GROCERY: Candy: Sweet surrender

The 2007 All-Candy Expo, to be held Sept. 17 though Sept. 19 in Chicago, will have more space than ever: A move from the Lakeside Center to the new West Building in McCormick Place provides an additional 170,000 square feet of space. This new expanse will come in handy to accommodate cookies and biscuits, crackers, sweet snacks such as breakfast bars and fruit snacks, nuts, savory snacks such as chips and pretzels, and meat snacks, all of which will be exhibiting at the show for the first time ever, growing the exhibitor base by nearly 15 percent.

Still, candy remains the heart of the show, and even a brief survey of recent products that will be featured at the event, as well as a few items set to debut there, is a good indicator of the wealth of innovation and excitement the category is still able to drum up.

On the chocolate front, dark varieties and exotic flavors continue to entice consumers, so manufacturers are providing them with tasty options. For instance, Oakland, Calif.-based Sconza Candy Co. has added two 70% Cacao items, Dark Chocolate Espresso Beans and Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds, to its chocolate premium packaged line.

"We wanted to take advantage of the dark chocolate trend by creating unique dark chocolate fruit and nut pairings," explains Sconza v.p. sales and marketing Greg Cater. "We selected a dark chocolate with a high cacao content. Then we paired it with a complementary center." Available in five-ounce metallized bags and packaged 12 per case, the specialty bags retail for a suggested $4.99 each, according to the vendor.

Meanwhile Carlsbad, Calif.-based Chuao Chocolatier, an artisan chocolate manufacturer launched by two brothers from Venezuela, has combined the chocolate bar and the bonbon to create the ChocoPod. Containing fewer than 60 calories per serving, the 0.39-ounce pods are available in six unusual flavors: Candela (spicy macadamia praline), Modena (strawberry & balsamic caramel), Picante (spicy cabernet caramel), Passion (passionfruit caramel), Banana (banana brown sugar caramel), and Dulce de Leche (milk caramel). While a single pod retails for a suggested 95 cents, a six-pod box goes for a suggested $5.75. The item comes in display cases of eight six-count boxes, as well as 60-count single-serve canisters.

A product Chuao is debuting at the All-Candy Expo is its line of 2.82-ounce Chuao Chocolatier Percentage Cacao Bars, retailing for a suggested $5.75 each and offering three varieties named for Venezuelan villages: Chuspa (41 percent milk chocolate), Choroni (61 percent dark chocolate), and Todasana (74 percent dark chocolate).

The bars come in display cases of 12, and the company says that it's considering shippers and shelf talkers next year for its products.

Of course, candy isn't just about great taste, but also great fun, especially for kids. To that end, Louisville, Ky.-based novelty candy manufacturer Candyrific has a few great ideas that ought to bring plenty of excitement to children and retailers alike. The company has signed a new licensing agreement to sell its candy-and-toy combinations featuring the iconic Looney Tunes Tweety character. Shipping in display packs of 12, the line consists of Tweety Fans, Tweety Giggle Heads, Tweety Candy Poppers, and Tweety Message Boards, all retailing for a suggested $2.99 each.

"We believe the Tweety line hits a great demographic for us," says Candyrific president Robert Auerbach. "Kids today are Tweety fans, and their parents are nostalgic for him."

Also new from Candyrific are three new candy-fan combinations, two sporting the M&M's license, while the third has the Skittles license. Arriving this fall in point-of-purchase display packs of 12, the fans hold real M&M's candies in their bases and retail for $3.99 each. One of the M&M's products features a NASCAR tie-in, for additional excitement.

Speaking of fun, Encinitas, Calif.-based Fassin America, Inc., a division of Dutch company Fassin BV, is encouraging kids to play with their candy via its recent introduction of Fascini brand crEATables Chewy Candy Laces. The stretchy, nonstick fruit-flavored candies, available in Strawberry, Apple, Tutti Frutti, and Blue Raspberry flavors, can be twisted, tied, and braided into edible jewelry and lanyards.

