case can also be taught in a strategy course, or on a course on business and society, by focusing on these four issues: 

  1. As a chocolate maker, should obesity be part of your company’s responsibility? After all, obesity is driven not only by calorie intake but also by calorie expenditures. Also, chocolate is a tiny portion of people’s overall calorie intake and no-one forces people to eat it.
  2. Should you invite other industry leaders to come together to establish common norms? If they stall, should you take the lead, hoping they will follow?
  3. What should be the right balance between 1) improving existing product lines, 2) launching “healthier” options internally, and 3) acquiring independent brands with stronger health credentials?
  4. Should you work with researchers and advocacy groups? If yes, how can it be done without compromising the integrity of the research and giving the impression that you are manipulating it to your advantage?

This case examines whether food marketing can be a force for good and help align business, health, and pleasure. It addresses the most important issues in food marketing today: how to manage food claims (and their perception) and downsizing in a category disrupted by start-up companies like Kind. It comes with a comprehensive teaching note and detailed PowerPoint presentation with the latest research findings in this domain, covering the causes and consequences of obesity, health halos, portion size perception and choice, and traditional and epicurean nudging (how focusing on pleasure, not health, can make people happier to spend more for less food).


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