Archive for the ‘Natural’ Category

Now that the 2011 Sweets & Snacks EXPO has come in for a landing, and I’ve had a chance to sift through my notes scribbles, candy samples, and manufacturer marketing materials, I have a few more confectionery wunderkinds that need to be shared.

Anne Taintor and Knock Knock Chocolate Bars
The PRAIM Group

Paul Pruett, founder of the PRAIM Group, is known for producing clever chocolate bar products (Bloomsberry USA, Bubble Chocolate, and Bosco).  His latest venture is the creation and distribution of 3.5-ounce all-natural milk and dark chocolate bars for the individual brands Anne Taintor, Inc. and Knock Knock.

I’ve been a fan of Anne Taintor’s vintage/irreverent accessories for a number of years and I came to know Knock Knock stationery and accessories a few months ago while holiday shopping. I fell in love with Knock Knock’s “WTF” self-inking stamp and post-it notes.

Here’s a peek at both brands’ designs, now appearing on chocolate bar wrappers (you might recognize the artwork):

My favorite chocolate bar in the lineup is the “99 Ways to Survive the Holidays.” I may gift a few of these to myself this holiday season and follow suggestion No. 69, “Up the dosage.”

According to Amy Goldsmith, a spokesperson for the PRAIM Group, the bars are shipping to retail stores as of today, so look for them on Candy.com shortly.

Dippin’ Ice Cream Candy and Flix Mix
Imaginings 3, Inc. (Flix Candy brand)

When I stepped into the Imaginings 3/Flix Candy booth and saw signage for the company’s new Dippin’ Ice Cream Candy, I was skeptical. My kids have tapped my wallet multiple times for the expensive Dippin’ Dots ice cream pellets at baseball games, so seeing the brand in a candy format didn’t make me jump for joy. Plus, if I was going to pick an ice cream brand to morph into a candy, I’d lean toward Ben & Jerry’s.

Even so, I plunged ahead with a sample of the Cookies ‘n Cream Dippin’ Ice Cream candy (it’s also available in Banana Split). The product, which is made in the USA and available in a 2.6-ounce theater box and 1.6-ounce pouch, is a blend of tiny cookie bits and equally tiny cream bits—think Oreo cookie and its creamy white middle cut into teeny-tiny round dots. The Banana Split variety is blend of chocolate, banana, strawberry, and vanilla cream bits.

Bottom line, the Cookies ‘n Cream Dippin’ Ice Cream candy was quite a bit better than I expected. The cookie bits had a surprisingly good crunch and the creamy bits weren’t sticky or too stiff. I would sneak them into the movies.

Also sneak-in worthy is Flix Candy’s Flix Mix, a combination of crisp rice cereal coated with real milk chocolate and peanut butter, then dusted with powdered sugar. Flix Mix tastes remarkably like the no-bake Chex Muddy Buddies (also known as “Puppy Chow”) that infiltrates most offices and cookbooks during the holidays. If you are a sweet cereal mixer, you won’t be disappointed.

Flix Mix is available in a 2.2-ounce theater box and 4.5-ounce peg bag.

Shimmer Gumballs
SweetWorks (Oak Leaf Brand)

SweetWorks‘ new Shimmer Gumballs were one of the prettiest candies at last week’s Sweets & Snacks EXPO.

Julie Davidson, the company’s eastern regional sales manager, created a beautiful candy buffet table in the middle of the SweetWorks booth that showed off the pearly round gems (see pics below).

I could see these shimmering gumballs strung into garland or necklaces for parties … or displayed in apothecary jars at Tiffany’s. They are that glam.



SweetWorks’  Shimmer Gumballs are available in bulk in lime green (my favorite!), bright pink, lavender, powder blue, yellow, orange, and white. Starting in July, the gumballs will also be available in 8-ounce bags as part of SweetWorks’ new Celebration line.

The single-color Shimmer Gumball colors match SweetWorks’ line of single-color Pearl Sixlets. (See “Sixlets” jar in photo above.) Custom colors are available upon request.

Dorval Premium Collection Chocolate Sticks
Dorval Trading Co., Ltd.

Dorval Trading Co. now has its own line of all-natural chocolate sticks, which replaces the importing company’s Rademaker chocolate sticks from Holland. The new Dorval Premium Collection Chocolate Sticks are made with real chocolate and are packaged in 2.64-ounce boxes fit for gifting.

