It's a sweet life

America's love affair with confectionery is growing--and in new directions

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Attendees at the All Candy Expo 2002 in Chicago had their usual fill of indulgent chocolate, mints, candy and novelty items. But this year, the big buzz wasn't caused by sugar. It was about the proliferation of sugar-free or low-calorie products.

 

Over all, Americans' love affair with confectionery continues to ratchet up. Last year 1,400 new confectionary products rolled out. Of those, 639 were chocolate-based and 72 were gum. Despite economic and political uncertainties over the past year, consumption grew 2.4 percent to $24.5 billion , a much stronger gain than at the close of 2001, according to the Vienna, Va.-based National Confectionery Association (NCA). Chocolate was up 2.3 percent, followed by gum (1.7 percent), particularly sugar-free gum, which grew 7.9 percent.

 

"Candy has always brought a little fun and joy to our lives despite what may be happening in the world that is beyond our control," says Larry Graham, president of NCA.  "A favorite candy can bring back pleasant memories and make us feel good, and candy always has been one of those small pleasures everyone can afford."

 

It's notable that many sub-categories outperformed the overall confectionery category.

Sales of sugar-free/diet candies rose 23 percent, caramel and taffy were up 13 percent and licorice, non-chocolate chewy candies and plain mints grew 6 percent. Single-serve chocolate bars led chocolate sales with a 4 percent increase and sugar-free gum chewed its way up the charts by 8 percent.

 

Spurred by concerns about obesity, and by growing numbers of diabetics, sugar-free and dietetic candy sales are expected to surge to double digits in 2003. Low-carb alternatives and antioxidants in chocolate also are expected to boost the category. SoBe's HVC Brands introduced Z Carb, an indulgent chocolate bar with zero carbs and zero sugar. It does include protein, probiotics and antioxidants. Southwest Foods scooped up LeCarb frozen dessert sweetened with Splenda. Russell Stover added a line of low-carb chocolates.

 

Less is more

 

Hershey Foods Corp. introduced sugar-free Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Sugar Free Hershey's chocolate line. Nestle featured sugar-free versions of its Nips and Turtles. Innovative Candy Concepts' touted its sugar-free Sinfully Delicious candy bites and a line of Guilt Free candy made with aspartame and manitol. Even Pop Rocks Inc. added a sugar-free version, as did Brown & Haley, makers of Almond Roca. Simply Lite Foods Corp. rolled out Equal Perfect Pleasures hard candy, taking advantage of its Equal sweetener brand awareness. Wilbur Chocolates, a business unit of Cargill Inc., spread the news about its high-fiber and calcium-enriched Sugar-Free Coatings.

 

Chew on this

 

Cadbury Adams USA LLC spiced up the Dentyne brand with the introduction of Dentyne Fire, an intensely flavored cinnamon, sugar-free gum, while Perfetti Van Melle charged in with Mentos Newcharge gum, a sugar-free microgum that delivers intense fresh breath controlled by the chewee, who chooses the quantity that will meet their breath-freshening needs. Olala Foods' sugarless (sorbitol and Splenda) Choco'la Chocolate gum , the first chocolate-flavored gum debuted. Schuster Marketing Corp. rolled out Blitz Sugar Free Power gum and Blitz Stoked Power Mints, the only mint sweetened exclusively with Splenda and positioned for kids.

 

It's notable that in the three months ended May 18, 2003, Johnson & Johnson's McNeil Nutritionals' Splenda captured 33.7 percent of U.S. supermarket sales, reports The Akron Beacon Journal, citing Information Resources Inc. figures. Merisant's Equal (the category leader) was reported at a 27.2 percent share and Cumberland Packing Corp.'s Sweet'N Low had 18.5 percent.

 

If all else fails

 

Hollywood Dessert Sprays, designed to curb one's appetite, are an interesting line. If you're hungry, you can spray Wedding Cake, Strawberry Cheesecake, Mint Chocolate or Chocolate Cake flavor in your mouth. No calories, no fat, and you can indulge in rich creamy desserts all day without guilt.

 

Next time, chocoholics unite

 

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