A death brings more cash,risk for co

Society: Skittles,the candy Trayvon Martin was carrying when he was shot,has become a cultural icon

Written by New York Times | New York | Published: March 30, 2012 12:35 am

KIM SEVERSON

Skittles are the candy of the moment.

Rashaun Collins,who owns the Discreetly Greek T-shirt company in Minnesota,slips a pack into every order he ships. At Spelman College,the historically black women’s liberal arts school in Atlanta,the student government is buying Skittles in bulk and reselling them for 50 cents a bag to raise money for the family of Trayvon Martin,the teenager who was killed by a crime watch volunteer in Sanford,Florida,last month carrying only a packet of the candy and a bottle of iced tea.

The candy has been piled into makeshift memorials,crammed into the pockets of thousands of people who have shown up at rallies in his name and sent to the Sanford Police to protest the lack of an arrest.

Like the hoodie sweatshirt he was wearing,the candy has been transformed into a cultural icon,a symbol of racial injustice that underscores Trayvon’s youth and the circumstances surrounding his death. But in the offices of the company that makes Skittles,Wrigley,and its parent company,Mars,Skittles’ new level of fame has quickly become a kind of marketing crisis that is threatening to hurt the firm even as sales improve.

Like Twinkie — whose poor nutritional value ended up as a legal defense in the 1978 murders of San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone — Skittles has entered the elite world of food products that have become symbols through no fault of theirs.

For its part,Wrigley has said it is saddened,respects the family’s privacy and feels “it inappropriate to get involved or comment further as we would never wish for our actions to be perceived as an attempt of commercial gain following this tragedy.”

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