CrEATables come in 1.4-ounce assorted-flavor and all Strawberry bags, as well as four-ounce bags of all four flavors. The brightly colored packs have a window front and instructions for using the candies to make lanyards. The 1.4-ounce bags are packaged 24 to a display, with 12 displays in an outer carton, and have a suggested retail price of 79 cents, while the four-ounce bags are available in shelf-ready display cases of 12, with a suggested retail price of $1.19.

Additionally, the Web site offers detailed instructions on how to make lanyards, as well as children's games and activities.

Notes Fassin America president Thomas Fassin: "It brings out [kids'] creative side, making lanyards and other crafts....We're sure there's nothing else like [this product] in the U.S. market. [The] concept has already proven its success in Europe."

Another European hit now coming to America is Fascini Sour SNAGX, bite-size sour candy belts with Strawberry, Apple, Tutti Frutti, and Blue Raspberry flavors in each piece. Fassin offers packaging for horizontal display in shelf-ready units, and in vertical peg section presentations. The suggested retail prices for the 1.75- and four-ounce bags are 79 cents and $1.19 each, respectively.

Candy is known for coming in a variety of forms, but one of the newest -- and most creative -- is spray. Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Impact Confections, Inc. has launched Mike and Ike and Hot Tamales sprays through a licensing agreement with Bethlehem, Pa.-based Just Born, perhaps best known as the manufacturer of Peeps. The two new SKUs join the already popular sour Warheads Spray on store shelves.

"Our Warheads Spray has successfully outsold most major kids' candy and novelty items in sales per linear inch," notes Impact director of marketing Andy Telatnik. "It made sense for us to license these two great brands from Just Born to extend this profitable category with sweet and spicy flavors."

Mike and Ike Spray comes in 24-count assorted-flavor (Apple, Cherry, Grape, and Wild Berry) display boxes, while Hot Tamales Spray is available in a straight cinnamon-flavor 24-count display. A 0.68-fluid-ounce canister of either spray, as well as the Warheads Spray, retails for a suggested 99 cents.

Also available from Impact and Just Born is a Warheads Spray Pop, featuring a lollipop within the packaging, in Green Apple, Blue Raspberry, Watermelon, and Grape flavors. The item retails for a suggested 99 cents per 1.04-ounce package.

Of course, other companies are entering the growing spray candy segment. Atlanta's Innovative Candy Concepts (ICC) has rolled out Sinfully Delicious Gourmet Dessert Sprays in New York Cheesecake, Cinnamon Apple Pie, Milk Chocolate Turtle, and Key Lime Pie, with as many as 16 additional varieties being considered.

Well known as a maker of better-for-you candies, ICC is positioning the spray as a way for adults concerned about obesity and diabetes to enjoy the tastes they love without unwanted sugar, fat, and calories.

"We have magically transformed everyone's favorite desserts into a guilt-free experience," notes ICC president Armand Hammer. "We have taken all of the positive attributes of the most indulgent desserts and ingeniously packaged them in portable sprays. With a unique technology, we have preserved all the taste integrity of the original dessert while omitting the unhealthy sugary ingredients."

A 20-milliliter spray bottle providing over 50 servings retails for a suggested $2.49 to $3.49. For a limited time the item will offer a "Try Me Free" full manufacturer's mail-in rebate with each SKU.

The latest of ICC's sprays is Too Tarts SmartChoice Melted Ice Cream Super Size Spray Candy, which comes in Blueberry, Strawberry, and Banana Split flavors. Available in such promotional options as 20-count assorted-flavor inline and counter displays, the diabetic-friendly product retails for a suggested $1.19 to $1.49 per 20-milliliter bottle.


Candy on the silver screen

The live-action "Speed Racer" movie from Warner Bros., scheduled to roar into theaters May 9, 2008, will feature products manufactured by New York-based Topps Confections in leading roles.

Such well-known Topps candies as Bazooka, Push Pop, Baby Bottle Pop, and Juicy Drop Pop will make prominent appearances in the film, which is tipped to be a summer blockbuster next year. Topps and Warner Bros. have plans to overlay the Topps movie branding with TV/online/sweepstakes and merchant components.
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