By Deborah Cassell
Executive Editor
Candy Industry,
Retail Confectioner

getting fresh: On the Patty Wagon

My sister-in-law loves Peanuts – the comic strip, not the salty snack. (My nephew is allergic to the latter.) More specifically, she has an affinity for Charlie Brown’s dream-weaving (and double-faulting) dog, Snoopy. Who doesn’t adore that mute mutt? Snoopy’s been a part of pop culture for more than 60 years, thanks to creator Charles M. Schulz. The fictional beagle is beloved the world over, both as himself and his alter ego in shades: Joe Cool. (He’s even the face of MetLife.)
 
Like most kids, I was a fan of Peanuts, too. I never missed annual air dates of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” or “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” And my mother sometimes called me Lucy – a not-so-affectionate nickname given me for my short temper (which I’ve mostly outgrown). But as an aspiring writer and tennis player, my favorite storylines in the “newspaper funnies” were those in which Snoopy sacrificed his tennis racquet (a la John McEnroe) or brought out his typewriter (“It was a dark and stormy night …”).
 
Recently, for Doppelganger Week, my friend Marci replaced her Facebook profile pic with an image of her Peanuts namesake (Marcie with an “e”), calling to mind one of Schulz’s other great characters, Marcie’s best friend: Peppermint Patty.
 
It’s been rumored that Schulz named this outspoken tomboy after the York Peppermint Patty, once a product of Peter-Paul (and later, Peter-Paul Cadbury), which sponsored animated Peanuts television specials in the ‘70s. Given a major discrepancy in the date of the introduction of the aforementioned confection and that of Peanuts, this notion has been proven false. In fact, Schultz has repeatedly stated that he actually named Peppermint Patty after a dish of peppermint candies he had in his office at the time.
 
Speaking of, peppermint remains a favorite flavor among consumers to this day, as evidenced by McDonald’s limited-edition Shamrock Shake (currently available at most locations). It’s one of the most popular flavors of chewing gum and, of course, breath mints – despite the encroachment of fruit flavors. For example, Wrigley’s Orbit brand offers several varieties of mint flavor, including Peppermint, Spearmint, Wintermint, Crystal Mint and Sweet Mint. However, it also (smartly) marries mint with fruit in offerings such as Strawberry Mint, Bubblemint, Cinnamint, Citrusmint, Mint Mojito, Raspberry Mint and Maui Melon Mint.
 
The New Product Showcase at the 2010 Sweet & Snacks Expo (www.sweetsandsnacks.com) will feature several mint products. They include Antioxidant Breath Mints from Suntak-Pharma Manufacturing; Broncolin Drops with Bee Honey and Plant Extracts; peppermint-flavored drops from Tootsie Roll Industries; vitamingum Defense (in a Peppermint Ice variety); and PEEPS Sugar-Free Peppermint Stars.
 
 Also on display will be newfound examples of the ever-popular chocolate-mint flavor profile, a combination that’s immortalized in mainstays such as Frango Mints (my family loves ‘em) and the Girl Scouts’ Thin Mint cookies (as a former Brownie, I once devoured an entire box). Upcoming introductions include Rademaker Chocolate Sticks (in Dark Mint); Ritter Sport Chocolate Bars (in Holiday Peppermint); R.M. Palmer’s Peppermint Bark Bells and Peppermint Bark Big Bar; and Belgian Chocolate Thins (in mint) from Royal Chocolates.
 
Peppermint Patty would be proud.
 
Speaking of Patty, may the luck of the Irish be with you this St. Patrick’s Day. Erin Go Bragh!


Gum, mints, breath fresheners remain strong performers

Mintel’s recent report on the gum, mints and breath fresheners market reveals that sales have continued to grow through the recession, increasing more than 10% since 2007. Projections call for this category to continue growing through 2014, says Bill Patterson, senior analyst at the Chicago-based consumer, product and media intelligence gathering agency.
 
“Although this market is not entirely recession-proof, gum, mints and breath fresheners are faring well due to their low price points and the feeling that consumers are getting a small treat,” he adds. “In addition, innovative packaging and unique flavors are aiding in the upward sales momentum.”
 
Marketers normally use packaging to help freshen and develop a brand’s image, but Mintel’s survey respondents think functionality is key in the gum category. Nearly 50% of people cited packaging that reseals better or is easier to open as being most important. Meanwhile, 19% of people want gum and mints to have packaging that’s better for the environment.
 
The agency’s research reveals that flavor innovation also attracts gum chewers. Wrigley’s well-known Orbit brand of gum has launched several flavor combinations, such as Sangria Fresca, Maui Melon Mint and Citrusmint. More than four out of 10 survey respondents (43%) indicate that they like trying new brands or flavors because they like the variety, while 13% try new brands or flavors because they have yet to find one they love.
 
“In recent years, gum and mint manufacturers have placed an emphasis on the health-delivering benefits of their products,” Patterson explains. “Gum has long been associated with this approach, but has become even more so by providing more functional benefits like whitening teeth, strengthening teeth and overall oral hygiene. Mints have followed suit by enhancing their products with antioxidants, green tea and other health-promoting ingredients.”
 
Despite the emphasis on health, breath-freshening remains the most important function of gum and mints in the minds of Mintel’s survey respondents. Nearly four times as many respondents cited this compared to a healthy function (43% vs. 13%).
 
