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    Sweet Time in Chicago

    Candy and snack makers aim their efforts at center store

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ
    The Koochikoo cookie crew

    The annual Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago is always a highlight of my trade show attendance, with so many delicious and innovative products on display – and much of it aimed at the candy and snack aisles in grocery’s center store.

    Allow me to present a brief stroll through my day at the show, culled from my live tweets (@jimdudlicek) and observations as I walked the expo floor last month:

    - Hershey's displayed a host of new products, including its new line of chocolate spreads, to be followed up later this year with Reese's chocolate/peanut butter spread; Ice Breakers Cool Blasts, a range of high-powered chewable mints that dissolve in seconds; and the triumphant return of longtime Miniatures favorite Krackel to a full-size bar of milk chocolate and crisped rice.

    - Mars' booth featured, among other things, its Dove brand's new range of whole fruits enrobed in dark chocolate (cherries, cranberries and blueberries); the giant M&M's Mega; Twix, 3 Musketeers and Milky Way Simply Caramel Unwrapped Bites; and the Snickers Rockin' Nut Road bar.

    - Jelly Belly wowed show-goers with its new Draft Beer-flavored jelly beans. They were a bit too yeasty for my taste, but they’re sure to be a hit among the brand’s devoted followers.

    - Northeast regional mainstay Tastykake, owned by Flowers Foods, displayed the brand’s new Tastykrisps and Birthday Cake Cupcakes.

    - One of my favorite candy makers, Hammond’s out of Denver, launched a line of Peanut Brittle Crisps in unique flavor combinations, including the sweet-savory Jalapeno Lime.

    - The Stronger bar from NuGo delivers an energy boost with 25 grams of protein, along with a promise of no gluten, maltitol or GMOs.

    - Sheila G’s wildly successful Brownie Brittle is sporting sophisticated new packaging and 120-calorie single-serve pouches.

    - With a better-for-you mission statement, Innovative Candy Concepts sampled its line of sugar-free liquid chocolate.

    - The folks at Just Born showed off their new Peep Minis, along with a range of products co-branded with the kid-favorite Minion animated characters.

    - Holiday candy mainstay R.M. Palmer had its annual rollout of seasonal items, including the Color-Me Cottontail, co-branded with Crayola Crayons.

    - Nestle was hawking the incremental-sales success of its new Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups, which delivers on the flavor profile of the iconic candy with a shape, taste and texture that sets it apart from competing cups.

    - Koochikoo samples its line of very tasty sugar-free cookies, sweetened with monk fruit.

    - A supplier to Starbucks, Donsuemor, showed off its branded line of biscotti, mini cakes and other sweet goods.

    - American Licorice, maker of the popular Red Vines, displayed two line-extending products: Fruit Vines and Sour Punch Bites.

    This is but a glimpse at the bounty of fun and exciting products on display at this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo. But it’s proof positive that, contrary to popular belief, there is some fun and excitement in center store.


    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ
    • About Jim Dudlicek As editorial director of Progressive Grocer, Jim Dudlicek oversees daily operations of the magazine, spearheads its signature features, produces PG’s monthly Trend Alert newsletter on center store issues, moderates its regular webcast series, and writes and comments about a wide range of grocery issues. A food industry journalist since 2002, Jim came to PG in June 2010 after covering the dairy industry for 7½ years, during which time he served as chief editor of Dairy Field and Dairy Foods magazines. A graduate of Marquette University, Jim is fascinated by how truly progressive grocers inspire consumers to enjoy food, transforming the industry from mere merchants into educators that can take the most basic of all necessities and turn it into something profound and life-enhancing. Follow him at www.twitter.com/JimDudlicek

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