By Deborah Cassell
Executive Editor
Candy Industry,
Retail Confectioner
casselld@bnpmedia.com

getting fresh: Catch wind of this

On a recent trek from Chicago to Columbus, Ohio, to visit my parents, a friend and I drove past a length of land filled not with corn, soybeans, cows or even pigs, but wind turbines. They stretched as far as the eye could see. As it got closer, we were in shock and awe at the size of a single silo … and the fan atop it.

I wondered aloud how wind energy worked, which led to a quick lesson from my friend, who just went back to school to become a science teacher. While I cannot possibly summarize for you what he said (science has never been my strong suit), I can tell you that I was fascinated.

So I looked up the commercial wind farm online, where I discovered just how big those turbines were (at its highest point, the tip of the blade is taller than a 30-story building,” according to www.greenenergyohio.org) and just how much energy they produce (“nearly 6.9 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually – enough to power approximately 785 homes”).

Wow.

Does it get any greener than that?

As you know, everyone is always talking about “going green.” And I’m happy to see so many consumers carrying reusable shopping bags (even happier when I remember to bring my own into the store) and recycling their cans, bottles and paperwork. But seeing real live large-scale energy practices such as this, in the flesh, is truly inspiring. I found myself asking my fellow passenger about other sources of energy, including solar. I wondered how many businesses, including those in our industry, are making use of these environmental initiatives.

Lately, my e-mail inbox has turned completely green with press releases regarding everything from conferences (such as one on the future of U.S. origin products such as nuts) to new organic ingredients (such as EcoSocial organic sugar from Global Organics, Ltd.) to packaging (such as those featured in Datamonitor’s recent Product Launch Analytics on new consumer packaged goods, including the Glico Pos-Ca Pod package for chewing gum) to recommendations (as featured in the first Zagat guide to New York City’s Certified Green Restaurants) to green media events (such as the upcoming Eco-Luxe Luxury Brand Showcase featuring food and spirit companies such as Divine Chocolate, to be held at Rouge Tomate, a restaurant that uses seasonal and locally sourced ingredients).

Just this afternoon, I received an e-mail about the National Confectioners Association’s new online series on environmental and sustainability initiatives in the confectionery industry, “in response to rising pressures from Walmart and other retailers urging manufacturers to improve the sustainability and environmental impact of their products.” The series will feature experts from Cadbury, Mars and Hershey as well as nonprofits, government agencies and academia, who will focus on the topics of energy management, manufacturing efficiency, packaging, transportation, natural resources and community involvement. (For more information, visit www.CandyUSA.com.)

As for me, I will continue to do my part to go green, both as an industry editor and as a consumer, partly by paying attention to what’s going on outside my very window.

Cadbury asserts strong status, future after unsolicited Kraft bid

Following Kraft Foods, Inc.’s recent $16.7 billion bid for Britain-based Cadbury PLC, the latter today held an investor conference regarding the future of the company, which at present does not include a proposed takeover by Kraft.

“Cadbury is a great company,” CEO Todd Stitzer told attendees. “The combination of our brands, our market positions, our people and our heritage is truly unique.”

Stitzer further noted that Cadbury’s revenue growth over the last five years has been strong, and its market share has increased significantly in the area of global confections, despite cost inflation.

That growth should continue given long-term trends in the confectionery industry, he continued. For example, consumer spending in the category remains high, up 4% in 2009, and Cadbury’s category mix benefits from “stay at home” behavior on the part of shoppers. There is reduced need for significant price increases as a result, Stitzer noted, adding that “our key emerging markets are expected to grow over 10% in the next three years.”

Stitzer also made reference to forthcoming growth from traditional gum markets due to economic improvements. Emerging markets such as India, South Africa and Turkey will continue to play a part in increased sales.

The points made in this particular investor presentation came at a poignant time, given Cadbury’s recent rebuffing of Kraft’s unsolicited offer to purchase the company. In an open letter to Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld, Cadbury Chairman Roger Carr strongly opposed the bid, saying Cadbury “would be absorbed into Kraft’s low growth, conglomerate business model, an unappealing prospect which contrasts sharply with our strategy to be a pure play confectionery company.”

For more information, visit www.cadbury.com and www.kraftfoodscompany.com.

Pulakos 926 changes ownership, management team

Last week, Erie, Pa.-based Pulakos 926 Chocolates changed its ownership and formulated a new management team. It consists of Joseph M. Hilbert as president and owner, George A. Pulakos as manager of manufacturing and product development, and John M. Zack as manager of business development.

Previously, Hilbert held the position of vice president of purchasing with Reddog Industries, Inc., while Zack worked as principal and part-owner of A. Anthony & Sons, Inc.

“Even though the ownership of the business has changed, the fine chocolates and quality candy making traditions will continue but with an innovative and fresh approach for our customers,” Hilbert said. “We have formed a strong leadership team with great synergy and energy to build upon the success of the Pulakos family.”

For more information, visit www.pulakoschocolates.com.

Hotel Chocolat opens first U.S. location

British cocoa grower and chocolatier Hotel Chocolat will be opening its first U.S. store in Boston later this month. The 1,200 sq.-ft. retail shop is located on one of the city’s most famous shopping boulevards: Newbury Street. Hotel Chocolat’s product lineup includes a mix of truffles, filled and solid chocolates, large chocolate slabs, single-estate and organic chocolates as well as a “cuisine” range of organic cocoa powders, enrobed fruits and chocolate tapenades.

One-third of the shop will house a chocolate tasting room – the first in the Boston.

“It will be similar to a winery’s tasting room,” explains Nicki Doggart, ceo of Hotel Chocolate, Inc. – America. The tasting, which will be by appointment only and conducted by a chocolate “concierge,” will last between 60 and 90 minutes, and focus on discovering the nuances of cocoa origins, chocolate pairings and “extreme adventures” in tasting such as a 100% cocoa content bar (served with olives and strong cheeses).

The company also has developed a Taste of Boston bar, which features cranberries, and is working on a variety of chocolate products that will capture New England flavors.

Doggart believes American consumers also will identify with the company’s No Nasties and Less Sugar More Cocoa commitments, which focus on producing luxury chocolates using only premium quality, all-natural ingredients.

Founded by Angus Thirwell and Peter Harris in 1993 as a bean-to-bar chocolate business, Hotel Chocolat has remained steadfast in its commitment to working directly with cocoa farmers in sourcing cocoa beans and paying them premium prices to encourage quality. Recognized as one of the fastest growing businesses by The Sunday Times, the company has 40 retail stores in the United Kingdom. It recently purchased the Rabot Estate in St. Lucia and is building a production facility there, which should be operational in early 2010. Hotel Chocolat also looks to open a second retail location in Boston later this year.

For more information, visit www.hotelchocolat.com.

sweet of the week: Vitafusion Gummies

Northwest Natural Products’ Vitafusion fruit-flavored fiber gummies are a chewy alternative to chalky tablets and gritty powder mixes. Made with all-natural colors and flavors, they are sugar-free and come in a variety of formulas: Vitafusion Fiber Gummies Fiber, Vitafusion Fiber Gummies Weight Management, Vitafusion Fiber Gummies Calcium and Vitafusion Fiber Gummies Multivitamin with Antioxidants. The suggested retail prices are $12.99-$14.99 for a 90-count bottle and $17.59-$19.99 for a 220-count bottle. Retailers looking to carry the product can call 1-800-661-2736. For more information, visit www.nwnaturalproducts.com.