Arun Sudhaman 03 Apr 2013 // 11:00PM GMT
WASHINGTON, DC--The trade body that represents the $30bn US confectionary industry is searching for public relations counsel as activists step up efforts to blame sugar for the nation's obesity crisis.
The Holmes Report can reveal that the NCA has invited at least three agencies to pitch this week for a brief estimated at approximately $3m.
One source involved in the review said that the organization wants PR firms to help them "prevent candy being demonised." Accordingly, the assignment covers both public affairs and consumer-facing PR.
While the most visible measure to date has been New York's ban on large sodas and sugary drinks, a number of groups are calling for clearer federal guidelines on sugar consumption.
The FDA does not have a recommended daily allowance for sugar, although new dietary guidelines are expected in 2015. In addition, proposed revisions to the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act may target sugar levels within products.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has called on the FDA to specify recommended sugar levels. A recent book by New York Times reporter Michael Moss, 'Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us', has increased the issue's public visibility.
In addition to the obesity issue, 'Big Candy' is also embroiled in a major lobbying battle with 'Big Sugar' over domestic sugar subsidies.
The NCA wants the US sugar program to be repealed or reformed, arguing that it keeps sugar prices artifically high and makes American confectionary companies less competitive. The USDA recently revealed that it is considering buying 400k tons of sugar, in a bid to prop up tumbling sugar prices in the country.
The NCA currently represents more than 320 companies that manufacture and market the vast majority of chocolate confectionery, sugar confectionery and gum sold in the US, including such industry giants as Wrigley, Mars, Hershey and Nestle.
Representatives from the NCA did not respond to request for comment as this story went live.