The National Confectioners Association (NCA) has announced the winners of the 2017 Most Innovative New Product Awards.
The winners, chosen from nearly 370 entries, were announced at an awards ceremony celebration at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, held May 23-25 at McCormick Place in Chicago.
In addition to nine categories judged in previous years, the NCA honored Montreal-based Buddha Brands Co. with the first Small Business Innovator Award for Hungry Buddha Probiotic Coconut Chips in Cheeky Chocolate. This award will recognize companies with net sales under $500,000, giving them the opportunity to gain recognition among well-established peers.
Product submissions for all categories were rated on four weighted criteria: taste, packaging, innovation and go-to-market feasibility.
"The amount of innovation and creativity we have seen over the past six years of the awards’ existence has gotten more sophisticated and highly competitive," says John Downs, NCA president and ceo. "Any product nominated during this process should be very proud. Submissions continue to grow by double digits each year, which points to the important role innovation plays in the candy and snack categories."
This year's Best in Show award went to The Hershey Co. for Reese's Crunchers, miniature peanut butter chips, puff and peanuts covered in milk chocolate.
Winners in the other categories include:
Winner: MARS Chocolate North America - M&M's Caramel Chocolate Candies
The Hershey Co. – Reese's Crunchy Cookie Cups
Mondelez International, Inc. – Oreo Chocolate Candy Bar
Ferrero USA, Inc. – Kinder Joy
Edward Marc Brands – Edward Marc Chocolatier Coconut Almonds with Dark Chocolate
Winner: Jelly Belly Candy Co. Jelly Belly Krispy Kreme Gift Box
Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. – Starburst Sweet Heat
Albanese Confectionery – Albanese World's Best Sherbet Gummi Bears
Nestlé USA – SweeTARTS Whipped & Tangy
Just Born Quality Confections - MIKE & IKE SOUR-LICOUS Fruit Punch flavored candies
Sweet Snacks 
Winner: Nestlé USA – Nerds Lucha Grande, Mango Chile and Guava
Charms Co. – Andes Creme de Menthe Snap Bar
Edward Marc Brands, Inc. – Snappers Milk Chocolate Caramel Macchiato 
Setton Farms – Pistachios + Blueberry infused Cranberries & Coconut Chewy Bites
Brownie Brittle, LLC – Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Sea Salt
Salty Snacks 
Winner: The Daily Crave – Gouda & Romano Cheese Quinoa Chips
TwistCheez – Hickory Smoke
Jack Link's Beef Jerky – AM Hot and Spicy Breakfast Sausage
The Hershey Co. – Hershey's Popped Snack Mix
Twang Partners, LTD. – TWANGERZ Sriracha Salt
Savory Snacks 
Winner: Snyder's-Lance, Inc. – Wholey Cheese! Mild Cheddar
Alli & Rose – Tropical Fields Crunchy Seaweed Rice Bites
Chef's Cut Real Jerky – Protein Packs - Real Steak Jerky, Original Recipe Cheddar Cheese
Hawaiian Host, Inc. – Mauna Loa Mango Chipotle Macadamias
goodnessKNOWS – Blueberry & Almond
Winner: Ferrara Candy Co. –  Trolli Sour Brite Dip'n Crawlers
Pez Candy, Inc. – Smurfs Gift Tin
Jelly Belly Candy Co. – Jelly Belly Mixed Emotions
Galerie - Dylan's Candy Bar Secret Message Lollipop
Jel Sert Company – Airheads White Mystery Freezer Bars
Winner: Ghirardelli Chocolate Co. – Ghirardelli Chocolate Strawberry Bark
Ferrara Candy Co. – Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers Minis Hairy Heart Gift Heart
Pez Candy, Inc. – Christmas Ornament with Mini Dispensers
Impact Confections, Inc. – WARHEADS Chewy Bunnies, Assorted Flavors
The Matzo Project – Salted Matzo
Winner: Las Olas Confections and Snacks – Anastasia Coconut Cashew Crunch Dark Chocolate Drizzle
Newfangled Confections – Frittle Candy, Original
Edward Marc Brands – Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Medallions
Bixby & Co. – Nutty For Me Bixby Bites
That's How We Roll – Mrs. Thinster's Cookie Thins Meyer Lemon
Gum & Mints 
Winner: Ferrero USA, Inc. – Tic Tac Gum Freshmint
Perfetti Van Melle USA, Inc. – Airheads Gum, Watermelon
The Hershey Co. – Breath Savers Protect
Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. – Extra Chewy Mints
Mondelez International, Inc. – Purely Trident Peppermint