Hershey’s Chocolate Takes Steps To Remove GMOs

The Hershey Chocolate Company announced that they will be taking steps to manufacture certain products free of any GMO containing ingredients by the end of 2015. The specific products mentioned in the press release are the original Hershey’s Chocolate bars, and the Hershey’s Kisses product line.


This is the next step in a series of production changes made by the company in the past several months to focus on the manufacturing of their products with an emphasis on more natural ingredients. This shift is part of a larger food industry trend to satisfy the increasing demand by a more informed consumer base for products that are made from components of natural origin.


The Hershey Company had previously announced the removal of high fructose corn syrup from certain product formulations by replacing it with sugar. The company has been focused internally on a review of all of their product lines with the focal point being the replacement, when feasible, of certain ingredients with their natural counterparts. The basis for these formulaic changes is not just strictly along the lines of cost effectiveness. The ingredient substitutions have to make sense from a variety of perspectives in order to be instituted.


Saying No To GMO


The food industry has been much maligned within the mainstream media for their use of GMO containing ingredients in their respective products. The move today by Hershey has been met with praise by many groups with vested interest in the fight against GMOs in our food supply.


However, some reports mentioned that certain groups are pressing Hershey about whether they will stop using GMOs in more products. The three main areas were genetically modified sugar beets, milk from cows that has not been modified, and modified forms of vanilla. Hershey will also be removing the lactose present from these two product lines which is great news for Americans who are intolerant to that naturally occurring sugar present in milk derived products. I have written about this controversial topic in the past based upon my professional experience in the food industry for an ingredients supplier.


The main issue here for large multinational food producing companies is that the non-GM supply of certain ingredients is not large enough globally to meet the demand for the product. Therefore, the formula cannot be “scaled up” to meet the required amounts in order to be produced GMO free. It is what they would term in the food industry as a “production reality”.


Nevertheless, in my view, I think the Hershey Company should get credit for their announcement today and for taking steps to move toward producing some of their iconic confectionary products in a GMO free manner. Only a handful of companies in the industry have taken such a pro-active stance towards the potential revision of product formulations with the goal of removing GMO containing components. Hershey is an industry giant and this action will push others in the confectionary segment to follow suit.


The public perception of GMOs is a hot button topic. I have covered the debate on this issue for a couple of years now and it is only intensifying in the forum of American public opinion. The end of 2014 featured the latest chapter in the public backlash against agricultural chemical giant, Monsanto, which won a court decision in Hawaii. The people of the island of Maui had voted in a referendum measure on Election Day to have the use of any GMO products for farming banned from use on that island.


Monsanto appealed the results of the referendum measure by arguing that the law of the State of Hawaii super ceded the public voting mechanism on the island of Maui, and they won the decision. The people in Maui and in other parts of Hawaii remain divided on the issue. Some feel that the GMO ban would have caused the end of farming jobs in an already slow economy in the island state. The converse side of the debate was the belief by some that the use of GMO agricultural chemical products is harmful to the land, water, and environment in Hawaii and there is a growing sentiment there in the public that these products should be eliminated.


Hitting The Wallet


The public backlash against GMOs, hormones, and artificial ingredients in food products coupled with the trend toward health and wellness is forcing more and more food companies to review their supply chain sourcing methods as well as their product formulations. The objective of those reviews being to determine if alternative natural and/or GMO free ingredients could be substituted into the formulation and scaled up effectively.


This anti-GMO sentiment and the emphasis on wellness, what I refer to as the “natural foods” phenomenon, is also shaping the methodology for the research and development of new product line offerings for food companies. The recent product line announcements by General Mills are a good example of this response by a major food manufacturer to these trend lines.


The company announced new products in 2015 which focus on the incorporation of ancient grains and protein into their cereal lines. They also will roll out gluten free cereal formulations, and other products with a focus on wellness and natural ingredients.


