“Savoy Truffle,” an ode to candy written by George Harrison and performed by the Beatles on their White Album, was inspired by Eric Clapton’s notorious sweet tooth and his predilection for all things chocolate.
Apparently he’s not the only one who loves chocolate. In fact, in 2007, some 1,800 new confectionery products containing chocolate debuted, and the category is still going strong. Sales of premium chocolate grew more than 30 percent this year alone, and dark chocolate sales increased more than 50 percent, according to Information Resources Inc. (IRI).
All Candy Expo 2008, the largest candy and snack show in North America (and the most fun show I go to), unveiled more than 2,000 new confectionery creations and snack sensations May 20-22 at Chicago’s McCormick Place. Representing the $275 billion industry, the National Confectioners Assn. brought together industry experts and more than 450 manufacturers to preview new products and determine the hottest trends for the coming year for some 15,000 attendees from 69 countries.
Master Chocolatier Joseph Schmidt of San Francisco-based Artisan Confections delighted attendees with an awe-inspiring display of chocolate-art design. His extraordinary works of art included chocolate flowers, chocolate vases and paper-thin chocolate bowls, all decorated in breath-taking detail.
Nearly 30 percent of U.S. confectionery retail sales are generated by products less than two years old. So, in 2007, 3,261 new confectionery and 4,168 snack products debuted, according to Datamonitor’s Productscan database.
In the past 52 weeks, confectionery sales increased 3.4 percent in all trade channels reported (food, drug, convenience stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart), according to IRI. Sales were led by the gum category (up 11.8 percent). Sales also surged in the sugar-free category, which posted a 20 percent increase. Chocolate figures increased 2.6 percent, while non-chocolate candy sales declined by 0.2 percent. Licorice was up more than 10 percent, and the soft and chewy category rose 6 percent.
“Nearly all American households – 97 percent to be exact – purchase confections,” said Carolyn Hendriksma, Hershey Co.’s senior director of U.S. insights and advanced analytics. She shared the podium in a discussion of consumer trends with Jill Manchester, vice president of immediate consumption at Kraft Foods. “Consumers buy candy or chocolate every 18 days, and 60 percent of purchases are unplanned.”
“Confectionery products account for 34.4 percent of snacks purchased by consumers in the U.S. marketplace,” added Manchester. “Salty snacks constitute 22.8 percent of the snacking marketplace, and the $2.1 billion segment is growing at a rate of 3.6 percent led by Frito-Lay and private label brands.” And she added, “People are looking for more nutrition in their snacks.”
Exhibitors went ga-ga over gum with benefits. According to a study by Nielsen Co., functional products such as gum with whitening offer big growth potential. Innovation (healthier, longer-lasting and unique flavor pairings) is sticking, and it’s becoming more acceptable to chew gum in public.
Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. – which is being acquired by Mars Inc. -- rolled out Eclipse gum and mints, which include magnolia bark extract, a natural ingredient that helps kill the germs that cause bad breath. Cadbury Adams LLC rolled out Trident Xtra Care, formulated with Recaldent, to help replace lost minerals in teeth and protect them from decay and erosion.
Personalization was another hot trend. One of my favorite offerings is not a traditional retail product; you have to order it online. Mars Snackfood U.S. takes its already popular special-order M&Ms beyond messages or custom colors. Now you can have your own picture (or photo of your kids or pets) custom-printed on M&M's chocolate candies. And you can add a short message on the other side.
I took samples to a class of 450 seventh- and eight-graders and they literally fought over them. They say they will use them for their proms, weddings and other important occasions. Upload a photo at MyMms.com, create a message and choose from about 17 colors.
Customization was the message from The Hershey Co. as well. You can now create your own chocolate Kisses from a collection of messages, and soon you will be able create original messages.
Although healthy snacks -- such as granola bars, fruit snacks, baked snacks and 100-calorie packs -- is a much smaller category, it is growing faster than regular snacks. Sugar-free, all-natural and portion-control products are becoming more popular. The health benefits of dark chocolate, for instance, now are part of consumer consciousness. And responsible sourcing is more evident.
