Sweet, Hot and New
By James Dudlicek
2012 Sweets & Snacks Expo featured healthier, handier, more flavorful and more festive products.
Photos by James Dudlicek
Candy and snack manufacturers continue to make inroads into better-for-you territory while still delivering on the indulgence that shoppers still want as opportunities for snacking keep expanding.
That, in a nutshell, was the scene at the 2012 Sweets & Snacks Expo, held May 8-10 at Chicago's McCormick Place, where retailers got a closer look — and taste — of the latest wares competing for space in their candy and snack food aisles.
At Mars Chocolate North America's show booth, VP of sales Tim Lebel explained that seasonal products are driving growth. Molded shapes like Santas and pumpkins have given rise to other application across all seasons, while tests of M&M's candy corn did so well, it's being launched nationally. Other top holiday performers are M&M's ornaments, eggs, canes and naughty-and-nice packs, and Dove peppermint bark.
"Without a doubt, the 2012 Expo was our most successful show yet for both exhibitors and attendees."
In the Dove line, Dove Raisins & Peanuts are joining roasted almonds in milk and dark chocolate; Dove Cookies & Crème is available as a single bar, giant bar and bag of minis; and the standard Dove chocolate bar has a new profile for better visual on the shelf.
On the health side, Mars is transitioning away from its "king size" candy bars in favor of a two-piece bar to promote sharing and portion control.
The other chocolate giant, Hershey's, rolled out the Simple Pleasures line at its expo booth. Calling it the chocolate you can "feel good about loving," Anna Lingeris, manager of global brand public relations and consumer engagement for the Hershey Co., noted Simple Pleasures has 30 percent less fat than regular chocolate and comes in three varieties.
Other launches from Hershey's: Rolo Minis, pouches of unwrapped chocolate-caramel drops, a follow-up to the success of Reese's Minis; Ice Breakers Duos, made with a proprietary process that puts a textured fruit flavor on one side and mint on other; and Jolly Rancher Crunch & Chew, another offering with complex texture.
Hershey's is also relaunching the Brookside brand, which it acquired late last year. Currently available at specialty retailers and club stores, the brand is going to mass retailers in January, offering an "exotic" line of real fruit enrobed in dark chocolate.
Just Born continues to expand its popular Peeps brand beyond the marshmallow confection's traditional Easter season to other holidays. Among coming releases are chocolate-dipped Peeps in varieties such as Caramel, Strawberry Crème, Chocolate Mousse and Candy Cane.
Peeps gingerbread men are joining a lineup that already includes hearts, pumpkins and reindeer. Meanwhile, a Christmas version of the Rainbow Pop — four colored Peeps on a stick — is expected as a follow-up to an Easter version.
Among Just Born's other brands, Hot Tamales cinnamon candy now comes in a 3 Alarm variety that delivers three heat levels in one package, a response to consumer demand for different spice variations. The company also decked out its Philadelphia-based Goldenberg's Peanut Chews line with retro packaging and ad support. Creating a minor stir was the "breakup" of Mike & Ike, a new campaign that features modified packaging, including labels with either "Mike" or "Ike" crossed out, and an explanation as to why the longtime "business partners" decided to go their separate ways.
Responding to growth in the chewy candy category, as well as a call for healthier indulgences, Sorbee International displayed its new Country Time Lemonade Chews. Leveraging the strength of the iconic drink-mix brand, the chews come in several fruity varieties; eight pieces equal 150 calories.
For fruit flavors of a different sort, the latest additions to Buddy Fruits' line of pure blended fruit purees in squeeze packs are several all-natural "superfruit" varieties at 80 calories per serving.
"Upscale dried fruit" is how Paradise Inc. describes its Think Fruit line of single-serve snacks, each variety delivering a full serving of fruit. With a higher moisture content than most dried fruit, Think Fruit is fat-free, gluten-free and all-natural.
Rickland Orchards has combined fruits, nuts, grains and dairy in its line of Greek yogurt granola bars. Each bar contains 5 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein and probiotics; the line comes in several varieties.
Sweet and Savory
Among traditional salty snack makers, Snyder's of Hanover sampled new products, some of which crossed the line between salty and sweet. Its Pretzel Dips line includes mini pretzel twists enrobed in Hershey's milk chocolate, peanut butter pretzel sandwiches in milk chocolate, and York peppermint pretzel sandwiches.
Also offering sweet and savory was Sahale Snacks, which sampled its range of almond, pecan and cashew snacks. Certified gluten-free and kosher, the company's latest products include Sahale Crunchers Almond Snacks in three varieties.
Food giant Kraft offered samples of its new BelVita breakfast bars, wholesome breakfast biscuits that can be eaten with fruit and yogurt as part of balanced meal. Kraft also displayed the latest iteration of its Planters Nut-rition nut blends, this one targeting male consumers and co-branded with Men's Health magazine.
Attempting to create a healthier version of a fast-food favorite, Gourmet Basics sampled its Smart Fries, air-popped potato sticks with no saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fat or sugar. Smart Fries come in nine flavors.
Among meat snacks, mainstay Jack Link's showed off its turkey jerky alongside a new line of meat sticks packaged in a two-chambered, peel-off tray with barbecue and cheese dipping sauces. Oberto, meanwhile, followed up its all-natural jerky line launched at last year's expo with a new flavor, Spicy Sweet.
In the wake of the expo, its organizers trumpeted a third consecutive year of record-breaking growth, claiming nearly 15,000 attendees from 70 countries at the three-day show, along with some 570 exhibiting companies, including 140 new exhibitors.
Photos, videos, and Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter posts from the show can be seen by downloading the Expo app at www.sweetsandsnacks.com
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