Sobeys promptly pulls controversial ‘barely legal Sweet Sixteen’ candies

In a statement, Sobeys said it will not longer display the advertisement. Submitted: Joan Helson

A brand of candy called “Sweet Sixteen” that promotes its “barely legal level of sweetness” was quickly taken off the shelves of Sobeys locations this week.

The candy, from the Quebec-based company Mondoux, was made available in Sobeys locations across Nova Scotia earlier this week. It has since been removed.

Joan Helson’s friend first noticed the display at the Sobeys in Upper Tantallon, N.S., on Monday. When she received the photo, Helson was shocked.

“To me it was a very surprising thing,” Helson said in a phone interview Tuesday.

“Not only would a company have many sets of eyes to get this packaging out there, but … nobody thought to say this is really inappropriate?”

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The advertisement can be seen on the box and not directly on the candy’s packaging. Regardless, Helson said it was out of line.

“It’s not like you could say they meant something else because sugar has never been illegal,” said Helson. “There’s no level at which you can read that and say they didn’t mean it.”

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Helson posted a photo of the box on Twitter and said the backlash poured in immediately.

“I’ve been on Twitter a number of years now, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this,” she said. “It was definitely something that resonated with a lot of people.”

In a statement to Global News, Sobeys said it was made aware of Mondoux’s product marketing Monday evening and took “immediate action.”

“The marketing campaign for this product is not inline with our values at Sobeys Inc,” said Sobeys spokesperson Natasha Compton in the statement.

“We have removed the floorstands and products in all of our convenience and fuel locations across Atlantic Canada.”

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Helson commended Sobeys for its prompt denouncing of the advertisement’s messaging and is giving the company the benefit of the doubt.

“I think Sobeys really did themselves a favour by replying to this so quickly,” she said, “and not just saying we’re going to look into this, but to actually come right out and say we’re removing this from our stores and we will be contacting the supplier immediately.

Mondoux did not respond to Global News’s calls for comment, but in a social media post said it would be pulling all of its displays that advertise its “barely legal level of sweetness.”

“We are extremely sorry about the situation as it was NEVER our intent to advertise in such a way. We are a French-speaking company and had our displays very poorly translated,” the company said in a tweet.

“It was a terrible mistake on our part and we are appalled by this situation. We take this very seriously and you will never see this happen again.”

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The company said once it realized the connotations of the English sentence, they began removing the advertisement from stores.

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“Please believe that we are extremely sorry and this will never happen again,” the statement concludes.

But Helson isn’t buying it.

“I don’t speak a lot of French, but I think the ‘barely legal’ translation would still be ‘barely legal.’”

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