Say Goodbye to Butterfinger, Baby Ruth and yes Crunch too

229 to Butterfinger, Baby Ruth and Crunch because Nestle, the Swiss chocolatier has decided to mess with the ingredients of the classics. I say mess with because according to an article in the Washington Post,  Nestle plans to use natural ingredients in its candy bars as opposed to the chemically laden synthetic dyes and flavors that so many of us have come to love and crave over the years.  Gone will be such iconic ingredients as Yellow 4 and Red Dye #40, that make the bars so attractive to the eye.  Never mind that Red #40 is actually named 6-hydroxy-5-[(2-methoxy-5-methyl-4-sulfophenyl)azo]-2-naphthalenesulfonic acid and was born in a laboratory and not in nature.  And let’s not harp on the evidence that in some studies, Red 40, as it is affectionately known, altered the DNA of mice, and is thought to have the potential to produce serious allergic reactions and even cancer in some humans.  After all, most of us will die of cancer anyway, so what’s the big deal?  

The big deal is that our candy bars are going to look natural and taste like some hipster snack food with achiote tree seeds (fairly traded from the Guatemalan rain forest no doubt) and actual vanilla. Yes, actual vanilla!  If they start using real sugar as opposed to high fructose corn syrup, which I am addicted to frankly, I may just launch a Nestle boycott.  How dare they even consider going GMO free!  This may just be a sinister ploy to regain the German market that banned the GMO laden Butterfinger.

Plot or no plot, Nestle is going after more than the big three, although I really don’t care what they do with the inedible Crunch, maybe one of the worst chocolate bars on the planet, in the same company as the foul tasting Tootsie Roll.  But get this – soon the “neutral” Swiss company will be attacking SweeTARTS.  Without all the dyes, they may soon look like communion wafers or peppermint TUMS and taste like raw agave sap.  If they go designer on us, I’m out.  I don’t want a tart made from real cherries, limes or oranges.  Kids don’t want that either, I assure you.  Real fruit is not candy.  If Nestle keeps mucking with the ingredients, they might get the Germans back, but stand to lose the entire American market.

Mowing Lawns for a David Lee Roth IRA

One heck of a lawn

One heck of a lawn

When I was a kid, I got my first job as a paperboy.  I must have been 14 or 15.  I started out on a bicycle, pitching the paper with pretty good accuracy.  When I was old enough to drive, I’d fling the paper with mixed results from my dad’s MG midget convertible.  It was an evening paper during the week and morning paper on the weekends.  During the summers, I’d also mow lawns in my neighborhood for like 15 bucks a pop.  I don’t even remember what I did with all the money I made, but I’m certain I didn’t save much.  I had a little savings account and think at one point had about 40 dollars in there which earned a few pennies in interest a year.  I set up a savings account just to get one of those passbooks which I thought was pretty cool.  The thought never occurred to me to set up a retirement account with my lawn mowing money as Cliff Goldstein suggests in the article, Put your teen’s lawn-mowing money into a Roth IRA. And if either of my parents had suggested it, I would have thought they were crazy and made some snide remark about David Lee Roth of Van Halen.

Retirement? Why my life had just begun.  I wasn’t working to set aside money for the day I could no longer work. I worked because I needed spending money, not saving money.  Money for baseball cards, chips, candy bars, sodas, movies, records and of course gas for the mower.  I could sure blow through money, but I always worked hard for it and believed in the spirit of making cold hard cash. I was even a member of the FBLA in high school, although ironically I never became a businessman or a business leader of any kind. I was an English major and later became a teacher and administrator.

As a young teen, I doubt I earned enough to even meet the Roth IRA minimum initial investment requirement, which is  something like $1,000.  I don’t know how much kids can get for a lawn these days, but I suppose if it is the right lawn in the right neighborhood, they could earn a couple hundred a day.  And if they are lucky enough to have parents who would match their contributions, and kick in some bonus spending money, a Roth IRA wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all.  And in June of 2015 when the feds raise interest rates, I recommend channeling money into a cheap bond fund.  Always buy low and hope by retirement age share prices will be much higher. This earned income is essentially sheltered so that it cannot be considered as an asset for financial aid when the kid is ready to go to college.  But who knows, your teen may not need college if he/she makes it big in the lawn mowing business.  It could happen you know:  imagine your teen as a contractor with a novel logistics app to help coordinate an army of fellow teens mowing lawns, raking leaves and shoveling snow.  Your kid might be able to contribute to YOUR retirement plan!