Of the four varieties in this line (Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, Mint Dark Chocolate, and Caramel Milk Chocolate), the Caramel Milk Chocolate sticks are the most interesting. They  aren’t filled with caramel, but rather the flavor is infused in the chocolate.

Normally, I’m not into flavor infusions when it comes to chocolate—give me the straight dope—but the caramel flavoring in these solid sticks isn’t overpowering or cloying. The chocolate is good quality, and reminds me of Guittard’s smooth milk chocolate. Perhaps it is.

The Dorval Premium Collection Chocolate Sticks are scheduled to ship July/August 2011.

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Day one at the 2011 Sweets & Snacks EXPO, and the show floor reflected the state of the confectionery industry—still booming.

According to the National Confectioners Association, the confectionery industry posted a 3.6% gain in 2010, and in the 52 weeks ending April 17, 2011, the highest performing major confectionery segments based on unit sales were:

Single Chocolate Bars +8.5%
Seasonal Christmas Chocolate +7.2%
Snack Size Chocolate Bars +6.4%
Hard Candy Pkg/Rolls +4.4%
Chewy Candy +3.6%
Licorice +3.6%
Sugarless Gum +2.2%

Source: SymphonyIRI Group

All of these categories were well-represented on the show floor today. Here are a few that winked at me:

Candy Corn Jelly Beans and Mint Chocolate Dips
Jelly Belly, Booth 831

It was just a matter of time before Jelly Belly would take cues from its classic Candy Corn and create a Candy Corn-flavored jelly bean. Officially available in June, Jelly Belly’s Candy Corn jelly beans have a buttery taste with a hint of vanilla. The new beans will be available year round and come in 10-pound bulk cases and 9-ounce packages.

Also new from Jelly Belly are Mint Chocolate Dips. The Mint Chocolate Dips are a new flavor in Jelly Belly’s chocolate-dipped jelly bean collection. These beans are good, too! What I didn’t realize until today is that Jelly Belly chocolate-dipped beans don’t have the typical jelly bean sugar shell; the chocolate layer is the shell.  I also learned from Jelly Belly’s director of communications, Tomi Holt, that the Chocolate Dips are slightly less caloric than regular Jelly Belly jelly beans (3.7 vs. 4 calories per bean). While writing this post, I polished off two mini bags of Very Cherry Dips and don’t feel one bit guilty.

Hard Candy Shot Glasses
Melville Candy Company, Booth 2002
Gummy shot glasses created some good buzz last year. This year, it’s hard candy shot glasses.

The family-owned Melville Candy Company has created seasonal and everyday sets of hard candy shot glasses. I like the swirled variety above—perfect for when “Bridesmaids” and “Hangover 2” come out on DVD. Also new from Melville are lava lamp-shaped lollipops. I took a photo of these today, but since I am a rotten photographer, I’ll leave them up to your imagination. Based on buyer reaction in Melville’s booth, I will say that candy shot glasses and lava lamp pops have serious legs.

Chocolate Krispy Treats
Forbidden Sweets, Booth 2463

This booth was mobbed today. And, I know why. The company’s “Chocolate Krispy Treats” on a stick are creative, adorable, and come in zillions of designs, shapes, and colors. They taste good, too, and have a six-month shelf life.

One of the Forbidden Sweets‘ owners told me that the Peanuts Gallery collection (above, left), was created for and is carried by Hallmark stores. Take a look at the crisped food collection (above right) all on sticks. Love the mushroom and pickle.

Each treat is packed on a sturdy sucker stick in a clear cello bag and measures about 4 inches in diameter. The treats ship 8 per case.

Sugar-Free Glee
Verve, inc., Booth 1456

It’s happened. Verve, inc., the makers of Glee Gum, ventured into sugar-free and now have two products in the category: Lemon Lime and Refresh Mint gum.

Both products are sweetened with 100% xylitol, a sugar alcohol extracted from birch tree bark.

Sugar-Free Glee, like the rest of the Glee Gum line, is all-natural and made without artificial coloring, flavoring, sweeteners or preservatives.

The chewy texture comes from chicle, a tree sap harvested sustainably to help conserve the rainforest. Sugar-Free Glee is also gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free, and GMO-free. Packaged in recycled cardboard rather than blister packs, each box contains 15 pieces of gum.