How selfish are gum chewers with their gum? Turns out, people are quite willing to share the goods. Nearly half (44%) claim to give away many pieces to friends, family or colleagues. But of those, only 6% offer it to colleagues, as to not insinuate that someone has bad breath.
 
For more information, visit www.mintel.com.
 
For a look at the latest breath freshener products, check out the March issue of Retail Confectioner section of Candy Industry magazine.

Hotel Chocolat opens second shop, unveils Easter offerings

British cocoa grower and chocolatier Hotel Chocolate recently opened its second retail unit in Boston, near the Boston College campus in the Mall at Chestnut Hill. The impetus to open a second unit stems from Hotel Chocolat’s successful debut last September, when the company introduced its first retail store to swanky Newbury Street in downtown Boston.
 
“Since launching in the U.S., the community has been extremely supportive,” says Nicki Doggart, Hotel Chocolat’s U.S. ceo. “We’ve enjoyed many repeat customers.” The new store also “extends shopping options across a wider cosmopolitan upscale area where residents and visitors are looking for unique, high quality gourmet chocolates gifts and personal indulgences,” she adds. Hotel Chocolat’s Chestnut Hill retail boutique encompasses 500 sq. ft. and was designed by world-renown commercial designer, Terry Moore. The shop features a black and white textural color palette with recycled wood floors and floating shelves.
 
Gracing those shelves – as well as the ones on Newbury Street -- are several new Easter chocolate offerings. They include the following: an Easter lolly, which features engraved chicks either in 40% cocoa milk or 70% dark chocolate varieties; Egg Sandwiches, chocolate eggs with Dreamy Creamy Caramel, Chili and Orange and Full-on Dark Chocolate fillings; Scrambled Eggs, elegantly designed chocolate eggs filled with chocolate; and Giant Chocolate Eggs, from 6- to 12-in.-tall eggs featuring filled chocolates and treats.
 
For more information, visit www.hotelchocolat.com.


Popcorn machine creator to host 125th anniversary gala

Chicago-based C. Cretors & Co., established in 1885, will celebrate its 125th anniversary as a Chicago-owned and -operated company on May 20 at the city’s Museum of Science & Industry.
 
A leader in the U.S. concession business, Cretors is widely credited as the catalyst for the creation of the modern concession industry. Founder Charles Cretors unveiled the world’s first commercial popcorn machine at the Columbian World Exposition held in Chicago in 1893. Today, the 5th generation of the Creators family operates a global business, with 40% of its revenues coming from overseas.
 
“To celebrate the company’s 125th anniversary, we are going back to where it all began,” says Andrew Cretors, company president. “The Museum of Science and Industry is the last remaining building from the 1893 World’s Fair, and we are excited that it will be the site of our elegant black tie gala.”
 
The museum setting will be reminiscent of the 1893 World’s Fair Midway. Concession foods will be served, and a red carpet will lead into the Museum’s rotunda, where a Hollywood-themed dinner will follow.
 
The gala celebration’s movie glamour pays homage to Chicago’s role in the birth of the film making industry. In the early part of the 20th Century, four out of five films were produced in Chicago.
 
“As Hollywood gradually emerged as the center of the entertainment industry, filming headed out west, leaving Chicago behind,” Andrew explains. “But Cretors remained and continues to grow to serve the industry. One-hundred-twenty-five years later, Cretors’ machines are found in movie theatres across the globe.”
 
In addition to highlighting the company’s 125th anniversary, the event will recognize and celebrate its founder and succeeding generations of the Cretors family, its vendors and business partners as well as celebrities with Chicago ties – all of whom have helped to keep the concession industry alive and thriving.
 
The event also includes a live and silent auction. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (www.capeweb.org), a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding the arts in Chicago Public Schools.
 
“C. Cretors and Company is proud of its Chicago heritage and would like to make its star-studded anniversary gala celebration a benefit that gives back to the future of this great city,” Andrew says. “A creative arts education for all students is a key to the survival and future growth of the arts and entertainment industry.”
 
For more information, visit www.cretors.com.


sweet of the week: YummyEarth Easter Treats

This Easter, YummyEarth, a leading organic candy company that’s famous for its 21 flavors, will offer two popular candies, YummyEarth Organic Lollipops and YummyEarth Organic Gummy Bears, in festive Easter packaging.
 
The company’s line of Organic Gummy Bears, which come in Pomegranate Pucker, Strawberry Smash and Sour Apple Tart fruit flavors, “are the world’s first USDA-certified gummy bears with the quintessential bouncy texture of a traditional gummy bear,” the company says.
 
Made with real fruit juice, the gummi bears come in snacks packs containing only 90 calories. They also deliver 100% of the daily requirement for Vitamin C.
 


Similarly, the company has repackaged its Organic Lollipops for the Easter season. Available in nine flavors, all made with real fruit extracts, they come in a bag containing 60 pops and feature the following flavors: Pomegranate Pucker, Very Very Cherry, Strawberry Smash, Mango Tango, Too Berry Blueberry, Sour Apple Tart, Razzmatazz Berry, Googly Grape and Wet-face Watermelon.
 
“Planet friendly and gluten-free,” the lollipops have been designated “the best lollipop I’ve ever tasted,” by Phil Lemper, food critic for the Today Show. The YummyEarth Organic Gummy Bears Easter Pack retail for $5.99 for a 9-oz. bag containing 10 snack packs, while the YummyEarth Organic Lollipops Easter Pack retails for $5.99 for a 12.3-oz. bag.
 
For more information, visit at www.yummyearth.com.