NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Ugly. Inferior. Cocoa confection catastrophe.
Bakers had sharp words for the Hershey Company this month after buying bags of Hershey's Kisses, a popular adornment on holiday cookies, only to discover a flaw that was small in size but a giant eyesore: The tip was missing on each piece of chocolate.
Instead of sloping into a rounded conical peak, these chocolates were topped with an unsightly jagged edge.
A spokesman for Hershey said in a statement this week that the company was "taking this very seriously". It was not clear how many Kisses were affected.
"We make more than 70 million Kisses a day here in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and we want each of them looking as great as they taste," Jeff Beckman, the spokesman, said.
An operations team at the company was "working to improve the appearance because it's as important to us as it is to our fans". he added.
The problem was noted by Debbie Sheetz of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, in a Dec 3 post in The Wedding Cookie Table Community Facebook group.
Sheetz shared a picture of her peanut butter blossoms, each featuring a tipless Hershey's Kiss in the middle.
"They baked OK but not with the nice pointy tip that I'm used to or expect from Hershey," she wrote, later adding, "I'm still steaming!!"
Other bakers began to respond. They, too, had bought bags of Kisses with missing tips. What in the name of sweet confection was going on?
On Facebook, Hershey responded to individual complaints from bakers in several states, saying that the company was looking into it.
Last Wednesday (Dec 19), Hershey used the broken tips to deliver a message about diversity.
The social media post showed Kisses of different varieties alongside ones with missing tips: "Warm hearts this holiday season and take the time to celebrate our differences," it said.
This did not satisfy the buyers of the tipless Kisses.
"American bakers want to have real answers: What happened, why it happened, what *exactly* they are going to do about it, and when we may expect a resolution to the problem," Tamsen DiBlasio, a home baker in Baltimore, wrote in a Facebook post last Thursday.
She was making peanut butter blossoms this month for a holiday gathering when she noticed all of the tips of the Hershey's Kisses were gone - the remnants nowhere to be found.
"What in the world?" she recalled thinking. In an interview on Saturday, DiBlasio said she and other bakers would like an apology "for being sold defective products at top dollar".
Approximately 2 per cent of inquiries the company received this month were about the broken tips, Beckman said on Saturday.
Hershey receives about 8,000 calls a month. Only solid chocolate Kisses were affected, not the filled kisses, which are made by a different production process, he said.
All of the solid Kisses distributed in the United States are made in Hershey, Pennsylvania, he added.
Hershey's Kisses were introduced in the early 1900s and have become synonymous with its billion-dollar brand. By 2014, an image of a Kiss had been incorporated into the company's logo.
Beckman did not indicate what might have caused the problem except to say that "there are many variables" in the production process.
DiBlasio, 56, who has been baking with Hershey's Kisses for more than 30 years and toured the Hershey plant as a child, said it's a candy that has always been close to her heart. That's why seeing the broken tips on her peanut butter blossoms made her sad.
"Some people might say, 'My goodness, just eat the cookie, there are bigger things to worry about in life,'" DiBlasio said.
"At the same time, it's Christmas and you're putting your best foot forward."