A kiss is a “caress with the lips,” but it is also “a bite-size piece of candy often wrapped in paper or foil.” Merriam-Webster, definition of “kiss.” While some may focus on lip caresses, there’s a story to be told about pieces of chocolate wrapped in foil that involve trade complaints and shortages in weight.
Hershey’s famed kisses date back to 1907 and long served as a staple for the company. Yet, treachery happened in 1921 when a general manager left Hershey to be the president of a new company: Fleetwood Chocolate Company. Not only did he join a competing chocolate company, they made kisses too!
Hershey would not let this stand and went on the offensive. They sought to trademark its famed kisses as one means to defend their product. Hershey also appears to have tattled to the precursor of the Food and Drug Administration, then known as the Bureau of Chemistry. The allegation, Fleetwood’s kisses were short weight.
Short weight and slack-fill (empty space in a package) were early priorities of the Bureau of Chemistry and later FDA. However, these are rather rarely investigated issues now.
In an internal telegram, the Bureau of Chemistry acknowledged that “this firm [Hershey] had complained about short weight in similar products packed by other firms.” At the same time, the Bureau decided that “it is believed that the tin foil wrapped confections [kisses] put out by them should also be investigated to determine whether same are being packed full weight.” The Investigator collected a label sample.
The Bureau of Chemistry tested samples of Fleetwood’s kisses to determine if the products were short weight, and they were. A 5 pound box only contained 4 pounds 10 ounces, and a 2.5 pound box only contained 2 pounds 5.6 ounces. The Government charged that the products were misbranded for (1) being false/misleading because they were short weight and (2) lacking a net quantity statement that appeared plainly and conspicuously on the outside of the package. Fleetwood Chocolates plead guilty and paid a $50.00 fine.
Unlike Fleetwood, it appears that Hershey’s kisses were compliant as there appears to be no record of a shortweight allegation against them. While Fleetwood is little remembered, Hershey’s kisses continue on and even today my son gave me one.