Archive for the ‘Trends’ Category

Starbucks cups are dressed in red, Target’s Christmas aisles are up and twinkling, and peppermint candy canes are selling like hotcakes at Candy.com. This can only mean one thing. It’s game on for holiday party season.

That said, I did a little holiday party planning homework for you by contacting two prominent party planning/candy buffet experts to find out which candies they’ll be using on their clients’ holiday dessert tables and what trends they’re noticing as the holidays draw near. Here’s the skinny …

“Out with traditional red and green, and in with unique pairs like red and aqua, red and pink, and silver and white!” That’s the holiday hue forecast from Courtney Dial, founder and editor of Pizzazzerie, co-founder of The Bakery Spot, and author of the new book Push-up Pops, which is now available for pre-order.

Courtney’s forecast closely matches Pantone’s Color of the Year 2011 – Turquoise 15-5519, and Color of the Year 2010 – Honeysuckle Pink 18-2120.

To get Courtney’s modern and chic color palettes to really pop on a dessert table, try using SweetWorks’ new Celebration Collection of single-color candies, which includes Sixlets, Gumballs, and Candy Pearls in matte and shimmer options as well as foiled chocolate hearts and balls. (Click on any of the SweetWorks candies below to learn more.)

According to Courtney,  “Retro Holiday” is also hot. To set the stage for a nostalgic vibe, she suggests candies like Mallo Cups, old-fashioned candy sticks, and thin ribbon candy, and using wax lips as a sweet prop in a photo booth station. “Of course everything on a stick is as popular as ever,” she adds, “so use a bit of royal icing ‘glue’ to attach the wax lips to a lollipop stick.”

Courtney’s also a big fan of gingerbread decorating parties. “Whether it’s a princess pink gingerbread house theme or a traditional one, kids and adults alike absolutely go crazy over decorating sweet houses for the holidays,” she says.

Last year, Courtney hosted a Holiday Pink Tea Party where the guests created pink and white gingerbread houses. “It was a huge hit,” she says. Looking at her blog post and photos, yes it was.

Photos courtesy of Pizzazzerie

When asked what specific candy Courtney and her team favor during the holidays, Courtney offers up the peppermint stick. “They’re the cutest treat to serve alongside a hot chocolate bar or dip in chocolate for an extra-sweet favor,” she explains.

Courtney suggests building a peppermint candy station at holiday parties and letting kids dip their peppermints in milk and white chocolate and add a variety of colored sprinkles. Cute!

Marie Dannettelle, the founder of California-based Sweets Indeed, a company that specializes in high-end custom candy and dessert stations, says she consistently gets rave reviews when she includes caramels, peppermint bark, and homemade toffee on a holiday dessert table. Another of Marie’s perennial favorites? Gumdrops.

“To me, it’s not the holidays unless there’s a bowl of spice drops (gumdrops) around,” she explains. “In past years, we’ve even used them to make wreaths, trees, topiaries, necklaces, and more! One of these days I’ll create a dessert station centered around them.”

Candy.com now has mini and jumbo gumdrops to create the coolest Gingerbread House on the cul-de-sac. (For more product info, click on the gumdrops image above.)

For the 2011 holiday season, Marie also says she’s going to mix it up and stay away from traditional red and green. “I think pastels will make a big show in Christmas decor this year, especially in the desserts and candy section,” she says.

To achieve the softer holiday schematic for her clients, Marie is looking to Hammond’s Candy for its hand-pulled candy canes, candy ribbons, pillows, and straw candies offered in non-traditional, yet highly festive colors like bubble gum pink, berry blue, and sour apple green.

Marie and her team are also relying on their own handmade holiday Candy Kabobs to punch up holiday parties. (Candy Kabobs are available for purchase at SweetsIndeed.com.) The candy combinations and themes are crazy creative, vibrant, and fun. Here are a few teasers …

Photos courtesy of Sweets Indeed and The Pixel Studio

Many thanks to Courtney and Marie for their holiday party tips, trends, and go-to candies!

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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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In two short weeks, America’s largest candy show will be in full swing. The National Confectioners Association’s Sweets & Snacks EXPO, running May 24-26 in Chicago, is a lot like a candy store, but on steroids.

The show always draws impressive media attention around new candies about to hit store shelves and the Web. Typically, it’s the grossest candies that get the most coverage, like scorpion-infused lollipops or barf-flavored jelly beans; or new product launches from mega brands like Hershey, Nestlé and Mars; or trending flavors like bacon or pomegranate; or novelty items like  plastic grizzly bears and sheep that poop candy.

This year, journalists won’t be disappointed. All of those headline-worthy categories are covered. (Take a look at the list of candies that will be included in this year’s new product showcase at the Sweets & Snacks EXPO.)

Here are five new products I don’t want to miss on May 24.