Mattel Not Doing So Well

And you know why, in a word, Barbie, at least that’s what some industry experts argue.  I don’t know if kids still play with dolls, but they apparently don’t play with Barbie and Ken anymore, despite the newest incarnations –  Haunted Beauty Mistress of the Manor and suave Gianfranco Ken.  Unfortunately, Shamrock Celebration Barbie, Barbie of the White Woods and Malibu Barbie didn’t fare so well and the price reduced Chilean Barbie never caught on.

So what is Mattel to do?  Firing the CEO is a start – someone else besides Ken and Barbie should take the fall.  I mean the two have had terrible agents these past few years and sadly, Ken and Barbie are no longer relevant.  And I don’t know if kids still play with Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, but they should if they don’t and not the video game version but I’m sure there’s an app for that. Mattel should bring back all the classic cars just as released in 1970 and create a new market for all the aging, nostalgic baby boomers out there like me.

But here’s the thing that could bring prosperity back to the company.  The Creepy Crawlers machine.  Remember that? You poured some flavored goop into a mold, closed up the heated contraption, which was sort of like a waffle iron or a George Foreman Grill, to produce a edible insect.  They tasted pretty awful, about how you would expect an insect to taste, but the concept was far out and just a little bit dangerous which made it all the more desirable.  Mattel should bring back the Creepy Crawlers machine with updated goop flavors to suit the modern palate, say, pomegranate crisp, chipotle infused root beer, rainforest spearmint, mango mist and almond crunch.  I’d buy one and I bet you would too.  You’re welcome Mattel and good luck!

Fat Free Disney

I’m not a big fan of the Disney Empire.  And it is an empire, spreading the worst that America has to offer around the globe.  Cultural Imperialism.  Many tourists come to America or Paris for that matter,  just to visit Disneyland and Disney World.  Sad, but true, especially for families with whiny kids.   Disney is a place where all dreams come true and where American history and fairy tales are sanitized and whitewashed like Tom Sawyer’s picket fence.  Every thing has a happy ending at Disney and that extends to the health and nutrition of children.  And while I am not a Disney fanatic, I do applaud its new pledge to ban junk food ads at its parks and on its many TV networks by 2015.

I know it is blasphemous in America to criticize the Walt Disney Corporation, and it is a corporation, not a person please remember, but I worry about its influence on how children think and on the buying habits of families.  The Disney motto seems to be to “capture their hearts and minds from the cradle to the grave”.  One critical work on Disney which is essential reading is called – The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence by Henry Giroux.  It lays out the case for why you too should be concerned about Disney’s ever growing influence on popular culture and your life.

You may ask why the bitterness ribbie?  Did your parents not take you to Disney World?  And the answer is, no they didn’t. And I wanted to go more than anything, but we ended up at Six (the frick) Flags over Texas every year, which actually wasn’t so bad…but it’s not that.  In truth, I wasn’t a huge Disney fan even as a child, though I did love Winnie the Pooh, who was not originally a Disney character, but the bear and his friends were apparently bought out and are now Disney attractions.   But this is all beside the point.

What is the point you ask?  Here’s the point, while I applaud Disney for its commitment to helping fight childhood obesity which it may have had a hand in creating, the proposed junk food ad ban won’t go into effect until 2015.  Kids can fatten up pretty quickly in 3 years.   But the real problem is not even that.  The real problem are the Disney characters themselves.  Have you seen Mickey’s belly – he’s chubby from all that “gee wiz” cheese.  And the portly Pooh bear with his diet of pure honey must be diabetic by now.  Goofy is just goofy, not portly, but certainly not in good shape.  And I don’t know what the depressed Eeyore eats, but I assure you it’s not just whole grains.  He could use some fitness training and a nutritionist as could all the Disney characters.  Hey Disney, look in the mirror!