Chocolate Squares for Zzzz’s
Slumberland Snacks, Booth 1876
The Upstate Dream Institute in Ithaca, NY, came to the Sweets & Snacks EXPO with “Slumberland Snacks Chocolatey Sleep Squares: The bedtime delight that helps you sleep through the night.”

I kid you not. (Full disclosure, I have yet to try these nighty-night squares for fear of nodding off in the middle of the trade show floor, but they are intriguing. Additional disclosure: Sleep Squares actually launched at the 2010 Natural Products Expo East Show in Boston, but they’re new to me, so I’m plopping them in this post.)

According to Slumberland Snack’s Web site, the sleep mechanisms in these squares are “Traditional herbs: Blue Vervain, Passionflower Extract, L-Theanine, Hops Extract Brain Fuels: L-5-HTP, Choline L-Bitartate, and Melatonin.”

If I have the guts to try these tomorrow—day 2 of the show—I’ll let you know how I fare. ?The product is currently available in two sizes: a 7 count (one week’s supply) and a 30 count (one month’s supply), and comes in three flavors: Original, Raspberry, and Orange.

Zanies Marshmallow Candy
Spangler Candy Company, Booth 1937

This Christmas, the Spangler Candy Company is introducing its newest marshmallow product, Zanies Wacky Marshmallow Candy. The packaging is vibrant and fun, and I think kids will dig it. Mine did when I showed them the image.

Zanies feature four Christmas-shaped marshmallow characters; Oliver Orange – an ornament, Gretchen Grape – a Christmas star, Sarah Strawberry – a stocking, and Adam Apple – a Christmas tree. Ideal for stockings and secret Santa gifts, kids can collect all four character ornament cut-outs featured on the back of each display carton.

Each 2.5-ounce pack contains 10 Zanies marshmallows.

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The Marich Confectionery Company is the kind of candy company you want to buy from, work for, or—in my case—write about.

It’s a family-owned manufacturing business that was started in 1983 by the late Dutch candy maker Marinus van Dam. He was 57 at the time of launch. His two sons, Brad and Troy, now run the California-based company, but that was not by design (more in a minute).

Marinus’ candy career started in his early teens in Rotterdam, Netherlands, shortly after his father died in a German work camp during WWII. To support his family, he got a job at the DeHeer chocolate factory (now owned by The Baronie Group) scraping chocolate and other confections off the floor.

Over time, Marinus proved himself and was chosen to attend a candy technology school. Brad says his dad was a sponge and learned how to make every type of candy under the sun, including Marich Confectionery Company’s hallmark panned candies (candy with a coating or candy shell).

“My dad knew candy from a creative standpoint and by its molecular structure,” says Brad. “People in the industry would frequently call on him to troubleshoot process, technique, and formula issues.”

Marinus took his honed skills to the United States and went to work for a series of candy manufacturers, including Anthony-Thomas Chocolates, Herman Goelitz Candy Co. (now the Jelly Belly Candy Company), and Harmony Foods before opening his own operation in the early 1980s.

Family Matters
To keep his young confectionery company afloat, Marinus asked his son Brad, who, at the time, was 20, living on his own, and pursuing an engineering degree, if he would please come home and help with the business.

“My dad said, ‘I can’t afford to pay you, but you can live at home,’” says Brad who chuckles when he tells what it was like to move back to the nest. “My dad is old-school Dutch, so working for him was like going to the college of hard knocks.”

Brad and his younger brother Troy both rose to the occasion and started out making boxes, mopping floors, cleaning the bathroom, and other necessary evils. “For the first two years, we didn’t get paid,” says Brad.

When one of the candy makers left Marich for health reasons, Brad stepped up again. “I made more scrap than candy and got an earful.”

Flash-Forward to 2011
Brad and Troy are both master candy makers and are doing exactly what their dad was skillfully able to do with chocolate and sugar: read and respond to it.

“Chocolate and sugar have a mind of their own,” says Brad with a big laugh. He also mentions how the panning process brings its own unique set of challenges to the art of candy making.

“For what seems to be a simple process, you’d be amazed at the number of things that can go wrong. I equate it to bowling. You’ll get good at it, but you’re never going to bowl a 300 game every time,” he explains. “You can do everything the same way you did it the last time, and it won’t work. They key is staying ahead of the process so you have time to read and react to the product.”

Heart and Soul
Just like their father, Brad and Troy use Guittard Chocolate for their chocolate products and are very proud of that 27-year relationship.