Farts Candies from Leaf Brands, LLC. (Booth 2102)
I called Ellia Kassoff, the CEO of Leaf Brands, LLC, yesterday, to find out what he was thinking with the launch of a confectionery product called “Farts.”

Turns out these little buggers are not brown or smelly, but “a better version of Nerds,” says Ellia. Like Nerds, Farts candies are tiny, fruit-flavored nuggets or “poofs,” as Ellia affectionately calls them. Unlike Nerds, Farts Candies don’t have a crunchy shell. Instead it’s a chewier candy shell, and I’ll stop there before things get weird.

Ellia says the name “Farts” was picked because, “you can’t help but giggle and smile when you hear it.”  He’s also quick to point out that this product is not being positioned as a short-lived gross novelty item. He says he’s going for mainstream by keeping things “cute” and out of the toilet.

I know my kids—and husband—lose their minds when they say or hear the word “fart” (my son got a whoopee cushion over the weekend and can’t contain his laughter when it sounds off), so I have to admit that Leaf Brands may be on to something big.

Farts candy is available in 126+ flavors, but Leaf Brands isn’t planning on launching all of them, at least not right away. Ellia says he’s going to let the public vote via social media.

The final flavors will be packaged in 2.17-ounce packs and in four different varieties: Fruiti, Sour, Single Flavors, and Small Farts. “Small Farts” are itty-bitty candy pieces that look like sprinkles for topping cakes, cupcakes, and ice cream. I see a co-brand with Dairy Queen coming on.

Astro Pop Asteroids from Leaf Brands, LLC (Booth 2102)

The folks at Leaf Brands have been busy tinkering in the test kitchen. Back in December, the company brought Astro Pops back to life in the form of a jumbo 2-pound version. Fast forward five months, and Leaf Brands is now introducing Astro Pop Asteroids with the tagline, “The classic rocket pop blasted into bite-sized candy pieces.”

Each individually wrapped Astro Pop hard candy piece features the same flavors as the original pop: pineapple (yellow), cherry (red), and passion fruit (green).

Leaf’s Ellia Kassoff says original-size Astro Pops are also in the works, but a release date has yet to be set.

Hershey’s Air Delight Kisses and Air Delight Milk Chocolate Bars (Booth 845)

When chocolate bars enter into the brand-extension zone, they typically get a hit of fruit, nuts, cookies, caramel, or some other standard add-on.

The Hershey Company is going a completely different route by adding air bubbles to its classic Kisses and Milk Chocolate bars.

Aerated chocolate isn’t anything new, but it’s never really taken off in the United States. In Canada and Europe, I’ve been told it’s a staple item.

Back in September 2009, all-natural Bubble Chocolate bars launched in the United States and now have distribution in a range of retail channels, including Whole Foods, Duane Reade, meijer, Roundy’s Supermarkets, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and Home Goods. Both bars should be at the show, so it could be the perfect opportunity for a throw down.

Hershey’s 1.44-ounce Air Delight Milk Chocolate Bar and 9.4-ounce Air Delight Kisses are officially due out in June.

Air Heads 2-IN-1 Big Bar from Perfetti Van Melle USA Inc. (Booth 2145)
Good news for Air Heads fans (I am one of them). Perfetti Van Melle USA, Inc. has super-sized its standard 0.55-ounce Air Heads taffy to a 1.5-ounce bar and is combining two flavors in each bar.

Big Bar flavor combinations include Blue Raspberry/Cherry, Strawberry/Watermelon and Pink Lemonade/Orange. My money’s on Blue Raspberry/Cherry for best of the bunch.

Sour Lovers from Gimbal’s Fine Candies (Booth 1001)
New heart-shaped Sour Lovers chews from Gimbal’s are made with real fruit juice, gluten-free, kosher certified, and deliver a 25% daily Vitamin C dose per serving.

That’s all good stuff, but I think the most interesting thing about these sours are the grown-up, pucker-up flavors: Pomegranate, Strawberry Daiquiri, Sour Blueberry, Mango, Georgia Peach, Fuji Apple, Bing Cherry, Meyer Lemon, Watermelon, Grapefruit, Tangerine, and Baja Margarita.

“There is nothing like Sour Lovers in the market today,” says Karin Vollrath, sales and marketing director for Gimbal’s Fine Candies. “Existing sour candies out there are primarily of low quality, delivering a brief sour taste with limited flavor assortments that consumers consider unimaginative or artificial. Many adults grew up loving sour and still crave that taste, but now their palates have evolved.”

I like the fact that Sour Lovers doesn’t pack the sort of punch that makes you wince. For hardcore sour lovers, that may be a disappointment, but for sour fringe friends like myself, it’s a welcome relief.

Sour Lovers are available in 11-ounce laydown bags, 3- and 6-ounce peg bags, and 32-ounce jars.

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