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

getting fresh: Ode to Rocky Road

In case you missed it, yesterday was National Rocky Road Day. Your day planner might have omitted this particular celebration, its pages being committed to mainstream holidays such as Father’s Day, the Fourth of July and, yes, Flag Day (Betsy Ross would be so proud). However, my calendar has been marked for months in anticipation of this date!

Just kidding. National Rocky Road Day actually was made known to me by a press release from www.chocolate.com (“Fine Chocolates For Fine Occasions”), which explained how “Rocky Road was conceived during the Great Depression, when William Dreyer cut up walnuts and marshmallows with his wife’s sewing scissors and added them to a bowl of chocolate ice cream. The name Rocky Road was coined to give folks a lift during those hard economic times.”

Hmmm … hard economic times … Most Americans could probably use a dose of Rocky Road right about now. Good thing Dreyer’s is one of many ice cream brands to sell the variety.

Rocky Road has become a flavor that goes beyond mere ice cream, as well. Confections combining nuts (usually almonds, as Chocolate.com notes, adding that “in Australia they add jam, and in the United Kingdom they add cherries and raisins”), marshmallows and chocolate are classic offerings. For example, as the release points out, there’s Rocky Road Fudge from BODEGA Chocolates (http://www.chocolate.com/products/rrocky-road-fudge-6oz/), Sterling Confections’ Rocky Road Truffle Bar (http://www.chocolate.com/products/rocky-road/) and Expressway Aka Rocky Road, a chocolate bark by Chokola’j (http://www.chocolate.com/products/expressway-aka-rocky-road/).

But Rocky Road is just one confection worth honoring over the course of the next few weeks, as June is National Candy Month (so was January, but who’s counting?). This is not to be confused with National Candy Day (November 4), of course.

I’m not sure who comes up with this stuff. Perhaps it is the masterminds behind Sweetest Day (the third Saturday in October). According to Wikipedia, Sweetest Day has been called “a ‘concocted promotion’ created by the candy industry solely to increase sales of candy.” (The same accusations have been made against Hallmark by Valentine’s Day deviants.)

That said, Retail Confectioners International (www.retailconfectioners.org) reports that this once regional holiday (celebrated primarily in Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo, New York), “is gaining in popularity every year throughout the country. Some RCI members even report that Sweetest Day sales exceed Mothers Day!”

Furthermore, RCI recommends that retailers actively promote the holiday in their stores: “Sweetest Day will bring substantial business increases to your business if you do your share in reminding your customers of the approaching holiday and suggesting that they participate in the celebration.”

Retailers might consider taking the same cues RCI offers for Sweetest Day and applying them to other candy- and snack-themed holidays. For example, RCI suggests displaying Sweetest Day posters in advance of the date and “conspicuously, where there is heavy store traffic,” as well as informing local newspapers about Sweetest Day “and what preparations your business had made to help customers celebrate it,” and explaining Sweetest Day to shoppers, even making “suggestions regarding appropriate gifts, keeping in mind that the possibilities are limitless.” And don’t forget to make sure that “merchandise advertised for Sweetest Day is prominently displayed.”

Some other food-based holidays for possible promotion in stores …

In June: National Peanut Butter Cookie Day (June 12), National Fudge Day (June 16), National Pecan Sandy Day (June 23), National Pralines Day (June 24) and National Almond Butter Crunch Day (June 29).

In July: National Gingersnap Day (July 1), National Chocolate Wafer Day (July 3), National Chocolate with Almonds Day (July 8), National Sugar Cookie Day (July 9), National Lollipop Day (July 20), National Junk Food Day (July 21), National Milk Chocolate Day (July 28), National Cotton Candy Day (July 31) and National Jump for Jelly Beans Day (July 31).

Jump for Jelly Beans? National Rocky Road Day is beginning to sound more mainstream. And it now being summer, who couldn’t go for a scoop or two? As “My Girl” Vada Sultenfuss put it in her “Ode to Ice Cream”: “I like ice cream a whole lot. It tastes good when days are hot. On a cone, or in a dish. This would be my only wish. Vanilla, chocolate, or Rocky Road, Even with pie a la mode. … That's all I got so far.”

Me, too, Vada. Me, too.

Mintel reports decrease in portion-control items

Despite issues such as obesity, the recession and time-strapped lifestyles, Americans are purchasing less portion-controlled packaging, according to Mintel.

For instance, just 14% (one in seven) of adults are currently buying pre-measured products, Mintel notes. The No. 1 reason for this trend is convenience, while the No. 2 reason is weight management, it adds.

Of the adults who do not buy 100-calorie packs, half say they are just not interested, while one-third of people say they prefer measuring out their own food, Mintel reports. Another thing keeping consumers away from portion-controlled packs is cost, the study says.

For more information, visit www.mintel.com.

Divine Chocolate earns kosher certification

Divine Chocolate, a manufacturer of Fair Trade chocolate co-owned by cocoa farmers, has been granted kosher certification. All nine flavors of Divine chocolate bars will now carry the kosher “K” mark. They are 70% Dark Chocolate, Dark & Mint Crisp Chocolate, Dark Fruit & Nut Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, Orange Milk Chocolate, Coffee Milk Chocolate, Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts, White Chocolate and White Chocolate with Strawberries.

“We are delighted to have been given kosher certification as this will enable thousands more chocolate lovers to discover Divine,” says managing director of Divine Chocolate Sophi Tranchell. “Faith groups have always been very important to Divine as they are amongst those who most actively campaign for fairer trade, and it is good to be able to support them in return.”

For more information, visit www.divinechocolate.com.

Gnosis Chocolate adds limited edition flavor

Gnosis Chocolate, a producer of raw, organic, vegan, handmade chocolate, has added a new limited edition flavor to its line of chocolates. Fleur de Sel chocolate is made with cacao beans, cacao butter, agave nectar, vanilla bean, crystal manna, fleur de sel and pink Himalayan salt. In addition to being raw and handmade, all of Gnosis Chocolate’s flavors are free from dairy, refined sugar, soy and gluten. The company donates 10% of all profits to The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, an authority on raw food and superfood nutrition.

For more information, visit www.gnosischocolate.com.

Impact Confections partners with Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Impact Confections, the manufacturer of 3-D lollipops and Warheads candies, has partnered with Susan G. Komen for the Cure to develop a licensed gourmet lollipop.

The pink lollipop will come in a flavor called Berry Delight and feature a custom wrapper and stick highlighting Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s involvement in the partnership. From July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010, 10% of the lollipop’s sales will be donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, with a minimum guaranteed donation of $25,000. The lollipops have a suggested retail price of $0.50 each and will be available starting July 13.

For more information, visit www.impactconfections.com or ww3.komen.org.

sweet of the week: Jellies by Pierre & Laurent

After two men with a love for jelly candy began to feel too “old” for the brightly colored bags of candy in the marketplace, they decided to create a brand of their own aimed at adult consumers. And so Jellies by Pierre & Laurent was born. The product is made with 100% natural flavors and colors, and packaged in a sophisticated bag. Each bag contains Jellies in rose, cherry and black currant flavors with a hint of nut. The Jellies, which are made in Belgium, target consumers between the ages of 25 and 45. They retail for €1.99 per bag. For more information, visit www.pierreandlaurent.com.