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Sweets & Snacks Expo: Big Candy Goes Better-For-You


Changing habits in snacking and nutrition have been driving the development of better-for-you confections and snack foods, which have been a focal point of the annual Sweets & Snacks Expo.

The two dominant candy manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon, as demonstrated by their product releases at this year’s trade show, which opened Tuesday at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Mt. Olive, N.J.-based Mars Chocolate North America convened a lunchtime media panel to discuss the latest trends and announce the full nationwide launch of its Goodness Knows Snack Squares, which have been in development and tested in regional markets since 2010. The new bars – sold quartered for a total of 150 calories per bar – are made from nuts, oats and fruits over a bottom layer of dark chocolate.

Goodness Knows bars are sweetened with brown rice syrup, honey and sucrose, for a total of 12 grams of “added” sugars, which the USDA requires to be noted on the label starting this fall. The bars will be available in cranberry, apple, and peach and cherry varieties.

Mars is continuing to look at optimum calorie counts for its products, said Mary Myers, the company’s director of product development. Joining Myer on the panel were Berta de Pablos, Mars’ VP of marketing; dietitian Carolyn O’Neil; and “Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert. The panel, which also discussed various eating and consumer trends, was moderated by Steve Dolinsky, award-winning food reporter for Chicago’s ABC-TV Channel 7.

Meanwhile, The Hershey Co. is adding a Dark Chocolate Fruit & Nut Bar to its Brookside line of upscale chocolate products.

Made with real fruit, whole roasted almonds, rolled oats, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate, the Brookside bars will be available in three flavor varieties starting in August: blueberry with acai, cranberry with blackberry and cherry with pomegranate. The bars deliver 180 calories each with 13 grams of added sugars. Like Goodness Knows from Mars, the Brookside bars do not contain high fructose corn syrup.

Hershey noted that its new products “not only aim to meet consumers’ preferences for simple ingredients, but their desire for more snacking options.”

Among the other new products Hershey debuted at the expo: Snack Bites, mixes of nuts and Hershey’s iconic confection brands, in Hershey’s and Reese’s varieties, in portion-controlled tube packs; Hershey’s Caramels; Lancaster Butterscotch and Caramel Soft Cremes; and Krave Jerky, a gourmet meat snack brand recently acquired by the candymaker.

Hershey also showed off its 3-D printing technology, demonstrating how it can produce intricate patterns in chocolate not possible with traditional candy molds. The technology holds great potential for customization of products; for example, a grocer could employ a 3-D printer to offer custom wedding favors in its floral/special occasion department.

Back at the Mars booth, other new products included various extensions of its trademark brands: M&M’s To-Go Bottles and Box Packs; Milky Way Marshmallow with Caramel bars, and Milky Way Midnight in a 2 To Go size; Snickers Mixed Nuts bars, Starburst Orange Sorbet bars; Dove dark chocolate-dipped fruit in cranberry and cherry varieties; and Combos chocolate fudge pretzels, along with seasonal variations on many brands.

Meanwhile, Mars sister company Wrigley sampled sour variants of its Starburst and Skittles candies, Juicy Fruit gum in sour apple and watermelon, and Extra mint gum in 35-stick mega packs. Further, Mars and Wrigley are launching a Super Bowl 50th anniversary campaign, and hosted Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte to pose for photos and sign autographs at their show booth.

Also from the show floor …

As usual, the Sweets & Snacks Expo featured a vast array of products from makers of confections as well as salty snacks. Here are just a few from my day at the show this week:

- Brownie Brittle’s booth was mobbed as usual, as showgoers clamored for a taste of the popular treat’s latest flavors, this time holiday variations Salted Caramel, Chocolate Chip and Mint Chocolate Chip, with chocolate drizzles. The brand also launched a larger club-size bag.

Jack Link’s offers tastes of its bacon, Korean BBQ pork, kung pao and chili lime jerky varieties, among its other meat snacks.

- Just Born sampled its new spicy-sweet Hot Tamales Tropical Heat; Mike and Ike Jurassic World Tropical Fruits; the brand’s tie-in with the new soon-to-be-released movie; Peeps Jurassic World Blue Raspberry Flavored Dino Eggs; three Minions movie tie-ins – Peeps Banana Crème and Marshmallow Minions, and Mike and Ike Minions Mix; plus new holiday Peeps for Halloween and Christmas.

- Oberto sampled its latest all-natural chicken jerkies and stressed its posititioning as an all-natural meat snack and "better-for-you protein."

Sanders Candy showed its new fruit and granola clusters and premium ice cream line.

Truly Good Foods showed its new line of yogurt-enrobed pretzels in flavors including Key lime, raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, chocolate and Greek; and ReCharge snack mixes featuring chia, cranberry, omega-3s and antioxidants, with different blends offering various health benefits.

Follow my trade show visits on Twitter: @jimdudlicek


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