As I’m talking to Brad about this longstanding partnership, he tells me a great story about Guittard’s now-retired sales director, Hank Spini.

“No matter where in the world Hank was on October 24, he would find my dad to have lunch with him. It was my dad’s birthday,” he explains. “This went on for decades. They were good friends.”

Hank eventually became Brad’s mentor and taught him how to buy cocoa and work with customers. Hank’s son Mark Spini followed in his own father’s footsteps and is a cornerstone at Guittard today.

How cool is that?

The Goods
The Marich Confectionery Company’s chocolate and non-chocolate products (almost too pretty to eat) are available at Candy.com and Marich.com as well as specialty retailers. Here is a tiny teaser to get you to check out the entire collection, which includes all-natural, organic, and sugar-free options. (Click on each image below for detailed product information.)

Best Seller! Pastel Chocolate Cherries

Valentine Jordan Almonds

Holland Mints

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Candy lovers are a passionate bunch. We’re big on learning about candy and the stories behind the brands. We love to talk about the sweet stuff, consume it, and share it. (Heck, if that weren’t true, Candy.com wouldn’t have 55,000+ Facebook Fans.)

So, periodically in this blog, I’m going to put a spotlight on a select candy manufacturer to give you the who behind some of your favorite brands as well as brands you might not know about … yet.

The first who in my “Meet the Candy Makers” series is the Kimmie Candy Company.

This candy maker fascinates me for a handful of reasons:

- It’s only 10 years old, which is young for the majorly mature candy industry.

- Kimmie Candy’s founder, Joe Dutra, is an international agronomist who grew up in a farming family in California. At one point in his own farming career, Joe farmed for a prince in Saudi Arabia.

- Kimmie Candy is one of a few US companies to manufacture overseas and then move all operations to US soil. Kimmie Candy products were manufactured in Korea until 2008 when Joe opened headquarters in Reno, Nevada.

- The company is named after a family friend who offhandedly said the company should be named after her. And so it was.

You may be wondering how this US candy company got its start in Korea. It was actually a bit of a fluke. One of Joe Dutra’s employees at the time told him about a container full of chocolate-covered sunflower kernels from Korea that was left at a San Francisco dock. Looking to diversify, Joe purchased the container.

That container led to more. Joe was sending U.S. sunflower seeds to Korea for candy coating, which were then shipped back to California for packaging.

Then, Sept. 11 hit, which was a major turning point for the candy company. “I became patriotic,” says Joe. “I was living in a community, but I wasn’t bringing anything back to it.”

After several business hiccups, including a lawsuit from Mars, Joe convinced his Korean panner (a confectioner who applies a candy shell to candy and nuts) to move to America and purchase equipment for US production in Reno, Nevada.

With all operations now in Reno, Joe says he’s expecting 30% to 40% growth by year end.

“We really are living the American Dream,” says Joe, who has welcomed his own two grown children into the Kimmie Candy Company. “It’s a pleasure to come to work everyday.”

The Goods
Kimmie Candy’s line of panned candy products includes three brands: Choco Rocks, Sunbursts, and Kettle Corn Nuggets, as well as  Jordan almonds. (Click on each image below for detailed product information.)

According to Mark Bedingfield, Kimmie Candy’s sales director, the Choco Rocks are currently the company’s best seller. Mark says the gold, silver, and bronze Choco Rocks Boulders and Choco Rocks Nuggets are getting quite a bit of attention from candy retailers and party planners.

It’s easy to see why. The large chunks of composite milk and dark chocolate coated in edible metallic glitters are pure eye candy in glass containers.

Gold Choco Boulders

Kimmie’s candy-coated sunflower kernels, Sunbursts, have also caught the eye of party planners, retailers, and bakers because they’re available in 18 solo colors plus an all-natural mix and several holiday mixes. The glossy Sunbursts’ little seed shape lends itself to cake and cupcake decorating and mixing with other panned candies like Kimmie’s Kettle Corn Nuggets and Jordan Almonds.

Sunbursts Natural Mix

The Kettle Corn Nuggets (roasted corn nuggets coated in milk chocolate with a colorful candy shell) is the newest product in Kimmie’s lineup, and, like all Kimmie products, is available in holiday colors and mixes.

Kettle Corn Nuggets Christmas Mix

Sunbursts Hanukkah Mix

Choco Rocks Black Coal

Red Jordan Almonds

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