Energy-enhancing confections and snacks also were popping up at the show. So was flavor fusion -- savory and sweet combinations, sour and tropical fruit, chocolate and fruit. Overall flavors of the moment seemed to be blueberry, cranberry and banana and the healthy pomegranate (Chicago’s Tootsie Roll soon will be introducing pomegranate-flavored pops).
Younger consumers can look forward to more intensely sour powered treats to pucker their mouths. Nestle’s Wonka Tinglerz, a poppin’ tinglin’ popping candy, will debut this fall. And the boys who will be boys can bring to class lollypops filled with bugs from the Hotlix Co., Grover Beach, Calif. The candies are filled with edible mealworms, crickets, butterflies and, my favorite, scorpions.
Some of our favorite All Candy Expo 2008 offerings include:
Fun for the tongue
Delivering a juicy explosion in every bite, Hackettstown, N.J.-based Mars Snackfoods US’s Starburst GummiBursts let you enjoy the original fruity flavors of Starburst with a liquid filled twist. Four fruity flavors include: strawberry, cherry, orange and lemon.
Pop Rocks Inc., Atlanta, offers Pop Rocks 2 Piece Mega Bar, two pieces of real milk chocolate mixed with crackling Pop Rocks for a tasty treat that melts on your tongue and pops in your mouth.
Some people are offended by the name Nuclear Sludge, from Indianapolis-based Candy Dynamics, which expanded its franchise with Nuclear Sludge Sour Bars in green apple, blue raspberry and cherry. What they don’t know is the company is an environmentally conscious organization that promotes awareness of the environment and a cleaner planet throughout all its marketing efforts.
If you are a fan of Nerds, pebble-like hard candies that come in two separated flavors in a rectangular box, Glendale, Calif.-based Nestle Confections and Snack Division’s Wonka has expanded the idea with Giant Chewy Nerds, using Nerds candy as a coating for mini jelly beans, thus creating a giant, chewy Nerd.
Gum innovation and fun
Cadbury Adams USA LLC, Parsippany, N.J., combines fresh and fruity in its Trident gum portfolio with Passionberry Twist (sweet flavors of passionfruit, blackberry and raspberry combined with spearmint). A hot trend in fashion, orange is stepping off the runway and into full flavored gum. Cadbury’s Stride introduces Always Mandarin orange-flavored gum.
With the growing popularity of fruit-flavored gum, Chicago’s Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. introduces Extra Fruit Sensations in four, long-lasting fruit flavors, including Banana Berry, Berry Pearadise, Island Cooler and Sweet Watermelon. Packaged in a contemporary-looking Slim Pack envelope with 15 sticks, the line carries the American Dental Assn. Seal of Acceptance, which shows chewing these sugar-free gums can help maintain good oral health.
Erlanger. Ky.-based Perfetti Van Melle USA Inc.’s Mentos Gum brings excitement to the chewing gum category with mouth-watering flavors, a unique round shape, crispy outer shell and brightly colored “pocket bottles” in three flavors: Spearmint, Red Fruit + Lime, and Peppermint.
Experience the Just Brushed Clean Feeling all day long while you enjoy new sugar-free Orbit White Fruit Sorbet gum, a mixed fruit sorbet sensation that whitens teeth while you chew from Wrigley.
Au’some Inc., Monmouth Junction, N.J., debuted Nintendo Wii Klik-on Candy Dispenser and candies. Just load-up this mock Wii controller candy dispenser and push the button to eat.
Complete with the official Nintendo seal, it lets you enjoy the fun of Wii and the sweet tastes of Smarties Bubble Gum and Au’some tart candies, which are both included in the pack.
Get in tune with Hannah Montana Glamour Guitar Lollipops, a two-pack punch with one sweet and one sour guitar pop in two flavors, blue raspberry and watermelon from Imaginings 3, Niles, Ill.
Fun Time, Matoon, Ill., has come up with a Fun Time Candy Kit combining Pop Rock-like candy with a sour spray candy in an easily portable container for kids that have a short attention span.
Twists on candy favorites
Pez has gone chocolate! Grab your favorite dispenser and enjoy the same great iconic candy you loved as a kid, but with an all new chocolaty flavor experience with Pez Chocolate, courtesy of Pez Candies Inc., Orange, Conn.