The American consumer has been very vocal about their opposition to GMO products and artificial ingredients. The consumer public is much more informed than it was even 10-15 years ago because of the increased amounts of information available via the internet, and the rate in which that information spreads via social media platforms is unparalleled. Consequently, that same American consumer has to be prepared to face the facts that they will have to most likely face higher costs for those food products when they are made with healthier ingredients. The long and short of the matter is that these healthier products or GMO free versions of products will be more costly for the manufacturer and they will pass along that increase to the consumer.


In the case of the Hershey Company, they have most certainly studied the impact of the costs of making this formulation change with the products I mentioned earlier. In my experience, some commodity products, especially items like cocoa and vanilla, are highly sensitive to cost fluctuations based on a variety of factors. In the case of confectionary products in general, there are other key ingredients that must be sourced very carefully to avoid further cost increases for the finished consumer product. In my view, these factors drove the decision to phase in the GMO free production change at Hershey in a limited fashion to those two product areas.


The confection industry just recently completed a program to increase prices based on the changes in the market price of key ingredients such as cocoa. The Hershey Company specifically used a very intelligent approach by phasing in the cost increase to the consumer in stages over a period of several months instead of giving the consumer “sticker shock” by introducing the price increases in one large jump. I have written previously about this strategy, and all consumer feedback being considered, it was a successful method by Hershey to employ these increases in the pricing of their products.


Whether or not the American public will continue to pay higher prices for healthier food product choices remains to be seen. In the short term, it appears that it is not slowing down anytime soon. I would look for other food companies to follow Hershey and their lead from their announcement regarding the removal of GMOs from certain products where it is feasible. The continuation of that trend will lead to potentially higher prices, but in the end it is a “win-win” both for the food companies and for the consumer when it comes to this trend toward healthier or more natural food products.

NBA All Star Weekend: Lost In the Shuffle

The NBA held their annual All Star weekend of festivities which culminated in the All Star Game last Sunday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Western Conference All Stars won a very high scoring game last Sunday night in the marquee event of the weekend.


The problem with the NBA All Star Weekend is that the general consensus was that most people did not care. The NBA All Star Game is known throughout sports circles to be a mostly unwatchable event because the teams play zero defense. That trend certainly continued in this year’s installment. Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder finished as the MVP of the game with 41 points which is one point shy of the record for total points scored in the event.


The Skills Competition took place over in Brooklyn in a first for the All Star Game, having events in multiple arenas. The entire weekend of NBA events was not even on the radar screen for many people in the New York City and New Jersey metropolitan area. I think that several reasons exist for that sentiment around this game and this past weekend:


  • The performance of the two local teams – both the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets are playing poorly this year and coming into the season both were expected to at least compete for playoff spots. The Knicks have the worst record in the entire NBA at the All Star break, which is one of the biggest surprise storylines of the season. New Yorkers characteristically like winning teams so this cannot be underestimated as a role in diminishing local interest in the event
  • The weather – it was very cold over the weekend in the New York area with temperatures dropping into the single digits or below zero with the wind chill values. That goes a long way toward lowering the interest level in the events surrounding the All Star Weekend in the NBA. When it is that cold, the average casual sports fan is not going to head out or take their children out in that type of brutally cold weather
  • The Big Apple – the large scale sporting events which normally would dominate all the attention in other cities end up getting swallowed up by New York City. A good case in point was the Super Bowl being held in the New York area in February 2014. The biggest showcase in sports was a small blip on the radar screen in New York, it was almost like a side bar to everything else going in the City at that point in time. The Big Apple has so many people with so many different interests that it just eats up these larger events, and I think the NBA All Star Weekend fell into that dynamic


No Comparison


The most revealing way to demonstrate the impact of these factors on the NBA All Star Weekend is to compare the reaction of New York City and the surrounding metro area to the Major League Baseball All Star Weekend. When it was held at Yankee Stadium and then more recently at the Mets home, Citi Field, the MLB events drew huge crowds and had an interest level untouched by the NBA event and even the Super Bowl.


