The sweet (savory and salty) life

Every kind of snack imaginable was on display at the 2013 Sweets & Snacks Expo.

It ain’t just candy anymore!

Visitors to the 2013 Sweets & Snacks Expo were treated to an astounding array of upcoming snacks—from traditional candy, gum and other sweets to nuts, salty snacks, meat treats and even gelatins, freezer pops and water enhancers.

BOSCO_WRAPPERThe Jel Sert Co. was showcasing dozens of new products including Hershey’s instant pudding, MONDO Fruit Squeezers drinks for Halloween, Valentine’s Day and Christmas, Mott’s Freezer Bars 100% Apple Juice, Jolly Rancher gelatin mix and Chiquita Fruit Bites.
“We call them ‘Fruit Bites’ because they are made from fruit puree so they have a different texture and taste,” says Susie Frausto, vice president of marketing at West Chicago, Ill.-based Jel Sert.

Retailers can look for a boost in bottled water sales since Jel Sert has also expanded its powdered water enhancers to include Wyler’s Lights, Crush, Hawaiian Punch, Jolly Rancher and Snapple Half ’n Half. “For us it is all about flavors,” Frausto says. “Bringing innovation to our customers is really key for our branded business as well as our licensed products. Close your eyes when you eat our Jolly Rancher gelatin. You know that taste is Jolly Rancher. It has a certain taste that we’ve really been able to mimic.”

Entrepreneurs have also been able to mimic the thin, crunchy top layer of a homemade pan of brownies.

Seth Greenberg’s Authentic New York Brownie Crunch, for one, has turned up the heat by expanding its repertoire to include Jalapeno, Chile Pepper and Chipotle varieties. “We are the first people to do this with a mass market product where we are taking chocolate and jalapeno, chipotle and chili peppers,” says Stephen Fass, president and CEO of the New York-based company. “They pair great with beer, bourbon, margaritas.”

The company has also updated the packaging on its original varieties—Chocolate Chip, Mint Chocolate Chip, Toffee Chip, Orange, Cinnamon Cappiccino—making them more colorful and better explaining the treat inside. “We think this is a new classification. It is not a cookie, not a brownie, but a snack that you can also take instead of a graham cracker and break it up and make a crust out of it,” Fass says.

What better way to wash down Brownie Crunch than with an icy cold glass of milk? Retailers learned they could move a lot more cartons of milk by placing a milk carton-shaped shipper of Got Milk? Magic Straws flavored milk straws across from their dairy case. Each single-use straw flavors an 8- to 12-ounce serving of milk. “This shipper comes all self-contained as a 600-piece unit with no assembly required except for a couple of bolts,” says Jeff Willox, vice president, at Bloomington, Minn.-based Food Market Merchandising.

Bosco Products made its Sweets & Snacks Expo debut by featuring its new Mocha syrup and a Limited Edition Bosco Holiday Chocolate Bar, coming out for Christmas. “Bosco Mocha is a first-of-its-kind syrup made with real coffee extract and natural cocoa that is initially available at Walmart but is expanding distribution,” says Scott Sanders, vice president, at Towaco, N.J.-based Bosco Products. “Walmart helped us develop the idea through collaborative meetings with the buyer and feedback that they were getting from their shoppers who were looking for that kind of flavor that wasn’t available in stores.”

Bite size me
Something else that until now was not available in stores were the “brands you love in bite size” miniature versions of Snickers and MilkyWay bars. “Consumers have an affinity for the Snickers and MilkyWay brands,” says Tim Quinn, vice president, trade development, at Hackettstown, N.J.-based Mars Chocolate North America. “Now that they are in Bites—an unwrapped portion in our sharing size and stand-up pouch—consumers can better monitor portion control.”

Another product Quinn has high hopes for is the Twix Egg, being introduced for Easter 2014. “The Twix Egg is unique in that it is an egg-shaped cookie with caramel and then coated with chocolate. It is to die for,” he says.

“Seasonal is a very big part of the confectionery industry and for Christmas we have lots of different items utilizing our M&M’S characters,” he adds.

Also featured was the M&M’S Chocolate Bar. “It’s a great piece of creamy milk chocolate, presented in a fun way with a nice design that you can break off the pieces and eat with mini M&M’S inside,” Quinn says.

Dozens of companies sampled high-quality chocolates, including Sanders Fine Chocolates. The Clinton Township, Mich.-based company showcased its Boulevard Collection boxed chocolates and Holiday Minis, marketed in Chinese-take-out container-style boxes. “The packaging is not overly festive—the Easter ones have flowers instead of bunnies—so they don’t have to be off the shelf the day after the holiday is over or marked down,” says Tiffany Van Hemm, director of public relations/account executive. “We took our popular candies and made them into cute little mini versions in colorful unique packaging that is great for Easter baskets or stocking stuffers at a great price point.”

A sensation was arising around The Monty Bojangles brand of French Cocoa Dusted Truffles, available in Sea Salt Infused Toffee, Rich & Intensely Chocolatey, Crumbly & Soft Cookie and Flirty & Fruity Orange varieties. “This is a hot brand in the U.K. and we brought it in and are distributing it in the U.S.,” says Amy Goldsmith, director, at Praim Group, the Los Angeles-based sales, marketing and distribution company handling the brand.

Praim is also distributing Seapoint Farms Edamame Crunch chocolate bars. “We license the Seapoint Farms name, the largest edamame company in North America, and we took its dry roasted edamame and added it to chocolate in milk and dark varieties,” Goldsmith says. “We have two everyday and two holiday SKUs. It is ideal for the grocery channel, has 10 grams of protein and is really delish.”