Forest Park, Ill. -based Ferrara Pan Candy Co.’s Lemonhead Chewy is packed with the same great lemon flavor you know and love, but are now in an easy to chomp, chewy candy.
World of chocolate
For the first time, Mars is tinkering (in a good way) with the formula for its M&M’s with the new M&M's Premiums line. The chocolate is enrobed in thin, jewel-toned shimmering shells (a patented process). Premiums are sophisticated looking, mouthwatering and sure to appeal to adults. Flavors include Raspberry Almond, Chocolate Almond, Triple Chocolate, Mint Chocolate and Mocha.
A decadent offering, Hershey’s Bliss chocolate offers three savory selections for any palate: Smooth & Creamy Milk Chocolate, Rich & Creamy Dark Chocolate and Milk Chocolate with a Meltaway Center.
For an explosive taste sensation, try ChocoPods Firecracker from Chuao Chocolatier, Carlsbad, Calif. The 60 percent dark chocolate shell is filled with chipotle chili, salt and a “tongue-bursting” center sure to excite, surprise and arouse the senses. Lindt & Sprungli, Stratham, N.H., rolled out the Lindt Excellence Chili bar, which infuses fine, dark chocolate with the essence of red chili pepper. The mild, delicate cocoa flavor gradually gives way to a full-bodied, spicy touch of premium red chili.
Adding to its chocolate portfolio, San Leandro, Calif.-based Ghirardelli Chocolate Co. offers Milk & Peanut Butter Bar, gourmet milk chocolate squares filled with peanut butter. The new creation is finished with fine peanuts roasted to perfection. And new to the Ghirardelli Intense Dark line, Midnight Reverie is made of 86 percent cacao for a passionate, dark chocolate taste.
An American classic of its own right, Russell Stover, Kansas City, Mo., honors the red, white and blue with three classic taste twists. Take a deep dive into the south with the new Mississippi Mud Truffle, a rich, dark chocolate truffle center drenched with an even denser, dark chocolate shell. Or try the Southern Pecan Chocolate Torte or New York Cheesecake Ganache.
Supporting both social causes and personal needs, Salem, Mass.-based Bloomsberry & Co. chocolates were developed to spark a call-to-action and calm the senses. The Climate Change Chocolate bar is an all-natural, premium milk chocolate (34 percent cocoa) bar that comes with a verified TerraPass offset of 133 pounds of carbon dioxide reductions, the average American’s daily carbon impact. It also provides 15 helpful hints for saving energy and the carbon emissions associated with the production and distribution of the bar. The company also debuted Beauty-Bar/Think Chocolate, all-natural premium dark chocolate (55 percent cocoa) bars, with an exotic, playful taste created in New Zealand and formulated to make you feel gorgeous on the inside.
Organic chocolate from Green & Black’s, Parsippany, N.J., includes flavors that delight -- almond, caramel, white and milk chocolate, ginger, cherry, mint, espresso and two types of dark chocolate. And they let us taste two flavors – Gingerbread and Spiced Fruit not yet available in the U.S.
Caramels with a twist
Toffee candy that is whimsical, eye-catching and developed with a unique, old-fashioned recipe for a classic toffee taste, Clifton, N.J.-based LaLaBoodle’s offers distinctive flavors of LaLaBoodle’s old fashioned Toffee in flavors of the South -- Bananas Foster, Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Almond Brickle, Bourbon Pecan and Macadamia Nut.
Crown Candies, Macon, Ga., debuted Tequila Nuggets, which are very sweet caramels, but with less than 4 percent alcohol in each one, there’s no danger of getting loopy.
With the fruit flavor bursts of strawberry, orange, lemon and cherry, Sunkist Better for You! Fruit Gummies by Commack, N.Y.-based Healthy Food Brands are made with natural fruit juices and packed with 100 percent of your daily dose of vitamin C and 35 percent less sugar than some other gummi candies.
Individually wrapped and with only one Weight Watchers point a piece, Weight Watchers Double Chocolate Mousse patties by Russell Stover/Whitman’s, are a delicious low-calorie indulgence.
