More than 2,000 new confectionery creations and snack sensations were unveiled in May at McCormick Place in Chicago at the All Candy Expo, the largest confectionery and snack show in America. It’s sponsored by the Washington-based National Confectioners Assn. (NCA), which is celebrating its 125th birthday this year.
I know what you are thinking: “I wish I had your job.” It is undoubtedly the most joyful and delicious of all food shows to meander through.
All Candy Expo 2009 attracted 14,000 attendees and more than 450 confectionery and snack exhibitors from around the world. Those two categories -- confectionery and snacks -- represent $275 billion in retail sales.
“New products are the lifeblood of the confectionery and snack industries,” says Tom Joyce, vice president of customer and industry affairs for Hershey Co., Hershey, Pa. In fact, products launched in the past two years account for nearly 30 percent of U.S. confectionery retail sales.
In 2008, 3,345 confectionery products were introduced, according to Datamonitor’s online database of new product SKUs. Of those, 1,873 were chocolate, 1,291 were non-chocolate and 181 were gum (led by sugar-free). On the snack front, 3,121 new products debuted including cookies (777), crackers (228), potato chips (434), popcorn (127), nuts and seeds (307), cereal bars (430 and other snacks (818 pretzels, puffed snacks, fruit snacks and meat snacks).
Even though we are still in a recession, dollar sales in the confectionery category grew 3.7 percent in food, drug and mass outlets for the 52-week-period ending April 19, according to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. Salty snack sales grew 9.7 percent during the same period and the miscellaneous snack category grew an incredible 27.7 percent boosted by a number of “healthy” snacks.
Confectionery sales were led by gum sales, with an increase of 6.1 percent, followed by chocolate candy with a 3.7 percent increase and non-chocolate candy with a 2.4 percent boost, according to NCA.
Speaking of the recession, Mars Snackfood U.S. comes to our aid with the Mars Real Chocolate Relief Act, a nationwide effort to bring sweet smiles to millions of Americans via free, full-sized samples of Mars real chocolate candies, product discounts and coupons. With the proclamation of Free Chocolate Fridays, Mars will give away a quarter of a million packages. Claim your share at RealChocolate.com each Friday beginning at 9 a.m. through the end of September.
“It’s our way of giving Americans a little relief during challenging times with free chocolate and reminding everyone that if it’s Mars, it’s real chocolate,” says President Todd Lachman. “Mars Snackfood U.S. chocolate brands do not compromise on the purity and authenticity of chocolate by diluting it with a cocoa butter substitute.”
Here are some of the most unique offerings
- From France is Le Whif, developed by David Edwards, a Harvard professor, who helped develop inhalable insulin, and founder of Le Laboratoire. Le Whif is a modified inhaler using chocolate particles that are 80 to 300 microns — too big to enter the lungs. The gizmo coats the mouth with the taste of chocolate at less than 1 calorie, and eating by aerosol will certainly curtail your calories. You can purchase 24 Whif bundles (each bundle has four puffs) online for around $50. (www.lewhif.com). Flavors include: Plain Chocolate, Raspberry Chocolate, Mint Chocolate and Mango Chocolate. Think of the future food category possibilities for weight watchers.
- Belgian-based New Tree offers Alpha chocolate with flax seeds, which deliver 7.5g of omega-3s and crisped rice for crunch. Flavors include Thym (thyme), Piment (chili pepper) and Noir (dark).
- Speaking of flax: Organic Maramor Chocolates contain prebiotics from flax.
- Lusion LLC’s sugar-free VitaminMints, breath mints with B vitamins, vitamin C and E and selenium, are available in Peppermint, Cocoa and Sour Berry flavors.
- Das Foods introduced all-natural Das Lolli Lollipops to sweeten recession woes for adults. They come in Fab-O-Pom (pomegranate and orange), Caramel Me Happy (caramel and lavender), Naughty Ginger (ginger and lemon) and my favorite, Man Bait, a maple bacon lolli, which combines real smoky bacon bits and maple syrup.
- Chocolove chocolate bars include a love poem in each package for those of you anxious to please your sweetie.
- Chocoholics Divine Desserts wants to put a spell on you with its Chocolate Voodoo Doll, which comes with instructions for casting spells. Or you can thrill someone with New Orleans-based Aunt Sally's "Sugar & Spice" Creole Pralines with Tabasco sauce. You don’t taste the Tabasco right away; it lingers and slowly builds on your tongue and mouth, until you finally get the flavorful kick.
- Classy Candy Co. launches Karma Candy, made from the raw, unprocessed Indian berry amla combined with ginger and cinnamon. The vitamin C in the candy is 12 times more powerful than the ascorbic acid found in tablets – a perfect snack after your workout.
- Pastry chef Suzy has found the secret to making real Chocolate TruffleShooter Truffles and Chocolate Ganache. Shelf table at room temperature, each truffle is made with chocolate, real dairy cream and a touch of honey. They can be used in baking or are divine as a treat.
In the snack category Intoxi-Tators flavored potato chips are a hoot. These “cocktail-inspired” chips include Muy Macho Margarita (a touch of lime), Especially Spicy Bloody Mary and Plain Designated Driver.
We also loved Nature Valley Chex Mix in Spicy Szechuan and Teriyaki flavors, which debuted in C-stores. P&G debuted savory Pringles Bold Bites in Chipotle BBQ, Jalapeno Ranch and Zesty Parmesan Garlic.
Meanwhile, Sahale Snacks rolled out all-natural nut blend varieties in exotic flavors including: Sing Buri Cashews with Pineapple, Peanuts, Lemongrass and Mild Chinese Chili; Dauphine Walnuts with Blueberries, Bananas, Coconut, Ginger and Lavender; Ksar Pistachios with Sesame Seeds, Pepieitas Figs and Moroccan Harissa; Socorro Macadamia Nuts with Hazelnuts, Mango, Papaya and South Western Chipotle; Soledad Almonds with Apple, Flax Seeds, Dates, Balsamic Vinegar and Red Pepper; and Valdosta Pecans with Sweet Cranberries, Black Pepper and Orange Zest. Germack Pistachio Co. rolled out Castachio Nuts, a blend of roasted and salted Pistachios & Cashews.
Don’t abandon brand building during this recession, was the advice from Jason English, a research associate with J.P. Morgan. He pointed out sales and marketing strategies in the first five years after the 1980s recession had a huge impact on revenue percent growth. Companies that maintained sales and marketing efforts were rewarded with revenue increases of 275 percent, versus companies that cut marketing efforts (revenue up only 19 percent). It’s food for thought for all brand managers.
See you next year May 25-27 in Chicago for the Sweets & Snacks Expo, the new name for the show. I’m still working myself down off the ceiling, smiling all the way.