Better-for-you snacks continue to gain in popularity. Enjoy Life Foods, based in Schiller Park, Ill., was sampling its Decadent Soft Baked Bars, available in Cherry Cobbler, Chocolate Sunbutter, Cinnamon Bun and S’Mores varieties. “When it comes to dessert bars, everyone has kind of gone the granola route, but we took it more to the decadent dessert route,” says Joel Warady, chief sales and marketing officer. “The response has been great on these. Meijer took three of the four SKUs.”

Pineapples-(Hulk)Officials at Funky Monkey Snacks, the Fishers, Ind.-based manufacturer of freeze dried fruit snacks, were touting their new partnership with Marvel Comics. “Our freeze dried fruit is crunchy like chips, but it is just fruit with nothing else in it,” says Matt Herzog, president. The line includes Hulk Pineapples, Spider-Man Strawberries, Iron Man Strawberry Bananas, Captain America Cinnamon Apples and Mighty Thor Bananas. “This has all the health, convenience and deliciousness of our fruit snacks, along with the great Marvel characters, and people have really responded to it,” adds Herzog.

While kids may love Marvel action figures, they also tend to have an affinity for anything sour. That is why American Licorice Co. is rolling out Sour Punch Punchies. “It is a line extension of our classic Sour Punch brand,” says Mike Kelly, media and consumer communications specialist, at Bend, Ore.-based American Licorice. “We’ve taken these classic characters from the Sour Punch packaging, our Punchies, and brought them to life in a small, chewy, sour candy available in lemon, strawberry, tangerine, blue razz and green apple classic Sour Punch flavors. Each candy has a candy shell with a little face imprinted on it.”

Atkinson Candy Co. is promoting its newest additions, the Slo Poke, Black Cow and Sophie Mae brands which the Lufkin, Texas-based company acquired earlier this year from The Warrell Corp. “This acquisition points to our continued strategic growth in the classic confections market and allows us to work more closely with other family-owned U.S. businesses,” says Eric Atkinson, president.

The Sophie Mae brand, in particular, is presenting Atkinson with an opportunity to further expand its peanut brittle business, which has been a hallmark of the company since 1938.

Lollipops appeal to consumers of all ages. That is why Original Gourmet Food Co. was touting its line of gourmet lollipops. According to company officials, Walmart is so pleased with the line that they have commissioned 3,000-count pallet display shippers.

“According to Nielsen data, sales of our Original lollipops increased by over 500%, and we are just starting out in the grocery channel,” says Matthew Macero, sales executive, at Salem, N.H.-based Original Gourmet.

Among Original Gourmet’s new products is a nine-count ring of lollipops. “Safeway is going to take this on for Christmas with their own design on the label,” Macero says. “The Fred Meyer division of Kroger is taking it on as well.”

For Easter, Original Gourmet is working on variety packs of pastel flavors. “These seasonal boxes will contain our top-selling flavors. We have 24 different flavors of lollipops but certain flavors sell better than others,” Macero says. “We are also creating an all-natural lollipop that is going to be merchandised in a wooden display separated by flavors. It will have no GMO, artificial flavors, preservatives or colors.”

Kencraft Handcrafted Confections was showcasing its new lollipop display that holds 12 pieces of candy instead of the original counter display that holds 24. “Our purpose was to make it a smaller footprint so you can post it at point-of-sale, cash/wrap, or the checkout counter and still have an inline product as well,” says Jeff Tillery, vice president, sales and marketing, for the Alpine, Utah-based company.

Perhaps Kencraft’s most striking product is its animal themed lollipops, available in zebra stripe, tiger and leopard prints. “They are actually printed images,” Tillery says. “We can make a lollipop of any image, so this lends itself very easily to private label.”

Jelly Belly Candy Co. was heating up the convention with its samples of Tabasco Jelly Belly jelly beans, which were being snapped up as soon as they were put out. The big news is that starting this fall the Fairfield, Calif.-based company is implementing voluntary front-of-the-package nutritional labeling on its most popular packaged products. Among the items being highlighted on the front label are calories and fat content.

“Front-of-package labeling is the future of our industry and Jelly Belly Candy Co. is committed to being an early adopter of this movement,” says Bob Simpson, president and COO. “Transparency and clear communication on the part of the manufacturer allow consumers to make informed choices when the moment for a sweet treat strikes.”

Frosted pretzels
The marriage between candy and salty snacks continues to grow, with candy-coated pretzels, nuts and potato chips growing in popularity.

Marty Palmer, president of Palmer Candy Co., was touting the additions to the Sioux City, Iowa-based company’s frosted pretzel line. “We have Cinnamon Roll, Caramel Apple and Pumpkin Pie for the fall,” he says. “They are really great and lots of fun. They can be packed in a shipper or available in bulk. We did Peach, Strawberry, Orange and Blueberry for Walmart for the spring and it was huge. We said we have to expand this.”

Toad-Ally Snax bill themselves as a “totally awesome” snack line of candy coated pretzels, drizzled popcorn and a mixture containing both. The company also does a booming private label business in all classes of trade.

“We were the original chocolate-covered pretzel people and we’ve been doing this since 1983,” says Darlette Jenkins, president of Toad-ally Snax. “We have a new Halloween item of micro mini pretzels and one with caramel corn.”

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