2005 All-Candy Expo Features Indulgent Treats

At this year’s All Candy Expo, the recent charge of the lite brigade was challenged by indulgence.

By Diane Toops, News and Trends Editor

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Teen pop group TGK likes their candy. From left to right: Gina Thomas is a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup aficionado, David Wolf craves lots of Nerds Ropes, James Foley thrives on Butterfinger Crisps and Ivette Thomas likes her break to include Take Five.

Candy lovers recently gathered to sample the latest offerings at All Candy Expo, sponsored by the National Confectioners Assn. (NCA), and held in my hometown, Chicago, each year (for which I'm eternally grateful).

Attendees were entertained with the sweet sounds and eye candy of up-and-coming teen pop group TGK, the new spokespersons (replacing 'N Sync) for TeenCentral.net. It's a safe Internet resource to help kids face and overcome life's daily challenges.

Confectionery manufacturers are brilliant at creating buzz - both literally and figuratively - and it resulted in $26.3 billion in sales during 2004. They keep the category fresh by introducing scores of limited edition products, new flavor combinations and creative concepts to engage consumers of all ages. "One thousand new products were introduced last year, and the success rate was 25 percent," says Larry Graham, president of NCA.

Combining candy and fitness may seem like an oxymoron, but the combo increasingly sweetens the bottom line for innovative confectioners. Consumers spend some $3 billion annually on energy bars, drinks and gels, so maybe it's no surprise to see Sports Beans from Jelly Belly. Each 1-oz. serving contains vitamins C and E and 120 mg of electrolytes to boost energy and prevent dehydration.

Meanwhile, at the bar, Hershey's Smart Zone-crunchy chocolate brownie flavor is balanced with proteins, nutrients and reduced carbs. House of Brussels Chocolates subsidiary Chocomed's real chocolate-covered 24/7 all-natural nutrition bar offers a carb, dietary fat and protein ratio of 40/30/30 and tastes like an indulgent candy bar. Or you can fast track with XLR8 Energy Chews, made by BestSweet Inc., endorsed by stock car racing icon Dale Earnhardt Jr. The tasty chews are made with caffeine, guarana and ginseng (three equal one can of Red Bull).

Taking the Red Bull by the horns (minus the sugar) are Big Sky's Warp mints, hypercharged with guarana and ginseng, or sugar-free Blitz Energy Gum, containing 100 mg of caffeine (about the same as a cup of coffee), by Schuster Marketing Corp. Other offerings include Myntz! Green Tea (extract) with Ginseng Breath Mints from Vitech America, Lotte's Green Tea Mint Sugarless chewing gum or Nutra-Trim gum containing green tea, l-carnitine, chromium picolinate and guarana, which claims to boost metabolism and control appetite to help you lose weight.

With the number of diabetics in the U.S. at 18 million - some 6 percent of the population - and aging baby boomers trying to lose weight, sugar-free options continue to proliferate. Last year, sugar-free candy sales were up 60 percent. Hershey's reformulated its line of sugar-free chocolates to have a creamier, richer taste, and added sugar-free Twizzlers and Reese's White Peanut Butter Cup miniatures to its lineup.

Russell Stover Candies' Whitman's Weight Watchers Mint Patties and English Toffee Squares stress portion control. One mini-bar garners only one point on the Weight Watcher's scale.

Dark chocolate took the stage this year - the darker the better. Hershey kicks off its limited edition offerings with Almond Joy Chocolate Chocolate and Pina Colada flavors and Hershey Double Chocolate Bar (milk chocolate filled with dark chocolate). Masterfoods debuts Twix Caramel White Chocolate Cookie Bars and Ice Cream Flavored M&M's. Tootsie Roll offers Junior Mints Inside Outs (dark chocolate inside and a white coating outside). Chocolate also appeared, apparently for the first time, in a chewing gum: Choco'la from O'Lala Foods Inc.

Other flavors du jour include mint, orange, cinnamon, caramel, banana, honey, licorice, blueberry, raspberry and strawberry, and flavors in general are more intense. Jelly Belly's "rookie" flavors include Apricot, Buttered Toast, Chocolate Cherry Cake, Honey Graham Cracker and Tabasco-flavored Cinnamon. It also debuted Jelly Belly Mint Trio (a medley of spearmint, peppermint and wintergreen) and Jelly Belly Baked Beans, a tribute to the slow-cooked beans served at Fenway Park in Boston.

Tootsie Roll goes tropical with its Tootsie Roll Tropical Storms Tootsie Pops in Berry-Berry Punch, Orange-Pineapple, Lemon-Lime, Strawberry Banana and Citrus-Punch - but there's still a chewy Tootsie Roll inside. Poppycock, from Lincoln Snacks, added a Peanut Butter and Chocolate variety. Adults can take a gamble with Sin City Suckers, lollipops shaped like dice with handpainted dots in Grape of Spades or Pina*Co*Slatta flavors, made by Sin City Suckers. Giving a presentation? Quench Gum, by Mueller, stimulates your salivary glands to eliminate dry mouth.

Lindt & Springli Inc.'s Lindt Intense Pear Dark Chocolate, with real pear pieces combined with almonds and covered with dark chocolate is a divine indulgence. Coffee perks up Madelaine Chocolate Novelties' Latte and Espresso cups - edible truffle cups with coffee-flavored ganache. The outer shell of DeFranco's Espresso Secrets cradles a burst of authentic espresso coffee hidden inside.

Wolfgang's Natural Blueberries and Raspberries dipped in dark chocolate are made with a patent-pending process making the individually wrapped pieces shelf stable. For those who prefer lighter fare, Brach's Confections Orchard Fresh line features real fruit puree centers of Cherry, Strawberry and Blueberry covered in milk chocolate. Kookaburry Liquorice combines two unexpected flavors in its Kookaburra Chocolate Covered "Old Fashioned" Black Liquorice. Darrell Lea offers mango, strawberry and green apple licorice varieties. Black current is coming soon to the line, which the movie character Crocodile Dundee favored.

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