Snacks & Candy

Sin Is In

Something for all ages at annual candy show

CHICAGO -- Candy is not just for kids anymore. Of course, it is and always will be focused primarily on children as a key demographic, but that hasn't stopped some confectioners from taking a walk on the wild side with some new grownup sweets. CSP Daily News and other media were treated to a private preview of some of the many new productsfor all agesat the National Confectioners Association's (NCA) ninth-annual All Candy Expo in Chicago earlier this week.

NCA president Larry Graham, who unveiled the New Product Showcase, said that there are approximately 1,000 [image-nocss] new products rolled out each year by the $25 billion industry, more than in any other food category. And "candy survives on innovation," he said.

Graham introduced NCA spokesperson Susan Fussell, who took candy-craving journalists on a tour of the showcase and highlighted this year's sweetest trends: Limited Edition, Gourmet Everyday, Fun Flavors, Fitness Fanatics and Novelties & Entertainment.

"What's interesting about new products in the candy industry is that they almost always fall into some kind of a trend," she said. "Sometimes, the manufacturers don't even know they are going to start a trend; sometimes they don't even know they are making a product that falls into a trend. But consumer demand is what really drives the confectionery category, and innovation is the key."

Fussell detailed each of the trends:

Limited Edition. Leaders include Tootsie Roll, Masterfoods, Ferrero USA and Hershey. Hershey is the category leader, she said, and it has introduced dozens of limited-edition candies over the last year. New at the show were Double Chocolate Kisses. Tootsie has introduced Junior Mints Inside Outs, with a white mint coating on the outside and dark chocolate on the inside. Ferrero USA has rolled out Citrus Twist and Orange Twist Tic Tacs. Masterfoods will be bringing out White Chocolate Twix and ice-cream-flavored Skittles. "One reason retailers need to be in limited edition is that it makes consumers shop the candy aisle," said Fussell.Gourmet Everyday. Upscale candy is turning up in many retail settings. It is almost impossible, for example, to go into just about any retail store and not be able to buy a Lindt truffle, said Fussell. They are everywhere. And it's not just Lindt. More and more companies that make high-end chocolate, and more and more companies that make everyday chocolate are looking into a middle territorynot a box of chocolate that costs $50, but a really good piece of gourmet chocolate that may be three or four or five to a packagesometimes individually, like the trufflesand that is a way consumers can indulge themselves without spending a fortune.Fun Flavors. You're still going to see plenty of sours on the show floor, she said. For example, Mentos has introduced Mentos Sours. And Wrigley has added Juicy Fruit Sours in a variety of flavors. As for other fun flavors, Wrigley's Orbit gum is also introducing Sweet Mint, Bubble Mint and Cirtus Mint. Jelly Belly rolled out its Boston Baked Beans flavor at the show. And Masterfoods has come out with Skittles Extreme Fruit.Fitness Fanatics. The diet category is up about 30%; it was up about 60% last year, and 90% the year before that, Fussell said. This category also includes the no-carb, low-carb, carb-conscious, low-sugar and reduced-sugar items, among other types. Jelly Belly has come out with Sports Beans, with energy-drink-like flavor and properties. Schuster Marketing's no-caffeine Blitz Energy Gum uses a compressed chewing gum process with Splenda. And Russell Stover has introduced some Weight Watchers candies.Novelties & Entertainment. As always, there are a lot of new movie tie-in products. PEZ offers giant and regular PEZ dispensers with Star Wars characters. Other big movies with merchandising deals include the just-released Batman Begins, as well as the upcoming Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire (as well as the next book, Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince); King Kong; and The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. Nestle, to tie in with the upcoming film Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, has rolled out Wonka Donutz, a milk-chocolate, donut-shaped candy with a creamy chocolate center and covered with sprinkles. From TV, Fear Factor- and American Idol-themed candies also are being introduced.

But there was no true standout among the trends, like last year's sour. One "trendlet" in evidence in the showcase, however, was "naughty" candy. And I'm not referring to the ever-popular slime and gross-out candies.

Among the new products, the ones that caught my eye this year were Sin City Suckerslollipops shaped like dice, in flavors such as "4 of a Lime," "Orange You Lucky" and "Grape of Spades." The company is (no surprise), based in Las Vegas. Continuing the gambling theme, Ford Gum & Machine Co. Inc., Lincolnshire, Ill., offered Poker Gumballs and a Texas Hold 'Em Gumball Machine. Oakland Park, Fla.-based Gasworks debuted its Candy Bra, Candy G-String, Candy Garter and Candy Posing Pouch, all adult variations on the traditional candy necklace. And for anyone who is naughty around Christmastime, Columbus, Ohio-based Maramor Chocolates has provided The Chocolate Lump of Coal to put into the "offender's" stocking.

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