Candy’s Still Dandy, But…

by Dana Cvetan
Kids Just Want To Have Fun
For kids, candy has become much more than something to eat. “Play value” is essential.
“We create a continual stream of product news because we know kids get bored and are always interested in trying new things,” says Dan Marquardt, brand manager for Perfetti Van Melle USA Inc., Erlanger, Ky. “For example, we are currently including Pink Lemonade in our Airheads club pack for a limited time.
“We also know kids want to be in control and like to interact with food, so we are offering them a Popping Candy Dip pouch free inside our Airheads checkstand pack for a limited time this summer,” Marquardt continues.
Vitech America, Kent, Wash., recently branched out into kids’ interactive candy. Its Tagged Creations division introduced two new products this year — Tastee Bubbles and Rock’n Cotton Candy. Tastee Bubbles are edible candy bubbles.
Rock’n Cotton Candy contains little exploding candy rocks, providing two candy experiences in one.
Also branching out into the interactive area is Morris National Inc., Azusa, Calif., with a new line of products sold under the Just for Fun banner. One recent introduction is the Bubble Roller gum dispenser.
Barcelona, Spain-based Chupa Chups develops and launches about seven or eight new toys a year, according to Kevin Foltz, marketing manager for Chupa Chups U.S.A., Atlanta.
For the back-to-school season, Chupa Chups will launch a flip phone with a button that makes a lollipop pop up, and has a small video screen on which kids can play a space invaders-type of video game.
Non-chocolate purveyors are responding to growing weight, health concerns and also dreaming up new creamy flavors.
There’s no denying consumers’ pervasive, at times near-obsessive, worry over expanding waistlines and their effect on health and well-being. In the non-chocolate arena, confectionery manufacturers are stepping up to respond in a number of ways — by introducing products formulated to be lower in carbohydrate counts as well as by pumping up promotion of offerings that already are low in carbs. Vendors also are fortifying candy with health-advancing vitamins and minerals.
Jelly Belly Candy Co., Fairfield, Calif., has reformulated its sugar-free Jelly Belly and Jelly Belly Sours to reduce calories and carbohy-drates.
“Nobody has a crystal ball…but (carb counting) is definitely a trend, and we want consumers to continue to enjoy our products, so we responded,” says Pete Healy, Jelly Belly’s vice president of marketing and international sales.
Jelly Belly also plans to expand its sugar-free offerings. “We are bringing to market a range of our confectionery items in new sugar-free, low-carb formulations — spice drops, gummy cola bottles and fruit slices,” Healy reports.
“People may be counting carbs, but there is always a little bit of room for something sweet, as long as it’s worth it,” says Cindy Brooks, product manager for Adams & Brooks Inc., Los Angeles. Adams & Brooks is introducing a reformulation of one of its popular lines, sugar-free Coffee Rio Lo Carb hard coffee candy in original, espresso and latte flavors.
It behooves the manufacturers of sugar-free candies to remind consumers they have been making low-carb candy all along, Susan Rosenthal Jay, vice president of marketing for Hillside Candy, Hillside, N.J., points out.
“Since 1980, our candy has always had zero net carbs – we were one of the first – so we are proudly stating that on our bags,” she says. “You can’t miss them,” says Jay.
Vitech America, Kent, Wash., is also advertising on its mint and candy tins that they are sugar-free and low-carb.
Even though the fat-free era may have passed, consumers are still aware how important it can be to limit fat intake, Jay adds. Consumers “have sensitivity to eating better than they have been.” Hillside is the exclusive U.S. distributor of My Favorite Candies, endorsed by supermodel Heidi Klum and manufactured by German candy maker Katjes. The line is fat-free, made with yogurt and apple pulp for flavor and chewy texture, and though it contains sugar, is positioned as a “good-for-you” product.
Atlanta-based Chupa Chups U.S.A., is differentiating itself by fortifying some lollipops with vitamins and minerals, making some sugar-free and adding other functionalities to its products, reports Kevin Foltz, marketing manager. As part of its effort to position itself as a “healthier” lollipop company, Chupa Chups also secured the endorsement of star soccer player and Olympic Gold Medal winner Mia Hamm.
Chupa Chups has also added Vitamin C to its Crazy Dips candy for kids. Its Smint brand mints contain Zylitol, a natural sugar substitute that helps reduce the mouth bacteria that can cause plaque buildup, plus papaya-derived Papin enzymes to whiten teeth.
Refined sugar is gone from Innovative Candy Concepts’ Too Tarts kids’ line. Reformulated and re-named Too Tarts SmartChoice, the candies are sweetened with the company’s own fruit juice concentrate blend, called Jammy Juice, and small amounts of sucralose, glycerin and Acesulfame K. The reformulation reduced calorie content 50 to 60 percent.
“There’s a major wake up call to manufacturers of consumable products that things have to change,” asserts Armand Hammer, president and CEO of Atlanta-based Innovative Candy Concepts.
“What they did yesterday will not take them into the future and they have to reexamine what they are doing,” says Hammer. “ All these adults are getting educated and changing their eating habits, but they’ve got kids, they’ve got grandkids, eating all this stuff made with high fructose corn syrup. If you can make candy in a healthy, positive way, isn’t that better? Technology changes every day and more and more materials become available, so not only can you make a healthier candy, you can make it taste better,” he says.
Hammer believes the low-carb trend will moderate. “There’s nothing wrong with refined sugar, the problem is, it’s in everything. The problem is the huge amounts people eat.”
Flavor trends
In non-chocolate candy flavorings, “the mega-trend over the last two years is creamy — consumers really know us for creamy flavors,” says Chupa Chups’ Foltz. “Strawberry and cream is one of our more indulgent creamy flavors, and we’ve added strawberry yogurt and peach yogurt,” to the flavor line-up.
“Definitely cream, that’s continuing,” agrees Hillside’s Jay.
Hillside’s new line, My Favorite Candy, also features several creamy, yogurt-based flavors.
Fruit flavors, especially citrus, whether alone or paired with creamy tastes, are gaining favor with the public.
“You’re going to see a lot of fruity flavors getting more popular, and fruit and cream flavors are very popular,” says Katherine Owens, vice president of business development for Rockville, Md.-based Sherwood Brands.
“We see growing interest in, and influence of flavors that come from the Hispanic culture and heritage,” observes Jelly Belly’s Healy. An example is the growing popularity of tamarind, he says.
Hillside is on this trend — coming out with a tropical fruit mix in its Golightly hard candy, Jay reports.
Sour is still hot, and is expanding rapidly to older age groups, “but they are looking for the softer flavors, not the intense sours, and citrus flavors are dominant,” says Rich Clemmensen, vice president of marketing for Azusa, Calif.-based Morris National Inc.
Morris has introduced some sophisticated flavors in its new Zip Sours brand of hard candy that takes a new direction in sours. Aimed primarily at young adults and adults, but also teenagers, Zip Sours feature natural flavoring and coloring in Ruby Red Grapefruit, Mandarin Orange, Cranberry and Black Cherry. The sour flavors are “softer, lighter and milder, which is more refreshing,” he says.