By Deborah Cassell
Confection & Snack Retailing

getting fresh: See Debbie Run

Two nights ago, I crossed paths with a friend at the gym. She was coming out of a Spinning class. I was headed to Cardio Hip-Hop. (You heard me.) It was then that my workout buddy asked if I’d like to do a 5K (not to be confused with my 401K, which already has been run ragged) this spring.
Before you hear my response to this invitation, let me state for the record that I hate to run. “But you play tennis,” friends argue. Yes, but tennis involves short-spurted sprints with an end goal: to get to the ball. Running involves, well, running … for running’s sake. There is no ball to hit, no points to score. Certainly, in a race such as the proposed 5K, there is a finish line. (Thank goodness.) But I’ve always failed to see the point of running or why I, personally, might ever take up such an activity.
That is, until now. After all, it’s the New Year! Like every other American, I have resolved to eat less and work out more. Running fits perfectly into this plan. Besides, a colleague of mine (himself a self-declared non-runner) ran not one, but two 5Ks last year. If Andy can do it, so can I. And so it goes that the answer I gave my friend Laura went from “maybe” to “sure” and, finally, “why not?”
Today I found my calling, courtesy of Andy himself, who sent me an e-mail regarding the 18th Annual Wacky 5K Run to take place here in Chicago on March 1.
Like most 5Ks, the Wacky Run is for a good cause. Proceeds benefit the Blind Service Association, a “not-for-profit agency that supports the independence of visually impaired Chicago area residents,” according to But listen to this: At the race’s end, participants get to gorge themselves on a buffet of foodstuff in honor of National Snack Food Month.
Now that’s what I call incentive.
The Snack Food Association (, which co-founded National Snack Food Month back in 1989, is no doubt pleased with the Wacky Run’s annual snack attack, which this year will feature donations from companies such as Snyder’s of Hanover, Vitner’s and Tootsie Roll Industries, according to Steve Bingham, senior event manager for Chicago Special Events, which manages the race. The spread will include healthy and not-so-healthy snacks. Runners are given goody bags to fill with the sweet and salty treats of their choosing. In short, as the Web site says, “This snack food fantasy buffet has something to satisfy most every craving, and every participant is encouraged to check their guilt at the door.”
As the editor of Confection & Snack Retailing and previous managing editor of Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery, I’ve never been one to turn down free food, be it bad or better-for-you. And I’m not going to start now. As for the guilt, well, as Chicago Special Events points out, “Running is one of the best and most efficient ways to burn calories. For every mile a runner logs, he/she burns approximately 100 calories.”
Burn, baby, burn.
Note: Stay tuned to future installments of “getting fresh” for an update on Debbie’s 5K future.

Toys“R”Us offers organic Surf Sweets

Prospect Heights, Ill.-based Surf Sweets, a subsidiary of TruSweets, has announced the debut of its organic and natural candy line in more than 250 Toys“R”Us stores nationwide. Aimed at children, the gummy candies and jellybeans are organic and natural and contain no artificial flavors or colors. The treats are fortified with Vitamin C and are non-GMO, gluten-free. They’re also produced in a nut-free facility without corn syrup. The packaging for the Surf Sweets candy line has a minimized impact on the environment, as well. For more information, visit  

RCI names new executive director

After 26 years with Retail Confectioners International, executive director Van Billington has left to pursue other employment opportunities, creating an opening for a new executive director. On Jan. 1, 2009, the board of directors hired Kelly Kennedy, who formerly worked in development for the Springfield Symphony Association as well as the Springfield, Mo., Convention & Visitors Bureau.
"Kelly was a real find for us," says Fran Cox, president of the RCI board. "She has more than 10 years of event planning experience, including the RCI national convention held in Springfield, Mo., in July 2007. She has been the editor of organization publications and will be great at building relationships with members."
"I am really excited about all the opportunities we have to serve the members even more," Kennedy says. "We're looking at new initiatives to share their success stories, offer more education courses and identify measureable ways to contribute to the growth of their bottom line."
For more information, contact Fran Cox at 1-508-996-2465 or Kelly Kennedy at 1-417-343-6873.

Whole Foods introduces organic bars

For consumers struggling to get their daily servings of fruit and vegetables, Whole Foods Market now offersOrganic Green Super FoodEnergy Bars, created by San Francisco-based Amazing Grass. Available in Whole Food Energy Bar or Chocolate Whole Food Energy Bar varieties, the products are made up of Amazing Grass’ alkalizing organic green super food powder, fruits and vegetables, and organic nuts and seeds. Containing more than 70% certified organic ingredients, the energy bars also are cold-processed, raw, gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan. The Whole Food Energy Bar has no sugar added, while the Chocolate Whole Food Energy Bar features a Fair Trade organic dark chocolate coating. Both energy bars are sold in Whole Foods Markets nationwide. For more information,

PureCircle, Firmenich promote Reb A

Florham Park, N.J.-based PureCircle -- a developer, producer and marketer of PureVia high-purity Reb A (an all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener derived from the stevia plant) – has announced its collaboration with privately owned flavor and fragrance company Firmenich to further promote Reb A in the food and beverage industries. The exclusive global strategic collaboration enables Firmenich and PureCircle to offer natural flavor and sweetening solutions to the global food and beverage markets. Firmenich already has created flavor systems for Reb A to appear in food and beverage applications.
“Reducing sugar in food and beverage products, while maintaining consumer preference, is one of the biggest challenges in our business today,” says Patrick Firmenich, CEO of Firmenich. “By combining PureCircle’s know-how in Reb A with Firmenich’s expertise in sweetness enhancement and flavor masking, I believe that we can fulfill consumer desires for great tasting, low sugar, low calorie foods and beverages.”
In late December 2008, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a no objection letter in reference to high-purity Reb A, giving the sweetener GRAS status for use in beverages, foods and tabletop sweeteners as a complement to sugar or substitute for artificial sweeteners.
PureVia is a trademark of PepsiCo, Inc. and Whole Earth Sweetener Company LLC.
For more information, visit or

sweet of the week: Kedem Food Products' Manhattan Chocolates

Bayonne, N.J.-based Kedem Food Products International has launched a new line ofManhattanChocolatesToffee Crunch Mixes. Available in two “milky” and three dark chocolate varieties, the products are all-natural, lactose-free and non-dairy, and contain no additives or preservatives. The “milky” products are made with rice milk and come in the following flavors: Toffee Crunch (cashew butter crunch) and Toffee Crunch Mix (with peanuts and pretzels). The dark chocolate varieties are Toffee Crunch Mix (with cranberries and almonds), Toffee Crunch Mix (with espresso beans) and Toffee Crunch (cashew butter crunch). The chocolate products are packaged in stand-alone bags, boxes and tubs. They are made in a lactose-free factory. For more information,