Confectioners save their most novel product ideas for children. These include inventive flavors, textures and value-added takeaways.

The fondest of childhood memories often involve candy. Holidays have long been sources of confectionery delight, but candy also can be an everyday treat. Today, manufacturers are taking sweets for kids to another level through licensed products and innovations in color, texture and taste.

“A greater number of retailers are making space for novelties in their everyday product selection,” says David Plotnick, director of marketing for Ford Gum. “The ever-changing novelty assortment drives traffic to this aisle, as kids desire to be the first among their friends to discover something new and exciting.”

And there’s plenty of cool stuff out there. Just ask Koko’s Confectionery and Novelty, whose latest offerings includeSnap-N-Glow Popsin Green Apple, Strawberry, Blue Raspberry and Lemon flavors, as well asMarshmallow Pops,Caramel Apple Dipsand fruityCandy Logsyou can build and eat.

“The most important trend line for our target demographic is textures and flavors,” says Phil Brilliant, vice president of licensing and marketing. “Our flavor masters keep us in constant touch with popular culture to identify trends such as fruity, tropical, sour, hot, sweet or savory.”

Over at The Topps Co., kids rule.

“We put a lot of effort into understanding their world and their consumer desires,” says Andrea Kelly, senior director, New Products, Confectionery. Its latest introduction:Wazoo, a chewy, fruity taffy bar with a creamy, tangy coating, sprinkled with crunchy candies, and available in Blue Raspberry and Wild Berriez flavors. According to Topps, the product combines multiple textures, bright colors and scrumptious smells. And its name “embodies the sense of a crazy candy collision.” That, and it’s just plain fun to say.

Fun to say? How about fun to chew? Ford Gum recently introduced a line ofLunch Meat Bubble Gumthat looks, but does not taste, like the real thing. The company also has created updated versions of classic confections, starting with itsSmartiesbrand Bubble Gumballs, available in a sour variety this spring.

Sour Power

One flavor profile that always seems to appeal to kids - who are willing to try anything when it comes to candy, if not vegetables - is sour. And nothing says sour quite like Candy Dynamics’ Toxic Waste brand, whoseHi-Voltage Bubble Gum,Hazardously Sour CandyandNuclear Sludge Barsmake mouths water.

In addition to epitomizing the sour taste kids crave, Toxic Waste products offer takeaways they can use. For example, the brand’sSour Candy Sprayscome with free finger puppets based on Toxic Waste characters.

Another sour product introduction is new fruit-flavoredSour Gummy Popcornfrom Imaginings 3, Inc./Flix Candy. But the company’s primary focus lies outside the sour arena …

License to Thrive

Licensed products aren’t new to the marketplace, but they’re definitely taken off in recent years, thanks to pop culture.

Hannah Montana,High School Musical,CarsandWall-Eare among the brands licensed to Imaginings 3, Inc./Flix Candy, which was named 2008 Disney Licensee of the Year (food and beverage category). Its most recent Disney property is Disney Fairies. Products include Flower Petal Pops, Pixie Dust Popping Candy and Picture Ring Lollipops.

Meanwhile, CandyRific unveiled several products tied to Dreamworks’ release of “Madagascar” last year, including candy-filled sticker stampers and tins.

But “no property lends itself to seasonal better thanM&M’S,” says president Rob Auerbach. CandyRific’s latestM&M’Sintroductions include embossed seasonal tins containing two .63-oz. bags of candies each. It also offers a refillableM&M’SBaker toy-and-candy combo that scoops up and serves two candies when you push a button; the novelty comes stocked with .63 ounces ofM&M’S.

CandyRific recently picked up a new license:Airheads.

Airheadshas huge name recognition among the demographic (5-to-9-year-olds) we’re going after,” says Auerbach, adding that the brand also is gender neutral. Products include SurpriseAirheadPops,AirheadsSeasonal Finger Pops andAirheadsSlinky Sport Pops.

Candy Econ 101

In light of the current economy, consumers obviously are cutting back on expenses, but to some degree, kids’ candy has not been hit that hard … so far.

Although novelties are discretionary impulse purchases, “conventional wisdom has long held that candy weathers economic downturns well,” Kelly notes.

Brilliant says he does not think that the candy industry has realized “the full impact yet of the troubled economy and how it will ultimately affect candy sales. Certainly, the impulse count goods will be the first to take a hit, followed by larger and more expensive treats. Seasonal items will be less affected because most holidays have a tradition for candies and parents generally plan for that expense.”

Kelly adds: “Keeping a broad array of candy products available and well-merchandised allow beleaguered consumers (moms & dads) an inexpensive treat for themselves or their children.”

Cavalier advises retailers to refresh their offerings on a semiannual or annual basis and to add innovative products to their shelves, as well as work with licenses that proven successful”

End caps and checkout are terrific, too, Auerbach says, as are multiple facings and co-merchandising products through partnerships.

“I think that especially in confectionery, keep the shelves spaced and clean and organized, which can be difficult, because our customer base isn’t the most pristine,” he observes. Although traffic is down, Auerbach continues, the economy hasn’t hit the candy category the way it’s hit the auto industry, for example. Unlike that newLexus, he says, “Your child is definitely a luxury you can afford.”

Candy-loving kids would be happy to hear that.