#reesesplease @ReesesPBCups and The Hershey Company: stale pbcups are not delicious

by leoebrown


Whenever the JCC swim team went to Friendly’s after a meet, I ordered the decadent, oozy Monster Mash Sundae. I horde Reese’s. I mash peanut butter cups into ice cream whenever possible. I could go on.

But I’m not here to write about my love, because I know it is hardly unique.

Reese’s cups are almost universally idolized and beloved. Americans abroad have it tough, as Reese’s are virtually impossible to find in most countries, though citizens of the world clamor for a nibble. Here in America, we stow Reese’s in cubicle drawers, pantries, and coat pockets, rewards at the end of a tough day, or just because.

I’ll cut to the chase: Reese’s has a serious problem with quality control. As blissful, as divine as a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup can be, too often, the chocolate is coated in a sickly, white film and sticks to the wrapper. When you remove the wrapper, chocolate peels away from the interior, and a dry, static peanut butter cake is exposed — like a hour-old McDonald’s patty, dour and aimless. You bite anyway, but it is tough and resistant. It does not melt on the tongue; it waits for you to chew and swallow. Why? Why can’t these cups just be delicious?

I believe it is because they are stale.

As I said, this is only sometimes; and that’s just it — you never know what you’re going to get. Now, I have diabetes, so I really shouldn’t be eating these ever (but that’s another story). I mention my medical condition because, since I only indulge in peanut butter cups once in a while, the disappointment — and frustration — when they are so unappetizing is crushing. It’s also a waste of a dollar (usually more). I could go back and buy another one, but it might be just as repulsive and useless. It’s remarkable how such an exquisite, delicious treat, left to wither and decline, loses its entire appeal. Quite truthfully, I’d rather have my dollar than the aging puck.

I’ve discussed this with friends and acquaintances, and they usually know what I’m talking about, and they tend to agree that the dilemma is a real shame. But no one seems to talk about it; often, it’s as if it never occurred to them. To me, this is, perhaps, the most remarkable aspect of the whole phenomenon.

I began this post with a happy childhood memory of Reese’s cups, and on that note, I’ll suppose why this all is a veritable non-issue in the popular mind. Precisely that dreamy childhood experience, combined, of course, with savvy marketing messages, has built such staunch loyalty to Reese’s cups as to transcend regard for taste, quality, or physical experience. The positive associations we harbor are overwhelmingly powerful. Because really, if we lose Reese’s, if Reese’s is flawed, if Reese’s is not divinely delicious, we have truly lost something of ourselves. It’s like learning that a favorite schoolteacher has been embezzling money meant for the book club. We just keep buying, just keep chewing, just keep moaning in ecstasy as the chocolatey, peanut-buttery goodness melts in our mouth. To borrow a turn of phrase from Reese’s, it’s perfect. We don’t want to disturb that; we don’t want to believe that it’s not true, and hasn’t been for a long time.

We already have lost that which we crave, and we need to wake up. There is no reason The Hershey Company can’t provide fresh goods on the shelves of supermarkets across the nation, let alone in major metropolitan areas. It is the responsibility of Hershey to solve this problem, but I will outline a few simple — obvious — steps below.

  1. Spot-checking. On a basic level, if Hershey is not aware of this problem, they have failed to conduct the most fundamental assessment of product quality and user experience. Go to the stores, buy a peanut butter cup, and see what happens. Now do that 1,000 times in a variety of locations. Record what you see. Because quality control needs to occur at the storefront. 99.9% of consumers (probably more) don’t give a hoot about how the cup tastes when it shoots out of the factory. They care about how it tastes at 4 p.m. on Thursday at the convenience store next to the office. Or at the gas station. Whatever.
  2. Sell-by date. Really, this is the entire issue. If I am buying a cup prior to its sell-by date, it should not be stale. Reese’s could likely solve this entire debacle in short order by conducting basic research into the aging process of cups under certain circumstances and adjusting the sell-by date accordingly. No change to packaging, no adjustment to the supply chain. Nothing. Just find out how long Reese’s cups last under current circumstances and print a sell-by date based on that.
  3. Packaging and supply chain. Now we’re getting processy. Maybe there’s something wrong with the packaging! This includes the little orange wrappers as well as larger packages — boxes, trucks, bags. Are they at the right temperature? Are they disturbed during their transit? And about those little orange packages. Some of them seem to be wrapped up like a little present, but is that the most airtight option? Would they last longer if they were sold like most other candy bars? What about minis — they are just bundled up in foil. No wonder. Cute, but it doesn’t do the job. Of course, all of these minute packaging questions could be brushed aside if the sell-by date were calibrated properly.

So those are my suggestions. I’ll be posting more about this, and if anyone has ideas or insights, please do comment, tweet #reesesplease, or otherwise share. Send your tweets towards @ReesesPBCups — I invite you to retweet mine as well as write your own. I plan to set up a letter that we can all print and send, and I think a petition is in order once we have some momentum and, perhaps, a more concrete platform.

This is one issue that, however unimportant, can be solved, and we will all benefit.