By Deborah Cassell
Executive Editor
Candy Industry
Retail Confectioner

getting fresh: Kids at a candy show

The excitement was palpable. More than 70 kids, ages 8 to 13, in a room, surrounded by candy. Can you see it? I can. I was there.

Let me paint you a picture … During the ECRM (Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing) Candy Annual Planning event held last week, children from the Boys & Girls Club of Las Vegas were given the opportunity to be junior candy buyers by participating in the third annual Kid’s Candy Choice awards. The objective: to choose the best of 25 confectionery items entered by exhibitors at the show, based namely on taste and packaging.

For the second year in a row, we here at Candy Industry and Retail Confectioner sponsored the competition. As such, I personally got the chance to educate the kids a little bit about the confectionery industry, including categories such as everyday, novelty, sugar-free and seasonal; I tested their knowledge of some terms (ex: name all three types of chocolate) and got a sense of some of their favorite products (read: anything sour) and flavors (read: anything sour), among other interactions.

Next, Print Cates, director of franchise operations for Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, talked to the captive audience about being a professional candy buyer. Print wowed the children with a video tour of one of his stores, which they watched in awe, pointing out their favorite sweets in wide-eyed silence. He even sang a few bars from the theme to “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” (Very brave of you, Print.)

Finally, the kids were asked to survey the room full of submissions before choosing five products to sample. Choices included everything from tubs of cotton candy to baseball bats filled with bubblegum, from manufacturers such as Maxim Manufacturing & Marketing, Original Gourmet, Perfetti van Melle and Storck.

Although the junior candy buyers were eager to eat everything in sight, they had no problem paring those selections down and declaring their faves.

First place went to Farley’s and Sathers Candy Co, Inc. for its Trolli Big Bold Bears Gummi Candy. Coming in second was Schuster Products with its Ginormous Silly Swirl Bubble Gum. Innovative Candy Concepts took third with its Too Tarts Smart Choice All Kidz Blend.

The winners were announced during lunch on Sept. 28, where representatives from each company were given plaques in recognition of their achievement. Each manufacturer also will receive free advertising from Retail Confectioner in the form of a full-page print ad (first place) or Web/eNewsletter ads (second and third place).

Meanwhile, the children were sent home with bags containing samples of every product entered in the competition. When asked if they were going to share them with their siblings and friends, the kids yelled out a resounding “No!”

How’s that for excitement?

Editor’s Note: The next Kid’s Candy Choice awards competition will take place during the 2011 Candy Annual Planning event. For more information, contact Maria Di Franco, ECRM marketing director, at mdifranco@ecrm.marketgate.com. For more information about ECRM, visit www.ecrm.marketgate.com.

Be sure to check out the October issue of Retail Confectioner for complete coverage of the Kid’s Candy Choice awards, including photos of the kids, products and winners. In addition, video coverage of the event soon will be posted to www.retailconfectioner.com.


Kraft invests more than $14 million to drive confectionery category growth, innovation

Kraft Foods held an "opening ceremony" to inaugurate the recently-completed European Kraft Foods Gum and Candy Research & Development (R&D) Center in Eysins, Switzerland, on Oct. 5. The state-of-the-art facility will focus on innovation and new product development for many of Europe's -- and the world's -- best-known confectionery brands, including TRIDENT and Halls as well as Bassetts, Carambar, The Natural Confectionary Co., Trebor and V6. The opening event is the culmination of a two-year project, with a total investment of more than $14 million (10.4 million euros) in the center.

Worth $23 billion annually, the global gum market has grown by almost a quarter since 2005, Kraft reports, making it one of the fastest-growing categories within confectionery. Kraft has a number of gum brands with leading positions in markets across Europe; they include Hollywood in France; Trident in Spain, Greece and Portugal; and Stimorol in Denmark and Switzerland.

"Over recent years, gum has been growing in popularity in Europe as consumers look for new ways to indulge and refresh themselves through great flavors, fresh breath and even for oral care,” says Chuck Davis, vice president of research, development and quality for Kraft Foods Europe. “At Kraft Foods, we see this as a great growth opportunity, both for our European business and globally. Consumers in Europe and around the world have long enjoyed our iconic confectionery brands such as Trident and Halls. The investment in this new R&D Center in Eysins makes good business sense, allowing us to further our position as the No. 1 snacking company in Europe, driving innovation and growth while delighting consumers with delicious products for them to enjoy and share."

