Fling is a candy bar for women … or is it for someone else?
Thu, Apr 23, 2009 (midnight)
For the first time in nearly 20 years, Mars Snackfood, the global candy giant that sweetens our grim world with more than a thousand tons of Snickers, Skittles, M&Ms, Twix and Starburst Fruit Chews a day, is introducing an entirely new treat. Fling, which comes in a hot pink wrapper, consists of two slender cookies which, in the lexicon of Mars Snackfood copywriters, are known as “fingers.” The base of each finger is a layer of crisp meringue. This wafer is topped with an ethereal layer of truffle, then enrobed in a sleek tunic of milk chocolate. Thanks to the inclusion of the FDA-approved mineral mica, Fling’s fingers are imbued with a faint metallic pink shimmer that straddles the line between “amusingly chic” and “scrumptiously contaminated.” If you haven’t guessed yet, Fling is aimed at women.
At least ostensibly, and with good reason. It’s a well-known fact that women use chocolate as a substitute for sex, which they in turn use as a substitute for love. This presents a fantastic and relatively unexploited opportunity to present chocolate as a low-calorie masturbatory aid. “At under 85 calories per finger,” Fling’s website confides, “It’s slim, but not skinny. Indulgent but not greedy. Naughty but nice.” “Your boyfriend doesn’t need to know,” reads the copy from one Fling print ad. “Pleasure yourself,” exclaims another. Even the nutritional information on Fling’s wrapper cracks double entendres worthy of Sex and the City’s Samantha Jones: “Serving size: Two fingers.”
Note that the world’s most delicious sex toy stops short of promising completely unbridled pleasure. Truly decadent amounts of cocoa butter and milk fat are no woman’s idea of a good time—feast on too many Godiva truffles and you’ll grow so fat and sexually unappetizing no one except a chocolate bar will want to please you. To prevent this from happening, Fling offers disciplined, responsible, self-denying indulgence. When you bite into a Fling, there is none of the heft and density one encounters when chomping on a Snickers, or even a Cheeto. There’s a quick snap of meringue, a hint of creamy chocolate, and then it just kind of dissolves—the whole experience feels more metaphorical than gustatory, as if you are eating the idea of a candy bar rather than a candy bar itself.
Which, in fact, you sort of are. Fling doesn’t achieve its 85-calories-per-finger status through food-science miracle ingredients like Aspartame or Sucralose. Instead, it relies on old-fashioned portion control: Those fingers are tiny! Compared to a Twix, for example, a Fling has fewer calories: 170 versus 280. But a Twix rewards you with almost twice as much candy. While a regular-sized Fling tips the scales at a wispy 31.5 grams, a regular-sized Twix provides you with 56.7 grams of chewy, crunchy candy goodness. On a per-gram basis, it’s actually less caloric than a Fling. Cheaper, too.
Or to put it another way: Hey, Fling really does screw women!
But how many women, one wonders, are likely to buy such a product anyway? After all, it’s not as if women have been so reluctant to purchase gender-neutral chocolate that they need a candy bar designed specifically for them. And even if they did, why on Earth would they find Fling’s pink, sparkly calorie-rationing appealing? Even the Taliban couldn’t design a candy bar so unfriendly to women!
Which is not to say that Fling’s brand of ultrafeminine kitsch doesn’t have a market. It does, and that market is drag queens. Think about it for a minute. You probably see women eating chocolate every day, but how often do you see a man in 10 pounds of makeup and a Cher wig enjoying a Kit Kat? Presumably, Mars Snackfood recognized the potential of this untapped market. Presumably, it also realized the potential culture-wars headaches that could arise by unabashedly catering to weight-conscious he-shes, especially in the kid-centric domain of the corner-store candy rack. But what about a product ostensibly designed for women, but really meant for—and certainly more appealing to—a different target audience? Who, after all, likes shiny pink sparkly things more than drag queens? Who is more determined to maintain their girlish figures? Ignored by the snack-food industry for years, forced to make do with sensible Luna bars and matronly Dove Promises, cross-eaters with a sweet tooth now have a product that’s fabulous enough to call their own.