getting fresh: A trivial pursuit of candy
One of the first short stories I ever wrote begged the question: Why does the dog wag its tail? In my version, the answer had something to do with an unpleasant encounter between a canine and an unfriendly skunk. In reality, there are a number of possible explanations for this query.
I’ve read that tail-wagging is a means of communication between dogs or, in the case of pets, between dogs and their owners. The action can convey fear, aggression or, as most people believe, happiness. (As a cat owner, I wouldn’t know. I DO know that my kitty’s early-morning meows are a direct request for chewy treats, which I gladly give her in exchange for silence.)
If you’re anything like me, you enjoy learning little-known facts about everything in life, from the origins of words in the English language to the reasons for holidays such as Boxing Day. While visiting with a colleague one day, I noticed two books in her cubicle that seek to provide true explanations for oft-asked questions.
First, “The Little Book of Answers” by Doug Lennox offers up “The how, where, and why of stuff you thought you knew.” Confectionery entries included the following.
Trick vs. Treat: Halloween hails from Ireland, but it wasn’t always all about the candy, according to Lennox. In fact, children used to commit acts of vandalism on this now popular holiday, breaking or soaping window, for example. “Their bag of ‘tricks’ included breaking or soaping windows or overturning outdoor toilets,” the writer notes. This led to adults bribing them with “treats” (usually candy) in exchange for no tricks.
Sticky Situation: Most candies were too big and dangerous for kids’ mouths at the end of the 19th Century, “The Little Book of Answers” reports. They also came unwrapped, resulting in a sticky mess for parents of small children. Enter the lollypop! George Smith of Connecticut is credited for putting candy on a stick and naming it after his racehorse, Lolly Pop.
Then there’s “In the Beginning” from mental_floss, “a mouthwatering guide to the origins of everything” … “factually fortified for hungry minds.” Sweet, snacky excerpts included the following.
Mmmmmm: Forrest Mars Sr. created his company’s popular M&M’S chocolate candies for soldiers in the Spanish Civil War so that they would “melt in your mouth, not in your hand,” as explained by mental_floss. Popcorn: Its origins go back more then 5,600 years, having been enjoyed by the Aztec and the Iroquois, “In the Beginning” states; popcorn also contributed to the invention of the microwave. (Find out how at www.mentalfloss.com.)
A Twisted Past: Pretzels were invented by an Italian monk who baked them for children “as an incentive to memorize scripture,” according to this source; the salty snack’s criss-cross shape is meant to look like “the folded arms of pious children in prayer.”
Bubble Trouble: Dubble Bubble creator Frank Fleer spent 20 years inventing the pink product, which came to be said color when Fleer went to market and it was “the only food coloring left on the shelf,” mental_floss explains; before Dubble Bubble or gum or chicle, people chewed frankincense, “a chewable resin that’s popular in Africa.”
Toiling with Foil: R.J. Reynolds is the genius behind the aluminum foil we use in our homes today, “In the Beginning” writes; he also discovered that foil was the perfect material for wrapping candies.
Thank you, Courtney, for sharing your eye-opening books with me. Thanks, too, for directing me to www.mentalfloss.com (“where knowledge junkies get their fix”). Finally, a one-stop shop where I can regularly feed my mind with useful (and useless) facts through Amazing Facts and Trivia as well as Lunchtime Quizzes like “Geography on Tap,” “Famous Alumni” and “The Pixar Quiz.” (Go online today and test your knowledge with “The George Costanza Candy Identification Quiz.” Hint: “They’re not all Twix.”)
It was there that I learned about “5 Beloved Traditions Invented to Make You Buy Stuff.” No. 4: Valentine’s Day. According to mental_floss, Valentine’s Day Candy really isn’t a Hallmark holiday. “In 1892, Confectioners’ Journal advocated persuading customers that candy was better than ‘cheap, grotesque’ valentines … and by 2004, consumers were buying more than 35 million heart-shape boxes of candy each year.” (Behold, the power of trade journalism.)
I wonder if mental_floss has weighed-in on the whole tail-wagging question. Inquiring minds want to know.
ConAgra buys Elan Nutrition
Omaha-based ConAgra Foods, Inc. has acquired Elan Nutrition, a privately held formulator and manufacturer of snack and nutrition bars headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich. The Elan Nutrition business will be managed as part of ConAgra Foods' Snacks platform and integrated specifically into its Store Brands business, which primarily makes cereal and snack bars sold under retailer labels. The financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
The acquisition of Elan Nutrition, owned by an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners, Inc. since 2003, will allow ConAgra Foods to grow its private label bar business through new product development capabilities and manufacturing capacity, the company says.
