America's love for chocolate cannot be stopped, and manufacturers uncovered more and more delicious treats to cover with chocolate. While local gourmands may seek out chocolate-covered bacon and mushrooms at their hometown confectioners, mainstream America seeks more classic items such as the crunchy, salted center of M&M's Pretzel Chocolate Candies, a great innovation and clever brand extension from Mars Chocolate North America. Cookie fans will go crazy for Bake Shoppe Cookie Dough Miniatures, a chocolate-covered creation featuring bite-sized cookie dough from The Promotion in Motion Cos., and Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies from Albanese Confectionery. Even Peeps can't resist the lure of rich, smooth chocolate - Chocolate-Covered Pumpkin Peeps from Just Born are available in both marvelous milk and delightful dark chocolate. Also scrumptious are Werther's Original Caramel Chocolate (milk or dark chocolate dark chocolate) with caramel marbling by Storck.
While the economy continues to negatively influence certain shopping behaviors, one category's bubble refuses to pop. According to recent research from Mintel, gum, mints and breath fresheners sales grew through the recession, increasing over 10 percent since 2007, and are expected to continue growing through 2014.
"Although this market is not entirely recession-proof, gum, mints and breath fresheners are faring well due to their low price points and the feeling that consumers are getting a small treat," notes Bill Patterson, senior analyst at Mintel. "In addition, innovative packaging and unique flavors are aiding in the upward sales momentum."
Marketers normally use packaging to help freshen and develop a brand's image, but Mintel's survey respondents think functionality is key in the gum category. Nearly 50 percent cited packaging that reseals better or is easier to open as being most important. Meanwhile, 19 percent want gum and mints to have packaging that's better for the environment.
Innovation is not only coming by way of packaging, but also unique flavor combinations. Wrigley's Orbit brand of gum has launched innovative flavors, including Sangria Fresca, Maui Melon Mint and CitrusMint. This is just what gum chewers want, in fact, 43 percent say they like to try new brands or flavors because they like the variety and 13 percent try new brands or flavors because they have yet to find one they love.
"In recent years, gum and mint manufacturers have placed an emphasis on the health-delivering benefits of their products," says Patterson. "Gum has long been associated with this approach but has become even more so by providing more functional benefits like whitening teeth, strengthening teeth and overall oral hygiene. Mints have followed suit by enhancing their products with antioxidants, green tea and other health-promoting ingredients."
Despite the emphasis on health, breath freshening remains the most important function of gum and mints. Nearly four times as many respondents cited this compared to a healthy function (43 percent vs. 13 percent).
New twists on classic candies are beloved by consumers who find comfort in familiar brands but want to try new and innovative ways to enjoy their favorite snacks. Mars Chocolate North America's Twix Java Chocolate Cookie Bars feature coffee-flavored caramel paired with an irresistible chocolate cookie and covered in delicious Twix chocolate and Milky Way Simply Caramel Bar features creamy, milk chocolate surrounding nothing but smooth, firm caramel (yum!). Since 1902 the New England Confectionery Co.'s (Necco) Sweethearts conversation hearts have delighted the nation, and will now delight the fans of the popular Twilight series books and movies with New Moon Sweethearts Fire and Ice with intensely cool flavors for Team Edward (yum! again) fans and intensely hot flavors for Team Jacobs fans. Necco also introduces Chocolate Necco Wafers with milk, dark, mocha and white chocolate flavors. You'll re-think what you know about gum when you try new sugar-free 5 React from Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. It's a sugar-free gum that stimulates your senses with either a unique mint or unique fruit flavor experience. A favorite for more than 87 years, Nestlé Butterfinger introduces Butterfinger Snackerz, a crispy, bite-size square, filled with a smooth Butterfinger crème center, wrapped in a chocolaty coating and drizzled with a peanut butter drizzle. Up in the airSnacking practically takes flight as these awesome aerated confections, or lighter-than-air treats, hit the shelves. The 3 Musketeers Truffle Crisp Bar from Mars Chocolate North America is a tantalizing truffle sitting on a subtle airy crisp layer of meringue enrobed in velvety chocolate. From the Wonka brand of Nestlé Confections & Snack Divisions we find Wonka Whipped Wingers, an aerated, fluffy gummy, the first of its kind on the market, in watermelon, orange, tropical punch and pineapple flavors (25 percent real fruit juice). With just 90 calories and 3 grams of fat, Sorbee International's Dream Bar is just that. Bloomsberry & Co.'s light and airy Bubble Chocolate tickles the tastebuds. Skinny Mini's, the lightweight vegetable and potato stick snacks from Cornfields Inc., are really tasty and you'll be in orbit when you discover that at 100-calories per bag these treats are also about 30 percent lower in fat than similar snacks. Good for you
