‘Hello Kitty’ goes Gluten-Free

Recently I was in line at a music and video store to check out some movies. Of course your eyes wander to all the literal ‘eye candy’ and stuff you would buy on impulse… at adult eye level you see batteries, lighters, playing cards, gossip celebrity news and other rag mags. On the lower shelves, boxes of small toys for kids that they can grab even before you’ve secured your position in line. And of course, candy.

A particular bag of candy, hanging at shoulder level, caught my eye while waiting in line, Hello Kitty gummies! Now, I’m not a Hello Kitty fan, but I could just picture myself in line with my 5-8 year-old daughter, granddaughter, niece, or any female friend of theirs, who might love anything and everything Hello Kitty. They might have a ‘Hello Kitty’ themed bedroom. I wondered how long the ‘Hello Kitty’ brand had been around, so I did a little research – here’s a Google link with her biography.

Hello Kitty was born in London in 1974 ‘for the pre-teen girl in every girl’ – invented by the designer Ikuko Shimizu by the Japanese company Sanrio. The original idea was to create a new character that could be decorated on a plastic coin purse.

‘Hello Kitty’ turned 30 in 2004. She has been around for over 40 years! More research on Hello Kitty revealed how ubiquitous the brand really is. Sephora sells Hello Kitty makeup. Someone in an online chat mentioned you can even take a ‘Hello Kitty’ themed flight. Could this be true? Yes. Boeing 777 Planes are now flying the Hello Kitty skies. Check out this link! for photos of the Hello Kitty flight experience. Houston is now the seventh North American destination for EVA, joining Los Angeles, New York JFK, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver.

I also read comments such as, “I know a 50-year-old woman with Hello Kitty stuff. She is my Pinterest friend. I had to block her Hello Kitty page on Pinterest, it was driving me crazy.” Another comment read, “Judging by the girls on my son’s (high school) math team, Hello Kitty is plenty popular at that age.’ – also, “In Japan newborn and up, definitely girls into their 20’s, even older.” Another: “My 48-year-old friend has a Hello Kitty toaster.” There appears to be no age (or product?) limit on ‘Hello Kitty.’

By the way, according to her bio, Hello Kitty’s favorite things include ‘candy, stars and goldfish.’

Back to the ‘Hello Kitty’ candy beckoning the shopper in the check-out line, here, I took a photo:

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Hmmm. They have the candy down to a science! Uh, the marketing of the candy that is. Your daughter spots the candy, looks at you longingly, “Oh, buy it, Mom, please!” It’s not enough that so many pre-teen girls in every girl already love anything and everything Hello Kitty. Lets let it be known scientifically, it’s a healthy food choice!

99% Fat Free! Gluten Free! Vegetarian! Vegetarian? Seriously? Here’s the ingredients listed on the back…

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The first four ingredients are wheat syrup, sugar, maltodextrin, and corn syrup. (Sugar, sugar, artificial sugar, sugar). How can wheat syrup be gluten free? Well, as another form of high fructose syrup, it is so highly processed and purified so as to eliminate any trace of gluten. Maltodextrin is an artificial sugar, also known as a polysaccharide.

Oh, but the candy also contains potato protein and hydrolysed pea protein! (Guess that’s the ‘vegetarian’ part?)

So how to explain the proliferation and enduring popularity of “Hello Kitty?’ It’s a very, very well-marketed brand.

Other brands are in tune and up-to-date with their health conscious marketing strategies. Later that same day we were eating at a local bar/restaurant when I spotted this sign:

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And I cheered and my heart jumped out of my chest! I can finally get a drink with gluten free vodka! Come on!!! Is there a vodka out there that isn’t gluten-free? I Googled it to make sure and confirmed, “all distilled spirits are gluten-free unless it is added after distillation.” (Yeah, let’s add gluten to this vodka just to mess with celiac sufferers!)

Check out this article about vodka marketed as gluten free, from Scientific American. It states:

“After a 2012 Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) interim ruling, gluten-free labeled vodkas hit the market this year, including National Basketball Association legend Shaquille O’Neal’s gluten-free “Luv Shaq.”

“But that guarantee is not necessary,” according to Steve Taylor, one of the country’s leading gluten testers. Taylor calls gluten-free vodka a “silly thing. … All vodka is gluten-free unless there is some flavored vodka out there where someone adds a gluten-containing ingredient. I know that many celiac sufferers are extra-cautious. That is their privilege. But their [vodka] concerns are usually not science-based.”

In other (my) words, vodka is a pure healthy choice, all by itself, even if you adhere to a gluten-free diet.

“… It’s not just alcohol, of course. The new FDA label guidelines allow bottled water, vegetables and fruits to be labeled gluten-free even though these products do not naturally contain gluten.”

“The new labeling has created a marketing frenzy that may become a $6.2-billion gluten-free product industry by 2018…”

Yeah, I’ll be growing some gluten free tomatoes in my garden this summer. But we’re passing on those Hello Kitty gummies or whatever that ‘food’ is. Of course, there’s no urges at our house to pacify a pre-teen girl (inside of us or otherwise) with any and all things ‘Hello Kitty.’

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