Elan Nutrition's manufacturing facility in Grand Rapids was included in the deal and will now operate as a ConAgra Foods plant. ConAgra Foods intends to hire Elan Nutrition employees.
"Acquiring Elan Nutrition allows us to continue growing and expanding our very successful snack bar business within our Consumer Foods portfolio," says ConAgra CEO Gary Rodkin. "We are confident in the growth potential of this important category and expect a smooth integration of Elan Nutrition's business and capabilities into our Snacks platform."
ConAgra Foods currently manufactures private label bars at its facility in Lakeville, Minn. The Elan Nutrition acquisition will not have any impact on the Lakeville facility, the company says, emphasizing that Lakeville “will continue to operate as normal.”
For more information, visit www.conagrafoods.com.
C-store sales show gains despite battered economy
Convenience store (c-store) in-store sales grew 4.9% in 2009 as compared to overall retail sales, which dipped 7% last year, the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) told attendees at its annual State of the Industry Summit held in Chicago over the past two days.
Overall, convenience store sales in 2009 reached $511.1 billion, accounting for 3.5% of the nation’s gross domestic product or one of every 28 dollars spent in 2009. Industry profits fell 7.6% to $4.8 billion, but were still the fourth largest in the industry’s history.
“Our strong industry numbers show that our value proposition of convenience continues to resonate with consumers,” says Greg Parker, NACS’ vice chairman of research and president/ceo of The Parker Cos., Savannah, Georgia.
“It is astounding that we have grown in-store sales during the worst economic downturn in more than half a century and it shows that our passionate focus on the customer may make us recession resistant,” he adds.
The industry’s 2009 metrics are based on the association’s State of the Industry survey, drawn from 197 firms representing more than 23,000 stores. Complete data tables and analysis will be released in June in the NACS State of the Industry Report of 2009 Data.
For more information, visit www.nacsonline.com.
Mars files lawsuit to protect flavanol patent portfolio
Mars, Inc. has filed a lawsuit against cocoa flavanol extract supplier Naturex (maker of the Cocoactiv product), and against cocoa flavanol supplement manufacturers Nutraceuticals (maker of the Solaray products) and Life Extension Foundation (maker of the Cocoa Gold products) for infringement of nine U.S. patents owned by Mars. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., and requests that an injunction be granted to stop infringing sales and the promotion of the supplements for patented uses.
Mars, headquartered in McClean, Va., makes CirkuHealth brand cocoa flavanol supplement products. For nearly two decades, it has been studying the process of measuring and maximizing the retention of cocoa flavanols and uncovering their related health benefits, resulting in more than 100 scientific publications and a broad patent portfolio. This suit is consistent with the long-standing commitment at Mars to vigorously enforce its patent portfolio.
For more information, visit www.mars.com.
Just Born names Pye head of brand development, corporate services
Bethlehem, Pa.-based Just Born, Inc. has promoted Matthew Pye to v.p. of brand development and corporate services. The former Southeast Sales Division head will report to Matthew Petronio, coo and executive v.p.
“Matt Pye is a Just Born veteran who brings a wealth of experience, perspective and knowledge about our business and the candy industry in general,” Petronio says. “With over 12 years of customer and brand development experience at Just Born, he has all the tools, coupled with his strong leadership skills, to help drive our business forward. We are very pleased to have him back in Bethlehem.”
In his new role, Pye will develop and lead all Just Born brand marketing initiatives to deliver sales and profit goals. In addition, he is responsible for brand licensing, market insights and corporate affairs. He also will support the further development of Just Born’s new PEEPS & Company retail initiative.
Prior to joining Just Born, Pye held sales and marketing functions at Fleer Confections, Warner-Lambert, and Unilever. He graduated from Boston College with a B.S. in Marketing and received his M.B.A. from Rutgers University.
For more information, visit www.justborn.com.
sweet of the week: Classic Favorites Vampire's Blood
New from Ailso Viejo, Calif.-based Maxim Manufacturing & Marketing, Classic Favorites Vampire’s Blood light-up spray candy addresses demand for products that are a part of the current vampire craze. The strawberry-flavored liquid comes in a 1.01-fl.-oz. tube that’s packed as an 18-ct. compact display and ships eight to a master case. The suggested retail price is $1.00 per tube.
For more information, call 1-800-4-SNACKS or visit www.max4snax.com.