Today's consumer focus on natural and wholesome ingredients has not gone unnoticed by the confectionery and snack industry. Honey as an ingredient and as a flavor hearkens back to the origins of sweetened confections, but seems as fresh and new as any innovation with Honey Bean, a Jelly Belly jelly bean infused with wildflower honey, new Honey Lovers, colorful heart-shaped fruit chews made with real honey in 16 flavors offered by Gimbal's Fine Candies (5 percent of proceeds go to the University of California Davis Honey Bee Research), and organic HoneyStix and AgaveStix sealed in a straw from Glory Bee Foods. Wholesome, simple ingredients bursting with winning flavors make Get Movin' snack crackers by Partners, a Tasty Choice Co., a great treat for everyone. Annie's Inc. showcased Organic Berry Patch Bunny Fruit Snacks, bunny-shaped fruit snacks made with real fruit juice and packed with 100% DV of Vitamin C. You can get your probiotics in Maramor's Premium Dark and Milk Chocolate with Probiotics. Just one 14g bar a day is all that is needed to support a healthy digestive system. Hammons debuted Dark Chocolate & Caramelized Black Walnuts, a healthy and indulgent treat. Nutorious nut confections are available in five different taste bud-pleasing varieties and are all natural, low sodium, and GMO-free, and contain no trans fats or preservatives. Cornfields Skinny Mini's vegetable and potato sticks are a 100-calorie treat and come in great flavors including Maui wowie. Acai is still on the radar in Brookside's Dark Chocolate Acai with blueberry, two great sources of antioxidants. Mars' goodnessKnows snack squares contain slow-roasted whole almonds, tangy fruits and toasted whole grains, and contain no artificial ingredients, colors or flavors. Nestle's Wonka Squishy Sploshberries are juice-filled gummies made with 25 percent real fruit juice and all natural colors and flavors in Blueberry, Raspberry, Goji Berry and Cloudberry. Healthy Creations Sesame Stix, made of white and black sesame seeds from Maxim Manufacturing & Marketing are cholesterol free and low in sodium. And for you vegans out there, decadently delicious, Vegan Chocolate Truffles from Native Gardens, boast a medley of benefits and are dairy-free, gluten-free, low sugar, low calorie and handcrafted. Galloping gourmet
Snacks and confections are little pleasures to be enjoyed as part of a healthy lifestyle. There's no finer way to indulge than with one of these gourmet delights. Asher's Chocolates proves that the combination of sweet and salty is as popular as ever with its wonderful Vanilla Caramels with Sea Salt.Discover a special Valentine message on every slice of the uniquely indulgent Ferrara Milk Chocolate Strawberry Ball from Ferrera Pan Candy Co. Break into pieces to find special Valentine messages on every slice. Buttery caramel varieties -- Vanilla Pecan Chews and Vanilla Chocolate Pecan Chews are new from Primrose Candy Co. Castachio Nuts from Germack Pistachio Co. adds two great new flavors Zesty Salt & Pepper and Cajun Chili Pepper, to its line of roasted and salted pistachios and cashews, and you can't put the resealable pouch down. Jelly Belly toasts many flavors of cocktails with Jelly Belly Cocktail Classics with new flavors including mojito, peach bellini, and pomegranate cosmopolitan. Primrose Candy debuts Cocktail Taffy in margarita, rum n' cola, mojito, pina colada and strawberry daiquiri. Delightful double filled truffles from Madelaine Chocolate, Duets, use state of the art technology to fill smooth, rich milk chocolate truffles with flavor pairings including peanut butter and caramel and milk truffle and white truffle. Iconic candy maker Wonka, with a little help from Nestlé, introduces a premium line of imaginative and whimsical confections called Wonka Exceptionals that includes the Domed Dark Chocolate Bar, a bed of dark chocolate topped with milk chocolate medallions; the Chocolate Waterfall Bar with a distinct blend of white and milk chocolates; the Scrumdiddlyumptious Bar, featuring pieces of toffee, cookies and peanuts; Wonka Fruit Jellies, soft, sugar-dusted fruit squares; and Wonka Fruit Marvels, a chewy round ball covered with a smooth candy shell.