That interest level is driven by a few factors: the local baseball teams both have extensive fan bases respectively, the weather was warm because it was the middle of the summer, and New York is known to be a baseball town. I also think some of the interest in the game when the Yankees had it was because it was connected to the final year of the old Yankee Stadium, one of the most historic sports venues in the world.


The MLB All Star Game is similar to the NBA event of the same kind in that it does not carry the same interest level from the perspective of some fans. The MLB All Star event is seen as a simulation of a real baseball game, where the pitchers usually pitch no more than an inning or two at the most. The powers that be within the league office at MLB attempted several years ago to “up the stakes” on the All Star Game by having the winning league from the game gain home field advantage for the World Series competed at the end of that given season.


However, that change did little to increase interest in the MLB All Star Game, in fact the TV ratings have gone down in the past 4 years when compared to earlier in the 2000s when the game would average around 10 million total viewers compared to 6.7 to 6.9 million total viewers over the last four years.


Lost In The Shuffle


The NBA All Star Game this season in New York scored a 4.3 rating and 7.2 million total viewers airing on both TNT and TBS networks. This rating could be viewed as disappointing considering the event was held in the world’s most famous basketball arena, Madison Square Garden, and was held in the media capital of the world.


By comparison, the NBA All Star Game’s ratings for last season were 4.3 and 7.5 million total viewers, and in 2013 the rating was a 4.6 and total viewers topped out at 8 million. These figures are comparable to the baseball event and in my view they reflect a growing disinterest based upon a similar common thread to the root of the disinterest in the baseball event of the same type: it is a simulated game, an exhibition. The fans of the NBA, by and large do not want to see a game played with no defense at all and at times questionable effort by the players. I have seen so many times in the NBA event the attempts for trick plays and fancy dunks get missed or poorly timed, it ends up being a spectacle of sloppy play and endless turnovers. That is not fun to watch.


I have read in some other mainstream sports sites, the suggestion that the NBA should consider moving the start time of the game up by an hour, so in this way it would not have competition from prime time programming on the East Coast and in the Central time zone either. Those in the audience might remember that NBC would utilize the earlier start time when they held the NBA television broadcasting contract, the game would air at 5 PM Eastern time especially in the year that the Winter Olympics were televised on NBC.


I remember those earlier telecasts as a kid, and I actually think that they work better for a younger audience which would be tuning in to see their favorite NBA stars compete in this showcase event. It may also increase social media traffic for the event too because a larger “tween” and teen audience from a demographic standpoint would reflect an increase in social media activity.


Furthermore, in what should give the NBA further evidence that a change of some kind needs to be made to increase interest in the event, the NBA All Star Game was not even the highest rated program within that time slot. The AMC scripted drama series, “The Walking Dead”, outperformed the game in the ratings which is almost unheard of today with live sports programming of almost any type characteristically always winning the time slot.


The only event of the All Star type which performs worse in the ratings is the NHL hockey event which this season was held in Columbus, Ohio. The NHL game drew only 1.1 million total viewers in the U.S. and the ratings in Canada were down about 40% from the prior year. The game has already changed the start time to begin earlier to reduce competition from other programming.


The rationale behind this decline, in my view, is probably similar to the other events of its type, it is unwatchable because the game is not competitive. The NHL game has been maligned for years for the fact that nobody gets hit in the game and nobody plays defense. A hockey game stripped of intensity is not an event which will tend to draw the average viewer or the casual fan. The case in point is that this year’s edition of the NHL All Star Game featured a record 29 goals scored between the two teams. That is not the type of game that fans will tune in to see.


In addition, the other reason why the NHL game viewership could have declined stems from feedback I observed on social media regarding the drafting of the teams to play on a team captained by a player rather than a selection based on the best players in each conference. The feedback I read was that many fans want to return to the East vs. West format of the game rather than teams that are a mix of talent from across the entire league.


