Candy manufacturers and sellers have a tough audience in grocery, convenience and other retail buyers, but the true test comes from an even more discerning crowd: Children.
About a dozen of the candy companies participating in ECRM’s Candy Planning: Christmas and Halloween event, held at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas this week, put some of their best products up for the Kids Choice Awards, hosted by ECRM and Candy Industry Magazine.
After donning special badges and getting a crash course in candy buying from the ubiquitous Print Cates, national sales director for Jack’s Wholesale Candy and Toy, 35 young people from the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Nevada touched, tasted and voted for entries in the non-chocolate, chocolate and novelty categories.
Watching the kids try the candy -- particularly the novelties -- was the best part. They were so animated, especially as they moved through the categories. And they certainly didn’t hold back in their judgments.
After counting the ballots, the following products rose to the top.
Best Non-Chocolate: Christmas Cookie Peeps, Just Born, Inc.
Many consumers associate Peeps, soft, sugar-sprinkled marshmallow chicks, with Easter, but they now have a Christmas-inspired cousin. These Peeps are flavored to taste like sugar cookies, and they’re dipped in white fudge to recreate the cookie and icing flavor combination.
Best Chocolate: Snappers Minis, Edward Marc Brands
Lightning has struck twice for Edward Marc Brands. After winning Best Chocolate last year with Peanut Butter Snappers, the Pittsburgh, Pa.-based company took the same category with Snappers Minis. These treats combine chocolate, caramel and pretzels in sweet, bite-sized pieces -- perfect for kids. While Edward Marc Brands submitted the Original Milk Chocolate variety, they’re also available in Dark Chocolate Sea Salt and Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter flavors.
Best Novelty: Toy Box, Atlantic Candy Co.
The Toy Box combines two of children’s favorite things: chocolate and surprises. A round, patented plastic capsule separates collectible toys from gluten-free, non-GMO chocolate. The Safe-Capsule design has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration. Toys include sea creatures, as well as cats and dogs under the name Pocket Pets.
After the voting, Cates led the group in an acapella version of “Candy Man.” Then the kids bounced out of the dining room and back to their buses.
But before they left, I overhead one of the children saying, “I’m really glad I went on this trip.”
Having the chance to see familiar faces and meet many new people through ECRM’s speed-dating-style gatherings, I, too, am glad to have been “on this trip.”