All Candy Expo 2007, sponsored by the Vienna, Va.-based National Confectioners Association (NCA), brought out the inner child of more than 480 exhibitors and 15,000 candy and snack professionals in attendance.
There were two firsts this year. First, the 11th annual show, held in September, opened the new easy-to-navigate West Building at Chicago's McCormick Place, a 450,000-sq.-ft. venue (comparable to 14 football fields). Second, non-candy snack manufacturers were invited to join the fun and tout their new products - cookies, crackers, breakfast bars, fruit snacks, nuts, chips, pretzels and meat snacks. Altogether, there were more than 2,000 new products on display, and we were delighted to sample them.
"It's all about sweets and snacks" was the global theme of the largest confectionery, cookie and snack show in the Americas. Confectionery products are the third largest food category sold in the U.S., just behind carbonated beverages and milk, and sales represent $7.8 billion in major U.S. retail channels including food, drug, mass and convenience stores. Salty snacks account for just over half of total snack sales at No. 4 with $7.2 billion, and cookies rank seventh with $3.9 billion in annual retail sales.
In 2006, 2,910 new confectionary and 2,711 snack, cookie and cracker products debuted. It's notable that consumers eat at least four snacks a day, accounting for more than 6.5 billion lbs. of snack food annually.
There's no doubt 2007-2008 promises to be an exciting year for new confectionary products. Demand for natural, organic, premium, sustainable and environmentally friendly were the buzzwords. There was less conversation about health and wellness in confectionary products than last year, but companies are investing in portion control, energy and ingredients that promote inner and outer beauty.
One example was M&M Dove's upcoming Beautiful, milk chocolate with vitamins C&E, biotin and zinc, and Vitalize, dark chocolate with B vitamins and plant sterols. An interesting new line from Denmark is Toms Confectionary Group's chocolate therapy line in Drive, Focus and Wellness varieties. They're made with 72 percent cacao and contain yerba mate, Schisandra berries, green tea and ginger.
Flavors du jour included licorice, pistachio, watermelon, cinnamon, mango and green tea. Hershey even showcased Kisses made with green tea, which are popular in China. And they are surprisingly tasty. For the holidays, you'll be able to find Hot Cocoa kisses.
On a timely note, Atkinson's launches a new line of hard candies proudly proclaiming themselves "Made in the USA." "It's about taking pride in American candy," says President Eric Atkinson. "We took a great deal of time and care choosing the look and flavors for this new hard candy line."
Big news at the show was delivered by dynamic Mars Snackfood President Todd Lachman, who stated in no uncertain terms the company's stand on the issue of chocolate's standard of identity. There are proposals before the FDA to relax the U.S. definition and to allow chocolate on the labels of products made with less expensive ingredients, such as vegetable oil, palm oil and milk substitutes rather than cocoa butter and real milk. For those of you who don't know, 30 to 50 percent of a chocolate bar is cocoa butter.
"We will not lower the bar on chocolate," he says. "Mars is fully committed to chocolate's (current) standard of identity." Noting that consumers overwhelmingly are opposed to the change, Lachman emphatically says, "When they have chocolate, they want it to be real, authentic," adding "the consumer is our boss."
Diane's exhaustive report on new candy and snack products, organized by the trends they follow, is on our web site at www.foodprocessing.com/articles/2007/268.html.