Year Without Sugar Proves Sweet for Innovative Candy Concepts
By Dana Cvetan
A year ago, Innovative Candy Concepts took the bold, and some might have thought, risky step of removing refined sugar from its kids’ candy line via a complete reformulation. The move paid off.
Sales of the brand, renamed Too Tarts Smart Choice to indicate its healthier nature, have increased more than 20 percent over the past year. In addition, the brand has gone from being an in-and-out promotional item in many retail markets to an everyday item in the plan-o-gram of some national retail chain stores, reports Armand Hammer, founder, president and CEO of the Atlanta-based company. Among other retailers, Smart Choice is sold in 7-Eleven, Walgreen’s and Wal-Mart.
The company does not release sales figures, but Hammer explains that off-shelf-sales at the retail level are up 20 percent, and sales to retailers are up dramatically—much more than 20 percent.
“This says that the American public, the parents, are starting to become aware that this product is available to them—the kids already knew,” says Hammer.
Smart Choice, which includes Sour Blast and Super Sweet spray candies, Xtra Sour Goo, UFOs and Suck Ups, is sweetened with enough fruit juice concentrate to gives each item the equivalent of two servings of fruit juice, plus a small amount of sucralose, brand named Splenda, used as a “booster.” The candies also contain 50 to 60 percent fewer calories than did their original formulations.
Hammer reports that there have been no consumer concerns about the use of artificial sweeteners in the Smart Choice line. One reason, he says, besides the fact that the products contain only a minimal amount of Splenda, is that the candies contain no sugar alcohols, which are present in many sugar-free products and which can cause gastric distress in some people.
The company is currently planning to sponsor physical activities for children on the local and national level as part of its promotional programs, and will announce those plans by year’s end. n
Ferrara’s Testimony Supports CAFTA
Sal Ferrara, president of Forest Park, Ill.-based Ferrara Pan Candy Co. and chairman ex-officio of the National Confectioners Association (NCA), testified this spring before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee in support of the U.S. Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
He urged Congress, which is divided on the trade plan, to support the agreement because it will deliver economic benefits to the United States. CAFTA would also open up sugar imports from Central America, although the actual net impact is estimated to equal only about 1% of the total U.S. sugar supply.
“It’s important for the U.S. government to support the trade agreement with Central America because it represents almost $3 billion in increased export sales to the region,” Ferrara told congressional committee members.
CAFTA would create a free trade zone between the United States and six countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Currently about 80 percent  of exports from CAFTA nations enter the United Sates duty free while most U.S. exports to those nations are restricted or slapped with taxes. Under CAFTA, duties on more than half the value of U.S. farm exports would be eliminated, with reductions on other tariffs phased in gradually.
Many commercial sugar users believe CAFTA would represent a small step in realizing true sugar reform in the country. Today, U.S. sugar sells for 23 cents a pound compared to the world price of 9 cents a pound.