Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY
The Easter Bunny's got a new egg in his basket: a chocolate egg, with a toy inside.
Sound like an instant choking hazard?
The folks at Candy Treasure say the new Choco Treasure egg is legal, safe and Easter-friendly. Similar treats have long been sold by other manufacturers in Europe, but most have been outlawed in the U.S., because of safety concerns. But this company seems to have found a simple way around it.
"It's been a long, long process," says Kevin Gass, co-founder of Candy Treasure, which makes the Choco Treasure egg, which sells for about $1.49 and measures about the size of a jumbo hen's egg. "It hasn't been easy."
For a nation that gobbles up chocolate to the tune of nearly $20 billion annually, just about any twist, turn or -- in this case -- hop, may be marketing-worthy. If nothing else, the Choco Treasure -- which is available at Target, Cost Plus and Kmart -- has the potential to be a seasonal hit.
"It could be a one-hit wonder," says Bernard Pacyniak, editor at Candy Industry, a trade publication.
Fearing both food safety and choking issues, historically, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have frowned on most candy creations with small toys inside. In 1997, the CPSC banned Kinder-brand chocolate eggs and in 2006, reminded retailers that the brand was banned when the eggs showed up again.
Officials from both agencies, which don't comment on specific companies, declined to comment on Choco Treasure. But no complaints against the brand have been registered with either agency. In 2011, the most recent year recorded, there were seven toy-related chocking deaths, reports the CPSC.
Candy Treasure took a different path with its product. The chocolate egg, itself, isn't whole. It's made in two pieces, wrapped around a plastic, toy-holding capsule, that don't quite connect. This way, the toy isn't technically inside the chocolate. Rather, it's two pieces of chocolate separated by plastic.
"Our toys are safe for all ages," Gass says. Among its products: all sorts of plastic critters, even a tiny deck of playing cards.
The former Colgate-Palmolive executive says he and a business partner got the idea while working in Europe several years ago. "It's huge in Europe," he says. "It's eye-opening to see how passionate people are there about chocolate eggs with toy surprises."
The company hopes to replicate that European success, he says, but with a "safe" product that "meets U.S. guidelines." The chocolate is Swiss-made. The plastic balls are from Turkey. The toys inside are made in China.
Beyond its Easter version, the company also sells chocolate Christmas ornaments with toys inside, as well chocolate Halloween Jack-o-Lanterns with toys inside. There's even a chocolate Spiderman head with a toy.