Personally and professionally, countless consumers were looking for a more hopeful year come 2011, a return to some “sweetness and light.”
Never a laggard in trend-spotting, the confectionery industry demonstrated once again that it’s attuned to its customers. Visitors to the 41st International Sweets and Biscuits Fair (ISM) in Cologne in late January and early February had plenty of opportunities to see and sample endless examples of more playful treats, everything from board games and bonbons to storytelling sweets.
That playfulness extended to the research and development departments where confectionery technologists fused flavors such as mango, lime and orange together or resurrected local (European) fruits and herbs such as serviceberries, sloes, quinces and elder. Of course, these days, being sweet also means being socially conscious.
For example, there’s Swiss-based Chocolats Halba, a subsidiary of mega-retailer COOP, which presented a carbon emission neutral chocolate. Experts at the company calculated that one 100-g. bar of chocolate produces between 150 to 180 grams of CO2 emissions, depending upon the recipe. Milk chocolate creates a bit larger carbon footprint, 220 to 280 grams.
The company then developed a strategy of how to offset these CO2 emissions, including a program that involves reforesting the rain forests within the cocoa-producing regions. Products that also allow consumers to treat themselves with a clear conscience were on the uptick as well. Is it a surprise that 100% vegetarian snack bars and all-vegetable gummies made a splash at the show? Gimmick or shrewd gambit? It’s hard to say.
Certainly some of these themes were evident in what journalists choose as the top innovations at the fair. Almost 100 journalists from all over the world participated in the poll to select the top three innovations presented in ISM’s New Product Showcase, which featured 87 sweets.
The top three innovations - Cacobean AG: KIDI-CHOC child-friendly chocolate with low sugar content; ültje: Bolivian peanuts; and Pralibel N.V.: Dessert pralines - weren’t necessarily breakthrough product concepts. Rather, they pounced on consumer penchants for better-for-you, exotic origin and visual and sensual appeal. Basel, Switzerland-based Cacobean AG products contain 40% less sugar than conventional chocolate and have child friendly packaging. Included with the chocolate is a sheet with a fairy tale, short story, or an interesting article. Not necessarily groundbreaking, but cute and trendy, nonetheless.
The “Bolivian peanuts” from Schwerte, Germany-based ültje contain a 200g. mix of different types of peanuts that all come from Bolivia. To create this product, ültje works together closely with Bolivian farmers to improve the nuts that have such a unique origin. This results in natural and carefully processed peanuts from the rainforests of South America.
The Bouillon, Belgium-based company Pralibel N.V. developed a series of multilayer pralines, which come in a variety of flavors and are packaged in appealing, nostalgic boxes. It would be incorrect, however, to suggest that these themes are the main drivers in the confectionery industry. Innovation, of course, attracts attention and publicity.
It is also capable of creating new segment niches. Nevertheless, mainstream confectionery products, driven by brand loyalty and awareness, still dominate consumer purchases. It’s clear, however, that the major multinational and midsized companies are keeping an eye on a host of product launches that attempt to connect to the consumer by taste sensations, exotic origin, exclusivity, whimsy or social consciousness.
Consider Wiebold Confi serie, which emphasized the art in artisan chocolates by engaging Michael Fischer to create extraordinary packaging for the company’s pralines. The company, which recently established Wiebold Chocolates, Inc. as an American subsidiary, also unveiled a new Coffee To Eat line of pralines in three fl avors: latte macchiato, cappuccino and coffee toffee. The 100-g. offering (3.5-oz.) retails for $2.99 and is designed to tap into the coffee-shop generation’s love of coffee and chocolate.
Gubor, which last year engaged Germany’s leading chef, Harald Wohlfahrt, continued to parlay the culinary star’s artistry into confections. The key to Wohlfahrt’s involvement stems from taking traditional chocolate inclusions and tweaking them in such a manner that consumers are delighted with the presentation, such as Gubor’s three variations on the marzipan bar.
Known gummi and jelly producer Mederer GmbH continues to push the envelope with new product introduction for his Trolli brand of confections. The launch of Soft Fruits features superfruit flavors with just a hint of yogurt.
Continuing on that better-for-you confection theme, the company unveiled its vegetarian line of gummies, the Bizzl Mix, which doesn’t use any gelatin, be it beef, pork or fish-based. In keeping with the playful theme, the company also unveiled Gummi Bear Rings, a simply brilliant interactive gummi treat that’s sure to entertain kids (and adults) for hours on end.
Lambertz, well known for its broad range of gingerbread specialties as well as an ever-expanding range of everyday biscuits, revealed a series of new products, some of which tap into the health trend that continues to infl uence confections as well as the ongoing trend of indulgence and whimsy.
Take the company’s launch of Florentines, a takeoff on the ultra thin almond, chocolate biscuit. Cognizant of this society’s snack-and-go consciousness, a characteristic that embraces convenience, Lambertz debuted its line of Kaffee and Co. biscuits in Cappuccino, Latte Macchiate and Caramel and Hazelnut fl avors.
The company’s Stix Mix variety pack, which combines five different cookie and chocolate “sticks” together, capitalizes on today’s consumer preference for choices. The 450-year-old company wasn’t going to miss out on the whimsy and playfulness trend as it debuted a Easter “sunny-side up” product, Oster-Eier, essentially a friedegg lookalike biscuit item that uses lemon and orange flavors creams.
With regards to seasonal, French chocolate maker CE MOI’s Bloody Eye product will undoubtedly be the talk of Halloween trick-or-treaters. The 1.3- oz. eye-shapped milk chocolate piece features a strawberry fondant that looks like a bloody eye (white and red in the center).
Imagine the fun the youngsters will have offering that to their parents. The Brazilian contingent of confectionery companies, certainly a group known for their willingness to enjoy life, made their presence known at ISM. Coordinated by ABICAB, Brazil’s confectionery association, and in partnership with Apex- Brasil [the Brazilian Trade and Manufacturers Investment Promotion Agency], 28 Brazilian manufacturers showcased new product concepts at the fair. Harald, for example, unveiled a new line of cereal balls in three different varieties: milk and dark chocolate and au pareil mixes.
Florestal, which celebrated its 75th anniversary this January, made caramel a bit more convenient for children with its Purlito Mikino, a chew caramel on a stick. Garoto developed a new format for its popular Serenata de Amor pralines in a heart-shaped format; Riclan looks to tap into consumers’ love of toffee with its MyToffee offering while Erlan tempted consumers with its chocolate-covered bited-sized toffees.
Brazil, however, wasn’t the only country flexing its sweets muscle. Several Mexican confectionery companies also looked to impress buyers with their array of candies.
Dulces Finosy Artesanales Alsi-Aldresi displayed its commitment to traditional handmade candy by having an array of all natural and healthy sweets, all of which are made from different seeds and nuts, such as pecans, almonds, squash seeds, peanuts, and sesame seeds.
In a way, the family-owned company’s product line typifies what consumers are looking for these days, a bit of “sweetness and light.