The fact remains that regardless of the sport, really with the exception of NFL football, the ratings for certain sports programming remains variable. Baseball is a regional sport, so it is never going to gain the same national viewership as other sports. The ratings for NHL hockey have seen an upward trend in recent years but that is also relative to the size of the fan base for the sport. The regular season games are still heavily market dependent for television ratings and the most popular way to see hockey remains the in-person live game experience.


The viewers have more choices than ever before with the advent of streaming television services, video on demand services, and movie rental options from services such as Red Box. If these games celebrating a collection of the best players in that particular sport are going to rebound in the ratings they have to embrace some changes.


Back To Broadway


I have lived in the New York – New Jersey metropolitan area my whole life, and I have listened to people I know and fans on sports radio shows here complain in the past that New York rarely gets the chance to host the larger sporting events. The argument being that the leagues would never have the ratings, the interest, and the revenues that they have currently without the large contribution from the New York area based on the sheer size of the population of the market alone.


However, the fact is that with the exception of the baseball All Star Games held here in recent years many of these larger sporting events have not captured the broad based interest in New York like it has when the same events are held in other cities. I am not sure why that is exactly, it could be weather dependent, it could be the expensive nature of the event in a down economic market for this area, or it could just be that the people here have access to so many other options that it is difficult to capture their collective focus on one event.


In the end, these events and their ability to be held in New York especially during the winter, need to be reevaluated. The leagues need to determine how they can recapture the attention that these events once held in the national consciousness within the rapidly changing dynamics of the media, entertainment, and social media.


(Television ratings data and some background information courtesy of Yahoo! Sports, The Sporting News, The Baseball Almanac, Sports Media Watch, and CBS Sports)



Poetry Forms: The Terza Rima Sonnet

I have been writing poetry for many years now, and of the hundreds of poems that I have written in that time, many of them are sonnets. I prefer the sonnet form of poetry to many of the other various forms, though I continue to challenge myself to write in new poetic forms on a continuous basis.


The sonnet form has so many different variations, as I have written about previously both on this site, Frank’s Forum, and on another website where I did some guest blogging on the topic. I have written previously for Yahoo! a series of “how to” articles for young and new writers about the differences between the sonnet forms with tips for practicing and navigating some of the nuances of those specific sonnet types such as the Italian sonnet or the Pushkin form.


Furthermore, I have also written in the past about hybrid sonnet forms which I created by mixing and matching components from all of the variations of the sonnet; or thinking of completely “out of the box” ways to write a sonnet with the basic fundamental variant of how to play with the fourteen lines needed to characterize the form.


This will be my first blog post of 2015 on the topic of poetry, which is a major sub-theme of Frank’s Forum, so I chose to focus on a relatively more obscure form of the sonnet known as the terza rima form. I will review this form of sonnet and then compare the structure to other variations of the sonnet complete with my advice from my own experience writing in each of these forms of poetry.




The terza rima form originated in the late 13th century and was created by famed poet Dante Alighieri who sought a way to structure his now famous canto epic length poetic work, “The Divine Comedy”. The structure of the form, similar to other variations of the sonnet, folds in the rhyme scheme from one set of lines into the subsequent sets of lines.


Since the terza rima is divided into sets of three lines called tercets, the rhyme scheme flows from one tercet into the next, connected by common lines in the rhyme scheme. The rhyme scheme in a terza rima sonnet is as follows:



Therefore you can see how the tercets are connected by a common line in the verse. Most of the sonnets written in this format are in iambic pentameter, though some poets have written in a different meter such as dactyl, the use of another meter is permissible but the lines have to all remain the same length.


It is important also to note that the terza rima form can be of unlimited length, where some other poetic forms have very strict standards for length. The writer could continue stringing together tercets in the same format demonstrated above just resetting the scale back to “A” at the end of the four sets of poetry.


The Couplet Question


Over the years, the terza rima form has remained unchanged with the exception of some poets adapting the structure to add a couplet to the end of the four tercets. The rationale behind this adaptation is uncertain, it could have been added so that this form of sonnet would equal fourteen lines in compatibility with the other forms of the sonnet.