Austrian-grown soy beans are roasted in fresh batches and then covered with Exclusive Belgian milk chocolate, creating Organic Soy-Snack by Landgarten USA LLC, South Elgin, Ill. This certified organic snack is naturally rich in soy protein and a good source of calcium and fiber.
GoNaturally Organic Hard Candies, from Hillside Candy, Hillside, N.J., are sweetened with brown rice syrup, cane sugar and juice. Kosher and organic, they are also gluten-free, contain no corn syrup, FD&C colors or hydrogenated oils. kosher and organic.
With a soft fig filling, draped with dark chocolate, and packed with antioxidants, the organic, low-fat, high-fiber, all natural Figamajigs from Melzy Enterprises Inc., Petaluma, Calif., come in delectable chocolate covered bite-size figs, or a chewy fig bar in original and natural raspberry flavors.
Authentic and fresh, Craves by Best Regards, Olathe, Kan., is the perfect balance of signature blend chocolate, dried cranberries and just enough all natural orange for a sweet and tangy gourmet experience.
If you think fish doesn’t belong in chocolate, think again. Maramor Chocolates, Columbus, Ohio, introduced Maramor’s omega-3 chocolate. And thanks to a special process, you cannot tell the candy includes 315mg of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids.
Enjoy Life, Schiller Park, Ill., introduced allergy-friendly boom Choco boom bars, the first dairy-, nut- and soy-free chocolate bars made with rice milk.
We all scream for ice cream
Fairfield, Cal.-based Jelly Belly Candy Co. scoops up Jelly Belly Ice Cream Parlor Mix, which features signature decadent ice cream creation flavors of the Cold Stone Creamery including Chocolate Devotion, Our Strawberry Blonde, Birthday Cake Remix, Mint Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip and Apple Pie a la Cold Stone.
For a creamy ice cream indulgence you can enjoy every day, dip into Baskin-Robbins new Soft Candy, available in two Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavors -- Mint Chocolate Chip and Very Berry Strawberry. Each creamy delight comes individually wrapped in foil and packaged in a theater-size box from BestSweet Inc., Moorsville, N.C.
Crackheads may not be the most politically correct name for a candy. But the candy's inventor, John Osmanski, Osmanium Inc., Milwaukee, insists that the name for his chocolate-covered espresso beans was inspired by his caffeine-addicted college professors.
VE2 Energy Gum was debuted by John Katsoulis. Miami-based VE2 Energy already has it in some Miami-area outlets, but is looking to take it national with the help of the show. He said that two pieces of the gum, two years in the making, contain as much natural caffeine as a single energy drink or a cup of coffee. “It is a great delivery system,” Katsoulis said. “You don’t lose functionally as much as if you ingest it.”
GumRunners LLC, Jersey City, N.J., displayed GumRunners' new product, Nutra-Trim Gum. It's a weight management chewing gum, meaning it contains ingredients to help control your appetite and increase your metabolism.
American mom-owned How Do You Take Your Coffee Inc., Reno, Nev., rolls out Roboostas, a delicious chocolate bar that is naturally fortified with coffee beans -- about 2mg of naturally occurring caffeine, a wonderful way to get beaned!
Called a “beer-o-vation” breakthrough, Beer Chips from Beer Chips LLC, Portland, Ore., are thick-cut kettle style chips are made with a serious coating of salt and sugar, and then covered with a dose of beer.
Boulder, Colo.-based Thanasi Foods LLC rolled out Frank’s RedHot Sausage Sticks, Franks’s RedHot Chile ‘n Lime Sausage Sticks and Franks RedHot Chile ‘n Lime Steak Strips.
The Inventure Group, Atlanta, debuted Boulder Canyon Natural Foods Rice & Adzuki Bean snack chips in natural salt and chipotle cheese
Enjoyable year-round, Just Born Inc., Bethlehem, Pa., offered seasonal Peeps marshmallow candies. Spread cheer during the Christmas holidays with Joy Peeps by literally eating the marshmallow letters J, O and Y. Get spooky for Halloween with white marshmallow Ghost Peeps and orange Sugar-Free Pumpkins, or put a spring in your step with new spring Orange Chick Peeps or Chocolate Mousse flavored Bunnies. And spread the love on Valentine’s Day with Peeps Chocolate Mouse flavored Bears.