Nova Scotia

Sobeys removes candies, Mondoux apologizes for 'barely legal' slogan

A Quebec-based confectionery company has apologized and Sobeys has removed a product from its shelves after a display for Sweet Sixteen candies advertised "barely legal levels of sweetness."

Candy company says display advertising ‘barely legal levels of sweetness’ was because of a translation error

A Quebec-based confectionery company has apologized and one of Canada’s largest grocers has removed a candy mix from its shelves after a display for Sweet Sixteen candies advertised 'barely legal levels of sweetness.' 1:05

A Quebec-based confectionery company has apologized and Sobeys has removed a product from its shelves after a display for Sweet Sixteen candies advertised "barely legal levels of sweetness."

The display for Mondoux's Sweet Sixteen candy was only available at the grocer's convenience stores and fuel locations in Atlantic Canada.

The words caught the attention of Ian Brodie when he made a stop at the Sobeys Express in Antigonish, N.S., on Monday.

"There was just something incredibly off-putting about it," he said.

"There's nothing inherently wrong with using sex to sell a product. But this is using keywords, or dog whistles."

Ian Brodie says using sex to sell is nothing new, but this marketing crossed a line. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

The term "barely legal" is frequently used to describe a pornography category that features very young and young-looking women.

"This is candy in the middle of a grocery store," Brodie said. "It's not something we should be winking at. It just normalizes it."

Brodie was one of several people who contacted Sobeys on social media to voice their concerns. Multiple Twitter users have said the marketing was problematic and sexualized teenagers.

In a statement Tuesday, Sobeys said it removed the displays and products from its convenience stores and gas stations in Atlantic Canada.

"We were made aware of the product marketing for Sweet Sixteen candy yesterday evening and took immediate action," spokesperson Natasha Compton said in an email. "The marketing campaign for this product is not inline with our values at Sobeys Inc."

Brodie said he's glad Sobeys responded to the situation quickly.

"There is the question of how it got this far — how they approved it to be in their stores to begin with — but they recognized something was wrong," he said.

Mondoux blames translation error; hires new marketing agency

A written statement from Confiserie Mondoux, which operates primarily in French, said the message on the displays occurred as a result of a translation error.

"We care about the message we send to our loyal clientele and we take full responsibility for the situation. Please note that we have awarded our marketing work to a new agency since this deplorable incident occurred," said vice-president of sales Mathieu Pilon.

"We are truly sorry for any inconvenience this situation has caused to our retailers and clients."

The statement said Mondoux, which sells products in Quebec, Atlantic Canada, Ontario, Western Canada and Nunavut, has pulled the displays of the Sweet Sixteen brand from stores.

The original French wording said, "Avec un classique, tu t'trompes pas," which loosely translates as, "With a classic, you can never go wrong."

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About the Author

Alex Cooke

Reporter/editor

Alex is a reporter living in Halifax. Send her story ideas at alex.cooke@cbc.ca.

With files from Matthew Moore

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