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

getting fresh: Something to talk about

The season finale of MTV’s “Taking the Stage,” a critically acclaimed reality show that follows the lives of teens attending a high school for the performing arts in Cincinnati, Ohio, was titled “The X Factor.” The episode focused on that elusive star quality agents and talent scouts look for in a singer, dancer, artist … you know, the “it” factor.”

As an editor attending next week’s ALL CANDY EXPO, I will be looking for just that. Something new. Something special. Something that makes me stop in my tracks and say, “Now THAT’S cool.”

Although my favorite brands and line extensions thereof are always of interest, new products are an EXPO highlight for me. My search will take me up and down every aisle of the show, as well as through the New Products Showcase, where I will point, shoot and scan items like a bride at a registry. I’ll be looking for premium single-origin chocolates, sugar- and gluten-free confections, functional and protein-packed snacks, all-natural gummies and hard candies, you name it and then some.

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and it’s often been asked, “What’s in a name?” but I beg to differ. Chances are if the company has a memorable title, its products will be memorable, too. That’s why I’m looking forward to checking out offerings from first-time exhibitors Brightspot Brands, Get Silly Ice Cream, Flax Your Body, Karma Candy, OhYeah! and Sweets in Bloom, among others. (For a full listing of this year’s new EXPO exhibitors, visit http://www.allcandyexpo.com/new_exhibitors.cfm.)

I won’t be alone, of course. Everyone attending the ALL CANDY EXPO wants to know what’s hot, what’s not and what’s next.

Just ask the readers of Confection & Snack Retailing. For the first edition of The Daily, which C&SR produces in conjunction with the National Confectioners Association, we asked professional candy buyers what they’ll be looking for at this year’s EXPO. The answer? You guessed it: All things new, innovative, interesting and inventive.

For example, Nick Nichols of Family Dollar in Charlotte, N.C., notes that he will be seeking out “the new, latest and greatest products.”

Meanwhile, Rolando Rodriguez of Legoland Discovery Center, Schaumburg, Ill., says, “I want to sell items that make people say, ‘Oh my God, I haven’t seen that in years!’ or “I’ve never seen that before!’”

As for David Levine of Illinois Nut & Candy, Skokie, Ill., “I have to see it to know that I want it. It has to be something that hits me in the face. I go with my gut feeling. Will it sell, and will our customers want it?”

As they say, you’ve either got it or you don’t.

Editor’s Note: For more Buyer Views from ALL CANDY EXPO attendees (and new products to be displayed at the show), pick up Day One of The Daily at McCormick Place on Tuesday, May 19.

Mars launches Real Chocolate Relief Act

To offer consumers relief in tough economic times, Mars Snackfood US has introduced a nationwide program that would give full-sized samples of Mars chocolate products, product discounts and coupons to millions of consumers.

The Mars Real Chocolate Relief Act will take place May through September and includes the M&M’S, Snickers, Milky Way, Twix, Dove and 3 Musketeers brands. As part of the campaign, consumers can claim full-sized samples of these items on Free Chocolate Fridays by collecting one of 250,000 full-value coupons each Friday by visiting www.realchocolate.com. The coupons are limited to one per person, per week, and will be mailed to consumers on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Another part of the program is Mars’ commitment to using only 100% cocoa butter in its U.S. chocolate products. Mars’ “real chocolate” does not use any cocoa butter alternatives.

For more information, visit www.mars.com or www.realchocolate.com.

NCA presents webinar series about safe nut handling and processing

Food safety is an important concern in the confectionery industry -- just look at the recent recalls of peanuts and pistachios. In turn, the National Confectioners Association (NCA) has introduced a webinar series about safe nut handling and processing for confectioners and small nut roasters.

The four-part webinar series will be held daily June 1–4, 2009, from noon to 1 p.m. EST. It will include the following sessions: Microbiology of Nuts, Dr. Michael Doyle, professor of food science at the University of Georgia; HACCP Principles Overview and Application to Nuts, Dr. Bill Hurst, professor of food science at the University of Georgia; Reducing Pathogens and Validating Nut Roasters, Dr. Steve Goodfellow, Deibel Labs; and Role of Food Safety Programs in Assuring Safe Use of Nuts, Tom Mackie, consultant to NCA, and Steve Calhoun, consultant to American Peanut Council.

To register, visit https://ecandy.webex.com/ecandy.

Guylian creates marketing initiative to expand 'No Sugar Added' audience

Guylian USA has introduced a new marketing initiative to build awareness of its No Sugar Added Belgian chocolates and reverse the negative opinions about sugar-free or low-sugar chocolates. The target audience for its No Sugar Added chocolates is consumers looking to control their sugar intake in order to lose or manage their weight or because of health conditions such as diabetes.

To expand the products’ audience, Guylian is working with an expert in the field of nutrition: Dr. Mary M. Flynn, RD, LDN, assistant professor of medicine at Brown University and chief research dietitian at The Miriam Hospital. Flynn’s main research interest is how food affects health. Guylian’s No Sugar Added chocolate uses maltitol, which is a 100% natural sweetener derived from grains, along with Belgian chocolate manufacturing techniques, to create chocolate bars with a texture and flavor similar to real Belgian chocolate.

Guylian’s No Sugar Added bars are labeled as such because of trace amounts of sugar that occur naturally in milk lactose. They are available in Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Dark Orange and 70% Extra Dark varieties. The dark chocolate flavors are completely sugar-free because they do not use milk as an ingredient. All No Sugar Added bars are free from cholesterol and trans fats, and are low in carbohydrates. The suggested retail price per 3-oz. bar is $2.99.

For more information, visit www.guylian.be.

Pure Fun plans to offset its carbon footprint

Toronto-based Pure Fun Confections Inc. plans to plant 100,000 trees within one year for friends, associates and its consumer Pals Club members in order to help offset its carbon footprint and become carbon neutral.

According to Pure Fun, each tree planted absorbs about one ton of CO² emissions in its lifetime. Additionally, trees help to replenish a sustainable habitat for wildlife, enhance the natural landscape and create jobs in remote regions.

Commissioned by the National Confectionery industry, Oxford Consulting Group has evaluated companies for sustainability. In doing so, Pure Fun was a “champion” in two categories and above many other confectionery companies for its efforts to create a sustainable environment.

For more information, visit www.organiccandy.com.

sweet of the week: Dorval Trading Co., Ltd. RAGOLDS Naturals

Nanuet, N.Y.-based Dorval Trading Co., Ltd.’s RAGOLDS Naturals are made with real fruit juice and come in six varieties. Assorted Fruit Chews, chewy Caramel Butter Toffee and Assorted Fruit Candy are available in 4-oz. peg bags. Assorted Sour Citrus Mix, Assorted Fruit Bears and Assorted Jelly Fruits are available in 5-oz. peg bags. All varieties are packed 12 to a case. For more information, visit www.dorvaltrading.com.