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

getting fresh: KC connection

Every December, my nephew and I put together a gingerbread house. It is a tradition we started three years ago, when Christian’s stubby fingers struggled to arrange gumdrops and other colorful candy pieces on the roof of the edible cottage, which caved in on our first attempt. (Aunt Deborah glued it back together with icing when Christian wasn’t looking.) Now 7 years old, my nephew is much more nimble at this annual activity. And, like me, he looks forward to it. While visiting him and his family in Kansas City, Kan. this past weekend, we built gingerbread house No. 3, and it looked better than ever! (Right, Christian?)

Although much of my time in KC was spent reading, talking and playing games with Christian and his 2-year-old brother, Joshua, I also made a quick field trip to a local Hy-Vee food store. There, I perused the retailer’s selection of confections and snacks for a future Local Market Insights article in Confection & Snack Retailing magazine.

As a kid growing up in Muscatine, Iowa, I spent a lot of time with my mom at Hy-Vee, the major grocery store in the area. When we moved to Bloomington-Normal, Ill., my sophomore year of high school, we encountered a different selection of stores, including Cub Foods, Aldi, Schnucks (where my friend Nate worked) and Eagle Country Market (where I had a brief stint as a cashier). But I never forgot the store I grew up shopping in. So when my brother and his family moved to Kansas City and rediscovered Hy-Vee, it was kind of like going home again. However, the Hy-Vee I toured in Kansas City was a far cry from the one I was raised on … but in a good way.

For one, the retailer obviously has changed with the times and added health to its repertoire. The produce department was jam-packed with displays at every turn, featuring many varieties of nuts and dried fruits, merchandised alongside fresh fruits and vegetables. Trail mix flavors ranged from chili mango to butter toffee.

Nearby, a dedicated Health Market section boasted aisle after aisle of organic, functional, vegetarian, sugar-free and all-natural products, from soup to nuts … literally. Crackers, chips, cereal and even candy were represented in Health Market. The Natural Candy section offered confections and chocolates from brands such as Dagoba (www.dagobachocolate.com), Newman’s Own Organic (www.newmansownorganics.com), Panda (www.panda.fi), CocoVia (www.cocoavia.com), Green & Black’s (www.greenandblacks.com), FruitaBu (www.fruitabu.com) and Stretch Island Fruit Co. (www.stretchislandfruit.com). And in the Health Market Nutrition Bar section, I found the usual suspects, as well as some less common brands: Genioy Organic (www.genisoy.com), Promax (www.promaxnutrition.com) and Met-RX (www.metrx.com).

One particularly noteworthy end cap in the Health Market area showcased Gracie’s Best Petite Cookies in one variety – Sunflower Seed. The eye-catching display included a bowlful of free samples, a pamphlet titled “Hy-Vee Health and Wellness,” and business cards for the store’s health market manager.

Like most parents, my sister-in-law, Stacy, is concerned with her kids’ health, as is evidenced whenever I visit. She insists that the kids eat fruit or vegetables with every meal, even if they protest, and she gives them healthy snacks. Joshua loves bananas and practically licked a bowl of apricot puree clean one afternoon while I was in town. That said, Stacy still lets the kids indulge once in awhile. Christian enjoyed eating several of the almond bark-dipped pretzels that he and his mom made over the weekend.

And I let him have a few pieces of the candy that we used to decorate our gingerbread house, which his little brother stared at in awe upon its completion. I suspect that someday, Joshua and I will construct our own gingerbread house. Here’s hoping the roof doesn’t cave in on our first try. Then again, I’m a fan of tradition.

For a more detailed account of my Hy-Vee visit, check out upcoming issues of Confection & Snack Retailing magazine, www.cs-retailing.com.

Tic Tacs slide into new variety

The Tic Tac brand has added its first completely sugar-free mint to its collection. Sweetened with xylitol, Tic Tac Chill features large-sized mints in two varieties: Paradise Mint and Exotic Cherry. Different from the original Tic Tac packaging, Tic Tac Chill mints are packaged in a transparent pack with flip-top and wide slide-top openings. The new container offers consumers a more convenient way to enjoy Tic Tac Chill mints on the go. The suggested retail price per pack is $1.69. For more information, visit www.tictacusa.com.

Shoppers Drug Mart recalls chocolate

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. are warning consumers who are allergic to milk not to eat two varieties of Life brand dark chocolate bars - Premium Swiss Dark Chocolate with Orange (UPC 0 57800 16450 0) and Premium Swiss Dark Chocolate 72% Cocoa (UPC 0 57800 16449 4).

The importer, Shoppers Drug Mart Corp., is voluntarily recalling all lot codes because the products may contain milk, which is not listed on the label. The CFIA is overseeing the recall. The chocolate bars were distributed nationwide to Shopper Drug Mart and Pharmaprix stores. There currently are no reported illnesses from consumption of the bars.

For more information, visit www.inspection.gc.ca.

Trident supports Smiles Across America

Cadbury’s sugar-free gum brand Trident has committed to donating $1.5 million to Smiles Across America (SAA), which will more than double the number of children currently receiving oral health care over the next three years, starting in 2009. SAA provides dental care to thousands of children in underprivileged communities around the country. With tooth decay being one of the most common chronic diseases among American children, Trident gum, along with dental care and education from SAA, hopes to improve oral health.

“Since launching Trident as the first sugar-free gum to help fight tooth decay over 40 years ago, we have been committed to oral health and to promoting good corporate citizenship for the communities we touch,” says Lesya Lysyj, executive vice president of marketing, Cadbury North America. “Through partners like Smiles Across America, we can help make a difference in the lives of millions.”

Additionally, Trident will produce a documentary about pediatric oral health, dedicating advertising resources to the partnership and sponsoring educational materials for SAA dental clinics throughout the partnership.

For more information, visit www.cadbury.com.

NPD reports on food gift giving

A recent study by The NPD Group, a market research company, has found that 52% of reported Christmas gift givers give food - sweets in particular. The report, titled “Christmas Holiday Profile Report,” is based on NPD’s SnackTrack, a monitor of in-home and away-from-home snacking. According to NPD, while cookies are the No. 1 snack food eaten at Christmas time, they only account for 42% of food gifts. Candy, mostly chocolate candy, accounts for half of the food given.

Switching from food gifts given to food consumed during the holidays, the report found that 65% of people eat cookies while 48% eat chocolate candy. Those who decorate during the Christmas season even use candy to decorate, according to the report.

For more information, visit www.npd.com.

sweet of the week: Clif Shot Roks

Berkeley, Calif.-based Clif Bar & Co. has launched Clif Shot Roks pop-and-go protein bites. Roks contain 20 gm. of protein per packet, or 2 gm. per Rok. Made with natural and organic ingredients, they contain 4.5 gm. of fat and 0 gm. of trans fat. About the size of a grape, each Clif Shot Rok features a crunchy shell with a chewy center and comes in the following flavors: Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Each pack has a suggested retail price of $2.49 and is available in sports retail stores this month.

For more information, visit www.clifbar.com.