The center will be home to a team of talented product and package developers and quality experts who are responsible for breakthrough gum and candy innovation such as the new Fresh & Clean gum product that’s currently launching in markets across Europe, Kraft notes. Many of those based in Eysins have played leading roles in the creation of exciting new products and packaging innovations that have driven the company’s European gum and candy business into the market-leading positions it holds today.

As the European Center for innovation and technology for gum and candy, the team based in Eysins will collaborate closely with the Kraft Foods Global Gum & Candy Center of Excellence, based in Whippany, N.J., to drive innovation and new technologies that support the company's European gum and candy business and global category growth platforms.

The center in Eysins joins 14 other Kraft Foods R&D Centers in supporting the company's global businesses, including beverages, biscuits, cheese, chocolate, coffee and gum & candy.For more information, visit www.kraftfoodscompany.com.

Las Vegas pastry chef named U.S. National Chocolate Master

Last week, Sylvain Bortolini, assistant executive pastry chef at Bellagio Las Vegas, won the U.S. finals of the World Chocolate Masters -- a premier culinary competition for chocolate craftsmen from all over the world, organized by cocoa and chocolate products producer Barry Callebaut.

Bortolini beat out five other pastry chefs and chocolatiers from some of the country’s leading hotels, restaurants and culinary institutions to be named U.S. National Chocolate Master 2010 following the two-day competition, held Sept. 27 and 28 during the International Baking Industry Exposition in Las Vegas.

Second place went to chocolatier Frederic Loraschi, owner of Chocolat Frederic Loraschi LLC in Hummelstown, Pa. Third place was awarded to Stephen Durfee, a pastry chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, Calif. Bortolini and Loraschi also were recognized with special awards for “Best Chocolate Showpiece” and “Best Tasting,” respectively.

As part of the competition, each participant had to create a large chocolate sculpture that conveyed the theme of this year’s competition -- “Cocoa, Quetzalcoatl’s Gift” -- using professional gourmet chocolate brands Callebaut, Cacao Barry, and Carma, and inspired by the ancient Aztec legend surrounding the origins of cocoa in South America. They also showcased their skills by creating a chocolate entremet, two types of pralines and a plated dessert.

“Barry Callebaut organized this event to offer chocolate artisans and pastry chefs a forum to showcase their skills in designing chocolate showpieces and other chocolate desserts,” says Parveen Werner, marketing director for Barry Callebaut North America. “The competition required true craftsmanship to execute elaborate chocolate creations in limited time and bring to life the origin of cocoa through the history of the ancient Aztec civilization.”

As part of the competition, a professional jury comprised of some of the nation’s most influential pastry chefs, including former U.S. national chocolate masters Lionel Clement and Vincent Pilon, judged each contestant on their overall technical skills, interpretation and execution of the theme as demonstrated by their artistic showpiece and the taste of their dipped pralines, moulded pralines and chocolate entremet.

Bortolini’s interpretation of the theme “Cocoa Quetzalcoatl’s Gift,” started at the base of the sculpture with the shape of a metate and granite rolling pin -- the ancient tools used to process the cocoa bean. A winding set of stairs led to a giant cocoa pod surrounded by an array of spears designed to protect the gift that was bestowed upon the Aztec people by the god Quetzalcoatl.

Bortolini studied at the Association Ouvriéres Des Compagnons Du Tour De France in Bordeaux, France. Prior to joining the Bellagio resort, he worked as a pastry chef at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach resort in Florida and the InterContinental Presidente hotel in Mexico City. In 2007, he won the Mexican Pastry Championship for his sugar work and chocolate sculpture. Bortolini also has served as pastry chef for two star Michelin-rated restaurants and gourmet chocolate shops in France.

Bortolini now will represent the United States at the prestigious 2011 World Chocolate Masters competition in Paris, where he will compete against chefs from 17 other countries -- including Belgium, France, Switzerland, China, Australia and Brazil -- for the title of “World Chocolate Master 2011” and a share of the prize package valued at 100,000 euros (approximately $130,000).

For more information, visit www.worldchocolatemasters.com.

Divine Chocolate partners with Rock the Vote for fall initiative

Now through November, Divine Chocolate -- the Fair Trade chocolate brand co-owned by cocoa farmers in Ghana -- will earmark a percentage of sales from each bar it sells to support Fair Trade awareness activities at Rock the Vote events. Divine and Rock the Vote will activate and promote the initiative online via their Web sites and Facebook pages. The campaign is aimed at encouraging young people in America to exercise their right to vote by providing them with a parallel perspective on the critical roles that democracy, Fair Trade and voting play in the lives of cocoa farmers in Ghana.

“Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Cooperative, the co-owners of Divine Chocolate, set out to create better lives for West African cocoa farmers,” says Erin Gorman, ceo of Divine Chocolate U.S. “They use three powerful tools: they are organized, democratic, and involve men and women equally. This has given them the power they need to improve their livelihoods and change the chocolate industry. We are thrilled to partner with Rock the Vote to encourage even more young voters this year to use democracy to make their voices heard and create their own brighter futures.”

Rock the Vote President Heather Smith adds that “Coinciding with our get out the vote effort this fall, we will involve young people in conversations around Fair Trade issues as they participate in our democracy by pledging and turning out to vote on Nov. 2. We are thrilled to have Divine supporting these efforts through the sale of their product.”

Throughout the fall, Divine Chocolate will visit various events across the country, including Rock the Vote events, and ask young people for their thoughts on democracy and Fair Trade. Via an online contest at www.divinechocolateusa.com, Divine also will ask the public to submit their best ideas for spreading the word about Fair Trade.

Updates from the campaign will be posted to www.facebook.com/divinechocolate. For more information about Rock the Vote, visit www.rockthevote.org

Mars Chocolate North America announces new products, promotions at 2010 NACS Show

Mars Chocolate North America is unveiling new product flavors, upcoming consumer promotions and a ground-breaking ice cream category management study at this week’s National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) Show in Atlanta.

“At Mars Chocolate North America, we strive to help our retailers drive profit by providing them with innovative new products, exciting consumer promotions and effective sales tools,” says Jim Murphy, vice president of sales, Mars Chocolate North America.

To that end, new confectionery products being shown at NACS are SNICKERS Brand Peanut Butter Squared and TWIX Coconut Cookie Bars as well as SNICKERS Rocky Road Ice Cream, MILKY WAY Ice Cream and TWIX Ice Cream.

Over the last year, Mars Chocolate and Wrigley have combined their global expertise in shelving and merchandising. The resulting Sweet Source insights provided by Mars and Wrigley offer customer solutions for growing the entire confection category. This includes planograms, best category assortment and category management best practices to maximize confectionary sales. One outcome of this initiative is the new Mars/Wrigley “Horizon 2” planogram, which has a range of applications depending on rack size and configuration, and is designed to maximize in-aisle confectionery sales.

Another tool for success developed by Mars is its Web site for convenience store operators, www.Mars24seven.com. Launched in the spring, the site is a resource center with everything c-store operators need to create, enhance and maintain a thriving candy aisle and to help drive overall store sales. In addition to providing details on new products and promotions, the URL offers research in consumer shopping, industry sales data and best practices to maximize sales.

Featured promotions at NACS include The SNICKERS Brand NFL “Go Nuts At The Super Bowl” Sweepstakes (going on now), which rewards extreme fans -- mild-mannered during the week, but who go nuts on game day -- with the chance to win thousands of prizes, including one of 17 trips to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas.

In 2011, the company will unveil four more promotions: The M&M’S Brand Movie Cash Promotion, which begins in Feb., allowing consumers who purchase specially marked singles packages or boxes of M&M’S Brand candies to check under the wrapper for a code they can enter at www.mms.com to find out if they are a winner of prizes ranging from $3 gift certificates to free movie tickets; The M&M’S Brand Reunite ‘M Promotion, launching in April, during which consumers can try to find bags featuring all five M&M’S Characters under the wrapper for a chance to discover the winning messages and code for prizes such as M&M’S Brand merchandise, tickets to Six Flags amusement parks and a $100,000 grand prize; The COMBOS Brand Insider Promotion, from February to December, which will reward fans who get spotted with COMBOS Snacks at NASCAR, Major League Baseball and Live Nation music events with tickets to their favorite events; and the “Take Your Peanut Butter Pick” cross-brand event, taking place in March, which will showcase the breadth of the chocolate and peanut butter offerings from M&M'S, SNICKERS, TWIX and DOVE Chocolate brands.

For more information, visit www.mars.com

sweet of the week: Palmer Lil' Bunnies

R.M. Palmer Co., Reading, Pa., has introduced Double Crisp Lil’ Bunnies -- miniature, moulded versions of the company’s hollow My Little Bunny. Each chocolate is shaped like a little bunny and wrapped in assorted foils with little bunny graphics. The suggested retail prices are $1.00 per 5-oz. bag and $2.00 per 10-oz. bag.

For more information, call 1-610-372-8971 or visit www.rmpalmer.com.