Microsoft founder Bill Gates has a post about a company, Unreal Candy, that he is invested in through a venture capital fund:
The idea for Unreal™ began at Halloween a couple of years ago when entrepreneur Michael Bronner and his son Nicky got into an argument over the big bag of Halloween candy that Nicky brought home. Michael wanted Nicky to throw half of it out because of the unhealthy ingredients. Of course, Nicky was not easily convinced.
Nicky and Michael began two years of R&D with a very accomplished chef, Adam Melonas, to try to create unjunked versions of America's favorite candies that tasted just as good and cost no more than those that Nicky had brought home. Based on my taste-test, I think they've succeeded.
A serving of Unreal™ candy contains an average of 45 percent less sugar, 13 percent less fat, 23 percent fewer calories, 149 percent more protein and 250 percent more fiber. Impressively, all products are low GI (Glycemic Index).
I haven't tried the candy, but to me this looks like a great example of how market-based competition can serve as a kind of private regulation. One approach, the top-down approach, would be to do what Mayor Bloomberg has tried to do with sugary beverages in New York — tax them or impose government-mandated limits on their size (a kid was out trick-or-treating in Brooklyn tonight dressed as a 32-ounce "Big Gulp," which beats the other political costume I heard about, a kid on Martha's Vineyard who went out as Mitt Romney's tax return). That would involve trying to pass a law or a regulation limiting the sugar, fat, or calorie content in candy bars, or taxing them somehow. Another approach is to try to make a profit by offering a product that is less unhealthy and allowing customers the choice. I bet it won't be long before some of the major candy manufacturers adjust their recipes to match the competition from Unreal.
I have my doubts, alas, about whether it will work; with the reduced-fat Cape Cod potato chips, my own reaction seems to be to eat more of them, so I roughly get up to the amount of fat I would have consumed if I had bought the full-fat kind. But it's certainly worth a try.
As an aside, Unreal isn't Mr. Gates's only play in the candy sector. He's a director of his friend and philanthropic partner Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, which owns part of the candymaker Wrigley (Skittles, Starburst, Life Savers) and all of See's. So if Mr. Gates wants to lower the glycemic index and up the fiber in American candy, there are some places he could exercise some influence other than Unreal, too.