By Deborah Cassell
Executive Editor
Candy Industry,
Retail Confectioner

casselld@bnpmedia.com

getting fresh: Sweet (recessionary) relief

They say the Recession is subsiding, and I do hope it’s true. In the meantime, I’m happy to report that the citizens of at least one U.S. locale will be feeling better come tomorrow.

As part of the Mars Real Chocolate Relief Act (www.realchocolate.com), consumers have named Chicago the city in most need of “sweet relief.” (Take THAT, New York!) The reward? Free chocolate, of course! On Thursday, NASCAR driver Kyle Busch (of the No. 18 M&M’S car) will be on hand in downtown Chicago to distribute 50,000 full-size Mars products to all in attendance.

As a Chicagoan, I couldn’t agree more with the public’s choice. As in most American cities (including the 300-plus we beat out for this honor), the economy has hit Chi-town hard. What better way to console every man, woman and child than with (free) chocolate?

The recognition seems especially fitting given that many of Mars’ best-loved products are made right here in the windy city.

In fact, just this past Monday, I had the opportunity to tour Mars’ Oak Park, Ill., plant in suburban Chicago. Located west of the Edens Expressway and right in the heart of a quiet residential neighborhood, this particular facility (which celebrated its 80th anniversary this year) produces millions of fun-size and miniature versions of filled bars such as SNICKERS, 3 MUSKETEERS and MILKY WAY, as well as some DOVE products and MUNCH bars, every day. (And as you can imagine, they taste even better straight off the line than they do in store, if that’s possible.)

While in Oak Park, Candy Industry Editor-in-Chief Bernie Pacyniak and I were given a sneak peek at Mars’ upcoming product introductions, to be showcased at next month’s NACS Show (www.nacsonline.com) in Vegas. All I can say is yum. (Other than that, mum’s the word.) You can visit the Mars booth for a first-hand look at its late 2009/early 2010 offerings and information about future contests.

As everyone knows, the whizzes over at Mars sure know how to market their products. (Under the company’s direction, Ms. Green has become a household name!) Now that the Real Chocolate Relief Act is winding down, Mars has even bigger plans in the works. (I could tell you what they are, but then I’d have to kill you.)

Current promotions include the SNICKERS Brand NFL Chompion Sweepstakes (in which consumers can win a free trip to Super Bowl XLIV in Miami by opening a wrapper and visiting www.snickers.com) and M&M’S The Most Colorful Fan of NASCAR Contest (in which NASCAR fans can win prizes by uploading their racing themed photos to www.NASCAR.com/MostColorfulFan).

I may not be the most colorful NASCAR fan (yet), but after my recent field trip to the race track in Joliet, Ill., (as detailed in the August issue of Retail Confectioner, www.retailconfectioner.com) I’ve definitely developed an interest in the sport. And now that Busch is giving out free chocolate, well, I might just have to go see him compete again.

All in all, as part of its Real Chocolate campaign, Mars gave away some 7 million packages of product on Free Chocolate Fridays, held May 9 through Sept. 25. To quote Neil Patrick Harris, in a hilarious spot as spokesperson for the initiative, “that’s something to smile about.”

I’m “sick and tired of America’s creeping frown lines,” too, Neil. Let the recessionary relief continue!

Editor’s Note: Check out the October issue (coming soon!) of Candy Industry magazine for more information and a tour of Mars’ Oak Park, Ill., plant.

Bazooka Candy Brands, a division of The Topps Co., was the first-place winner in ECRM’s Kid’s Choice Awards.

ECRM names Kid's Choice winners

Three manufacturers were recognized at ECRM’s second Kid’s Choice Awards, held last week during the organization’s Candy Annual Planning event in Dallas. More than 60 children ages 6 to 12 from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas participated in the program, voting on their favorite products from among those donated by 25 vendors.

