Even though sugar-free candy introductions proliferated this year, attendees at the All Candy Expo 2002 in Chicago had their fill of indulgent chocolate. According to the Vienna, Va.-based National Confectionery Association (NCA), sales of chocolate were up 2.3 percent in 2002, and single-serve chocolate bars led chocolate sales with a 4 percent increase. Gourmet dark chocolate continues to grow in popularity as chocolate connoisseurs learn the intricacies of the origin of chocolates. Brussels-based Leonidas brought its indulgent line to the show for the first time, reminding attendees that a little bit of chocolate indulgence is good for the soul.
Seattle Chocolates let us drink in its Cappuccino Truffle (for coffee aficionados) as well as its Peanut Butter Truffle, described as, "peanut butter divorces jelly and weds chocolate." Jelly Belly caused quite a stir with its button-shaped JBz, a pairing of chocolate centers with crunchy candy shells in 20 wow flavors. I've become addicted to Sizzling Cinnamon, which does sizzle on the tongue. Incidentally, it takes 10 to 14 days to make a JBz (but only a second to eat one).
Primarily known for its private label, fundraising programs, foodservice and contract manufacturing, World's Finest Chocolate Inc. brought samples of World's Finest Chocolate, its first branded retail line which launches in October. World's Finest is one of only 11 chocolate manufacturers nationwide that produces its own chocolate "from the cocoa bean to the bar."
Speaking of bars, Nestle has brought the magic of Toll House morsels into 2-oz. Nestle Toll House Candy Bars in Brownie and Cookie flavors; they are a fabulous-tasting extension that launches in September.
No one knows why Hershey's Kisses were so named, but we're told it was because of the sound and motion of the chocolate being deposited during the manufacturing process.
Hershey Foods Corp. rolled out limited edition Hershey's Kisses with Toffee and Almonds and Rich Dark (finally). I wish they weren't limited editions because they are both to die for.
Candy is dandy as a reward for both adults and kids. Kraft Foods introduced LifeSavers Fusions, traditional LifeSavers in dual flavors. As they melt in your mouth, the flavors change from one to the other. Ferrara Pan Candy Co. added Narbles, candy shells filled with fruit. Warp Mints' CO2 Carbonated Hard Candy includes CO2 and tastes carbonated. Finland-based Panda figured out how to fill licorice sticks with strawberry, banana and caramel flavors -- a unique concept. Most unusual was Ingy & IF Inc.'s Ingy's Carrot-Nut ice cream offering, made with real carrot puree. Ginger gives it a dessert kick.
There was a continuing explosion of Hispanic flavors exemplified by Skwinkles Tamarind, Chamoy and Mango Candy Straws, available from Lucas World, a Hispanic candy company purchased by Mars Inc.
Meanwhile, Malibu Toys illuminated the floor with its Flashin' Lix, which light up inside the lollipop. Geeef America Inc. dusted the aisles with Magic Dust Mist. Kids who love to mix everything together will enjoy combining two packets into a tray to make granular jelly. Concord Confections Inc. blew our minds as it celebrated Dubble Bubble's 75th anniversary with a traveling museum and Gourmet Flavored Dubble Bubble Gumballs. And we made our own Wack-O-Wax Lips using an in-booth wax machine. Just Born celebrated the 50th anniversary of Peeps with the introduction of Patriotic Peeps, white washed and dazzled with red and blue edible glitter. For the boys, gross wasn't quite as gross as usual, but we did see the occasional eyeball, ear, nose and bug-shaped candy. Glamour was the message for tween girls. Added Extras Inc. debuted its Candy Cosmetics Line. Containers of lip-gloss, nail polish and body glitter are packed with real candy.
"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." Amen!