In my own personal experience, I was taught to write the terza rima in the traditional format I listed above, in four sets each containing three lines of poetry. I felt at one point around four or five years ago, when I was writing a variety of sonnets for a poetry collection with a winter nature theme, that the traditional twelve line form was leaving something behind. So I started adding a rhyming couplet to the end of the terza rima sonnets because I was accustomed to using couplets at the end of the other sonnets I have written in the past.


I did not realize that this change to the terza rima form had already been made until a fellow writer was reviewing my work during a poetry challenge. This fellow writer felt that the couplet was a nice touch and referenced the other poets who had initially used this format change, to which I was unaware, I just knew that it felt cleaner to me with the added two lines.


The terza rima form with the added couplet at the end looks like this:



The use of the couplet is completely at the discretion of the writer, and has been included for so many years, that it is a completely accepted alternative version. I also feel that it provides the author with some additional room to finish their thoughts and cap off their piece of poetry with the couplet at the end. However, there are poets and writers who do not agree with this adaptation and will stick with the traditional format originated by Alighieri.


Common Miscues


The terza rima sonnet has a different flow and a different feel to it, which can lend itself to some common miscues. Some other forms of poetry are more forgiving should your idea take an unplanned direction. This form of sonnet can seem a bit restrictive, especially in the beginning until you have practiced your style and are able to lend your poetic voice to the variations found in this format.


A common miscue that I made when I first began writing and experimenting with the terza rima form was “boxing myself in” as they call it in poetry. I would work with an initial idea, and being so accustomed to the other types of sonnets where you only had to rhyme the end word in a line no more than twice, I would get boxed in within the restraints of this rhyme scheme.


In the terza rima form it requires the writer to rhyme the “C” and the “D” lines in the scheme a total of three times. Therefore, I had to train my mind to not think in terms of couplets or schemes where the scale rhymed twice, I had to shape my idea around words that would rhyme a total of three times at two different points in the poem. This is going to be more difficult than it may seem when you try it.


My advice is to think about the “C” and the “D” lines ahead of time and plan out what words you will use as the end words in those respective lines. It will also help the flow and the alliteration of your finished poem.


I also must add that as I became further accustomed to writing in different forms of poetry and practiced more with other sonnets, this method of creating and thinking became more natural to me. The other method which helped me was writing in the Pushkin sonnet form (which remains one of my favorites) which has the following format: ABABCCDDEFFEGG


You will notice that the “C” and the “D” lines in the Pushkin form are also very important, granted they are in double couplets which break up the middle of the sonnet, but it still helped to train my mind for the importance that the same corresponding lines, the “C” and the “D” lines have in the terza rima form.


The other practice which helped my adaptation to writing within the terza rima form was to practice with the Spenserian form which has some common traits. The Spenserian sonnet has the following setup:



In the Spenserian form the “B” and “C” lines are rhymed four times, so they are very important to determine ahead of drafting the poem. This form also featured “transfer” from one group of lines to the next so continuity is very important to writing a good Spenserian sonnet. My practice with these elements helped me to write within the terza rima form with much better effect.


It is my hope that all the writers out there who are new to writing poetry or new to writing sonnets have gained some valuable insights from this article. I will now close with an example of my own work in the terza rima form.


“Into The Light”

Wandering along on this lonely road

Weary, tired but there’s no going back

Feeling burdened from this heavy load


So many obstacles there to distract –

Me from the path to my ultimate goal

My focus is sharp it will not lack


I have seen others lose control

The pity, self-doubt, endlessly question

The answers to them are in your soul


The road is packed, temptation and sin

Walk into the light, avoid the darkness

Find your compass which lives within


The light will guide you on your way

So you can find the goodness each day



(Some background information courtesy of Poets.org)


© Frank J. Maduri 2015 – All rights reserved – No copying or distribution without express written consent from the author.