Fresh 'n fruity
Bursting on the scene with fresh and powerful flavors are candies and gums in show-stopping varieties. American Licorice Co. introduces Grape Vines, for a unique flavor alternative. Jolly Rancher Awesome Twosome Chews from The Hershey Co. combine two bold, intense flavors with two unique textures in each bite-size piece featuring sweet watermelon surrounded by green apple and juicy cherry filled with refreshing orange. Get swept away by the tropical fruit flavors of great tasting, long lasting Extra Fruit Sensations Sweet Tropical gum from Wrigley. Big Sky Brands delivers Sunkist Citrus Burst, fruit flavors in the form of a sugar-free mint. Inspired by Sunkist's specialty citrus varietals, the include Valencia orange, ruby red grapefruit, eureka lemon and key lime. Two other flavor-packed products from Wrigley are expected to make waves this summer: Starburst Summer Fun Fruits in kiwi-banana, lemon-limeade, cherry splash and watermelon; and Skittles Fizzl'd Fruits, fizzling fun for your mouth in wild cherry and melon berry. The unique flavors of goji berry and cloudberry join classic blueberry and raspberry in Wonka's Squishy Splooshberries, a juice-filled gummy candy, from Nestlé. Straight out of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" comes Stride Shift thanks to a new technology from Cadbury North America. This amazing flavor-changing gum starts off tasting like citrus or melon and shifts into mint.
Vitaball's vitamingum is sugar-free and equals the nutrition available in two 20-oz bottles of nutrient-enhanced water. If you are energy deprived, a great new option is Kickbutt amped energy ballz from Fun Energy Foods. Each one contains caffeine equivalent to a half cup of coffee with the added benefit of protein and vitamins. Cadbury North America's Dentyne Pure is the first in the gum category with NeutraFresh, an exclusive ingredient that neutralizes bad breath.
Dark and dreamy
Dark chocolate has been increasing in popularity for years and new product introductions have played a big part in the expansion of the category. Driving chocolate sales in 2009 is the "affordable indulgence" factor. This year look for Kit Kat Dark, a combination of dark chocolate and light crispy layers, from The Hershey Co., a delicious combination of smooth dark chocolate and light, crispy wafers. Wolfgang Eves from the Wolfgang Candy Co. also will please the cookie lover with their buttery cookie and dark chocolate creations such as the Raspberry Truffle. The layer of delightfully dark chocolate covering Necco's new Clark Bar Dark, from New England Confectionery Co., will make you take a new look at this classic American candy. The unique crunchy sweetness of caramelized pistachio chips sets Kraft's Cote d'Or Pistache Noir dark chocolate (70 percent) bar apart from anything you've ever tasted. Nestle's Dark Chocolate Cherry Raisinets are made from premium, whole dried cherries from Michigan, drenched in rich Nestlé dark chocolate - a mouthwatering combination that is both sweet and creamy while also juicy and tangy. And if the economy has been tough on you, B & R Classics offers Golkenn Goldbar, a miniature replica of the real 12.5kg gold bars stored in Swiss bank vaults – eat your heart out.
For the kiddies
Candy Dynamics presents Toxic Waste Short Circuits Bubble Gum, bite-sized gum pieces filled with ultra sour powder. Woody, Buzz Lightyear and Rex join Pez Candy Inc.'s character dispensers in anticipation of Toy Story 3. You don't have to hesitate to give your young lads the Dare Devils Extreme Sour Candy Death Drool and Hissee Fit Snake Spray, in a snake shaped bottle from Foreign Candy Co. it's actually quite sweet, and comes in cherry, green apple and blue raspberry flavors.