By Deborah Cassell
Editor
Confection & Snack Retailing
casselld@bnpmedia.com

getting fresh: NACS reporter's notebook

Ahhhh, “sweet” home Chicago. For out-of-towners who attended this week’s NACS Show at McCormick Place, I hope you got the opportunity to explore our fair city … as well as commiserate with Cubs (100 years and counting) and Sox (hey, at least they won the Series less than a century, make that less than a decade, ago) fans.

Baseball season may be over for Chicagoans, but trade show season is in full effect … and the latter is less likely to result in heartache.

Case in point: NACS. In between sampling the multitude of meat snack introductions (yum!) that pervaded this annual show for c-store buyers, I took note of numerous introductions and line extensions in both the confectionery and snack food categories.

Here are some products that stepped up to the plate:
  • Bite-size Dove PROMISES Changemakers. Available in a countertop display to attract c-store customers. Choose from silky milk or rich dark chocolate varieties. From Mars Snackfood.

  • Sugar-free Before & After Mints and Gum, featuring two flavors in every tin. New varieties of this whimsical product include Mango and Pomegranate. Coming soon: Before & After milk and dark chocolates. From Before & After Candy.

  • Orbit sugar-free gum in two new flavors: Strawberry Mint and Positively Pomegranate. Both varieties are “Accepted by the American Dental Association.” Also new from the Orbit brand: Orbit Mist, a premium gum infused with Micro-burst technology to deliver “a unique hydrating sensation,” according to company literature. From The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.

  • Chewy Extinguisher Sour Citrus Candy for kids, offering three levels of sour and a sweet “extinguisher” for sour relief. Available in a user-friendly slide tray. From American Licorice Co.

  • Sugar-free Mentos Gum Pocket Bottles in a new flavor: Tropical. Also new from the brand: Mentos Pure Fresh Gum, made with Green Tea Extract and available in Fresh Mint and Wintergreen varieties. From Perfetti Van Melle.

  • Reese’s Sweet & Salty Snacksters  -- a combination of Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips, chocolate chips, cereal bites and pretzels -- in 100-calorie packs. From The Hershey Co.

  • Quench Gum “On the Go” Pint Bottle.  Each reusable water bottle is made from BPA free #4 plastic and contains individual pieces of lemon, orange and fruit-flavored gum, made from artificial and natural flavors. “Thirst quenching gum for active people.” From Mueller Sports Medicine, Inc.
Of course, there were many more worthwhile offerings on hand at NACS. For a complete post-show wrap-up, check out the next issue of Confection & Snack Retailing. In the meantime, keep reading Sweet & Healthy for new product announcements … and GO BEARS! (There’s always next year, Cubs fans. There’s always next year.)

Cadbury announces board changes

Cadbury PLC, manufacturer of Green & Black’s organic confections, has announced that Ken Hanna, executive director and Chief Financial Officer, will step down from the Board of Directors in April 2009. According to a press release, Hanna intends to pursue non-executive careers, including at international car retailer Inchcape PLC, which recently announced Hanna’s appointment as chairman, to take effect in May 2009. Hanna has been on Inchcape’s Board of Directors since 2001.

“On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Ken for the outstanding contribution he has made to the group as Chief Financial Officer,” says Roger Carr, chairman of Cadbury.

Cadbury CFO Ken Hanna adds, “It has been a privilege to serve on the Cadbury board and to work alongside Todd and the rest of the executive team. I have every confidence that, as a focused confectionery company, Cadbury will deliver on its full potential. I will remain committed to the company’s success while completing a smooth handover to my successor next year.”

For more information about Cadbury PLC, visit www.cadbury.com.

Attune bars reach 4,000 stores

San Francisco-based Attune Foods, maker of probiotic wellness bars, has expanded its product lines to more than 4,000 retailers across the country, according to a press release. Consumers now can find the chocolate products at Publix, Ralph’s, Albertson’s, Food Lion and Bloom, in addition to existing retailers such as Whole Foods and Safeway.

Attune brand bars are sold in the refrigerated yogurt aisle to maintain freshness. When refrigerated, the probiotics in the products stay alive for eight months from the date of manufacture. If left unrefrigerated, the probiotics will remain active for two weeks.

Attune Foods offers 100-calorie chocolate bars and 170-calorie granola bars, both of which feature five times the live active cultures in yogurt. The bars feature four kosher and GRAS-certified probiotic strains, which help promote digestive and immune system health.

Attune chocolate bars are available in 80-calorie Dark Chocolate and 100-calorie Mint Chocolate, Chocolate Crisp and Blueberry Vanilla varieties. Attune granola bars come in Wild Berry, Strawberry Bliss, Lemon Crème, Mango Peach, Chewy Chocolate Granola and Peanut Butter & Chocolate Granola.

For more information about Attune Foods, visit www.attunefoods.com.

Funky Monkey Snacks go organic

Funky Monkey Snacks, headquartered in Fishers, Ind., has announced that the Bananamon, Purple Funk and Jivealime varieties of its all-natural, freeze-dried fruit snacks are now certified organic, according to Natural Organic Program (NOP) standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This certification ensures that the product was produced, harvested, processed and handled using all natural methods and substances.

The “organic” label means that 95% of the aforementioned flavors were organically produced.

“It’s great to be able to officially assure our customers that Funky Monkey Snacks are not only respectful of the environment in every step of production, but also are grown and manufactured using organic methods,” says company president Matt Herzog.

Funky Monkey freeze-dried fruit snacks contain three of the four daily recommended servings of fruit, are made with 100% real fruit, and contain no added sugar, preservatives, colors or flavors. The snacks also are gluten-, wheat- and dairy-free, and certified Kosher-Parve.

For more information, visit www.FunkyMonkeySnacks.com.

Theo adds 'Good for All' seal

Organic and fair trade chocolate manufacturer Theo Chocolate, Seattle, has announced a partnership with environmentalist, anthropologist and humanitarian Dr. Jane Goodall, according to the company’s Web site. The alliance was inspired by Theo’s “Cocoa Practices” initiative, a program that brings small-scale farmers, larger producers and NGO’s from the world’s cocoa producing regions together to create high-quality cacao while conserving the rainforest’s wildlife and natural resources.

As a decades-long leader of the environmental movement and a United Nations Messenger of Peace, Goodall created her own “Good for All” seal symbolizing her commitment to high-quality, ethically produced products.

Theo’s newly created 70% organic, Fair Trade dark chocolate and 45% organic Fair Trade milk chocolate bars feature the seal. Proceeds from sales of the chocolate bars will benefit cocoa farmers, promote conservation in the tropical rainforest and contribute to the Jane Goodall Institute.

For more information about Theo Chocolate, visit www.theochocolate.com.

sweet of the week: Yogen Früz Smoothies

For consumers who want it all, the benefits and flavor of a natural fruit and yogurt smoothie now come in candy form. Partnering with frozen yogurt chain Yogen Früz, Big Sky Brands has launched all-natural Yogen Früz Smoothies candy. Containing probiotic yogurt, pure cane sugar and Vitamin C, the candies are just three calories per piece and are fat-free. Ten pieces are equal to one serving of the leading probiotic yogurt brand. The candies come in Strawberry Banana, Blueberry Breeze and Tropical Storm varieties -- popular flavors from the Yogen Früz store chain.

For more information, visit www.bigskybrands.com.