First place went to Bazooka Candy Brands, a division of The Topps Co., for its Juicy Drop Pop. Candy Dynamics took second place with its Toxic Waste brand. Third place went to Innovative Candy Concepts for Monster Goo.

The winners will receive complimentary advertising from Candy Industry and Retail Confectioner magazines, which sponsored the award.

Children participating in the Kid’s Choice Awards also got an inside look at the confectionery industry from Deborah Cassell, executive editor of CI and RC, as well as insights on choosing quality products from candy category managers for a leading drug chain.

The next Kid’s Choice Awards will be held in 2010.

For more information about ECRM, visit www.ecrm.marketgate.com.

Mars fans name Chicago city in most need of 'sweet relief'

By voting early and often, constituents recently pushed Chicago to the top of Mars Snackfood US’s list of cities in “most need of some sweet relief.” July 22 through August 31, consumers ages 13 and over were invited to log onto the company’s www.RealChocolate.com Web site to cast their votes for one of nearly 350 U.S. cities they deemed worthy of free chocolate. Chicago out-dueled New York, Houston, Philadelphia and Los Angeles to grab the No. 1 spot.

As a reward, Mars will dole out 50,000 full-sized chocolate products tomorrow – Thursday, Oct. 1 – between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. (or until supplies last) at Chicago’s Pioneer Plaza downtown. Joining the relief efforts during the lunch hour will be NASCAR superstar Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota in the Sprint Cup Series.

The giveaway signals the end of Mars’ Real Chocolate Relief Act promotion, which prompted consumers to go online every Friday to claim 250,000 free chocolate products from the company. From May 9 to Sept. 25, the company gave away 7 million packages of its M&M’S, SNICKERS, MILKY WAY, TWIX, DOVE and 3 MUSKETEERS brands.

"Providing Chicago with some sweet relief is the perfect culmination to the Mars Real Chocolate Relief Act program,” says Michele Kessler, vice president of marketing, Mars Snackfood US. "In Chicago and throughout the nation, Mars is excited to continue our industry-leading commitment to give our customers what they want – 100% real authentic chocolate.”

For more information, visit www.realchocolate.com.

Bell Flavors debuts Peppadew fruit flavor

Northbrook, Ill.-based Bell Flavors & Fragrances has signed an exclusive license agreement with Strohmeyer & Arpe Co. (SAC) to manufacture and distribute Peppadew fruit flavor for commercial applications.

Believed to be a native of Central America, but grown in South Africa, Peppadew fruit has a delicious sweet flavor, followed by a “refreshing and spicy note,” as noted in a release.

Touted as the first truly new fruit to be launched globally since the kiwi 30 years ago, the rights for Peppadew fruit in the United States are owned by SAC. Currently, it distributes the fruit to food retailers and also sells Peppadew as an ingredient to food companies.

In teaming up with Bell, SAC wanted to expand the uses of the fruit into other applications such as confections, ice creams and bakery products.

Bell’s development team worked with SAC to get the liquid flavor profile identical to the fruit.

Mike Natale, Bell’s director of marketing, points out that the flavor “is truly incredible … It really delivers a unique flavor experience that we believe will drive the superfruit category to the next level.”

For more information, visit www.peppadewusa.com and www.bellff.com.

sweet of the week: Playboy Peppermints Vintage Cover Collection

Toronto-based Big Sky Brands recently introduced a new novelty just for adults: Playboy Peppermints – Vintage Cover Collection. Each tin features one of six classic Playboy Magazine covers from the ‘60s and ‘70s for a collectible line that “has a retro-cool style and evokes a more innocent era during which the Playboy brand was originally established,” says Luke Van Vliet, marketing manager for Big Sky Brands. The sugar-free mints are packed 50 to a tin and combine the intensity of a high-powered breath freshener with a subtly fresh finish. Each mint is embossed with the iconic Playboy Bunny logo. The suggested retail price is $1.99 per tin. Retailers interested in carrying the product can call 1-888-624-4759 or visit www.bigskybrands.com.