Sweeting the economy

Murray, KY – During the current economic climate, many industries are facing shortfalls, layoffs, and reorganizations. But not the candy industry. Angela Hatton reports on the impact of a sweet tooth in a recession, visiting Sally Lane's Candy Farm in Paris, Tennessee, recently featured on The Rachel Ray TV Show.

If you drive far enough along a country road just outside Paris, Tennessee, you will eventually come to a cluster of three mailboxes, one of which is painted a soft powder pink. This is Sally Lane's Candy Farm, famous for their pink and green mints. This candy-making business has been around for over fifty years, but owner Pam Rockwell and her husband bought it from the founder Sally Lane three years ago. Rockwell says since that time, their business has really taken off. However, that didn't stop them from worrying about the effects of the recession.
"This Christmas, we thought oh gosh' y'know, with all the downturn and everything that we might not have a good Christmas, but we had a wonderful one. Our sales were up." 13 sec. Rockwell1

Across the board, the candy industry has thrived despite the slumping US economy. But what connection do sweets have with a recession? It's no secret candy makes people feel good. Dr. Ian Norris, an associate professor of social psychology at Murray State University, says it's simple biological chemistry.

"Those kinds of foods stimulate the brain's reward systems and they get chemicals like dopamine flowing through the bloodstream and one of the things that is is a signal that this is something that's rewarding and we should do it again." 13 sec. Norris5

But most people know too much junk food isn't good for them. That's where self-regulation comes in. We eat a candy bar, but then say no to a piece of cake because we don't want to overindulge. Norris says studies show environmental circumstances can change that.

"The research shows self-regulation is a limited resource. Well what does that mean? That means that if we exert a lot of self-regulation in one capacity, that we're less likely to use it in another." 12 sec. Norris2

In one test, a person is asked to do a task that takes a lot of concentration, like crossing all the "e's" out on a document. When they are finished, they get a bowl of cookies. Researchers also give a bowl of cookies to people who didn't have to cross out e's. (Maybe explain control group a little better here)

"These people who have to do these kinds of tasks that require a lot of persistence and self-regulation in that regard eat more cookies afterwards." 8 sec. Norris3

So when people are stressing about their jobs, their mortgages, and their interests in the stock market, they aren't going to be focusing as much on eating leafy greens and whole grains. Plus, Sally Lane's Pam Rockwell says many of her customers just want the comfort candy brings.

"When they walk in and it just smells so good they think, oh goodness, that makes me feel better.'" 7 sec. Rockwell2
The comforts of candy can also trigger nostalgia during a stressful time.

"It is very appealing to revert to those things that remind of times when we didn't have those concerns at all. And certainly as children candy was probably a very important part of childhood." 14 sec. Norris1

Nostalgia is certainly a part of Sally Lane's appeal. Rockwell herself remembers eating pink and green mints after trips to the pool in the summertime. She says a lot of people make similar comments.

"The people that have ever had it before say it tastes just like I remember.'" 5 sec. Rockwell3

Nostalgia has people seeking out Sally Lane's again, but innovation is bringing them back. During that most famous economic downturn, the Great Depression, candy-manufacturers turned out a lot of new sweets that survive to this day, like the Snickers bar. Rockwell is continuing in their forefather's steps. Rockwell's including the introduction of white chocolate popcorn and baby-shower themed mints. In this way, candy-makers are
Maybe the next new candy craze is just over the horizon.