By Deborah Cassell
Executive Editor
Candy Industry,
Retail Confectioner

getting fresh: Gluten-Free as a fad?

For the 3 million Americans who suffer from Celiac Disease, going on a diet that’s free from wheat gluten is a necessary way of life. For those dealing with a sensitivity to gluten, going on a diet that’s free from wheat gluten is a means of feeling better physically.
For celebrities whose bodies tolerate it just fine, going gluten-free is simply a fad.
That was the message on this morning’s edition of the “Today” show, which investigated the latest diet craze among today’s leading ladies. Carbs may be back in vogue (for the most part), but gluten is out for many A-listers, including Gweneth Paltrow, Rachel Weisz, Mary Louise Parker and Anne Hathaway as well as former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton, who served gluten-free cake at her recent wedding. In addition, chefs at a popular L.A. restaurant currently are preparing a gluten-free menu for an upcoming Emmy Awards after-party in order to meet attendee-demand.
It’s unknown whether these celebs have legitimate aversions to gluten. However, gluten-free appears to be the latest in a long line of fad diets to hit Hollywood. (Move over Atkins; there’s a new sheriff in town.)
According to “Today,” 5% of Americans have a gluten intolerance, and one in 33 Americans has Celiac Disease -- that’s not to mention the fact that 95% of Celiacs go undiagnosed. As a result, the gluten-free market is expected to hit $1 billion this year. Gluten-free products have improved dramatically in taste over the years, as reported in Candy Industry and Retail Confectioner. Offerings such as Glutino chocolate- and yogurt-covered pretzels, Ian’s Chocolate Covered Wafer Bites, Popcorners, and Snikiddy and Michael Season’s brand snacks are good examples of this flavor profile improvement. Meanwhile, gluten-free bakeries are popping up all over, even in my town of Evanston, Ill. There, you can get a loaf of bread that’s wheat-free, but delicious (or so I’m told by my neighbor, whose daughter was just diagnosed with Celiac).
However, that doesn’t meant that everyone should go gluten-free -- especially as a means of losing weight, points out “Today” show guest Dr. Raj Roshini, author of “What the Yuck?! The Freaky and Fabulous Truth About Your Body.”
A gluten-free diet actually can result in weight gain, Roshini says, since gluten-free foods are not necessarily low in calories and often boast higher contents of fat and sugar as a means of masking undesirable notes and holding the end product together. Not only is gluten-free a hard diet to follow (especially when eating out), but it’s also an expensive one. Many products contain hidden sources of gluten, too, so label-reading becomes a difficult deed for die-hard followers.
As a food editor, I’ve been pleased to see that manufacturers and retailers are catering more to the gluten-free needs of a certain population .As for the gluten-free wants of weight-obsessed celebrities … please. To each their own, of course. But I’ll take my glutin-based snacks (and carbs, for that matter) straight-up, thank you very much.
Editor’s Note: For more information about Celiac disease, visit For more information about food allergies, check out the July issue of Retail Confectioner, available in digital form at

Trident, Chris O'Donnell to promote healthy mouths in America

Kraft Foods, the manufacturer of Trident, will partner with Oral Health America's Smiles Across America program (SAA) and actor Chris O'Donnell to help fight cavities among the nation's youth and address the need for oral disease prevention services.
Tooth decay affects approximately half of all second graders and nearly 80% of 17-year-olds. Despite this, nearly three-quarters (74%) of U.S. parents don't necessarily consider tooth decay to be a chronic childhood disease. However, many parents do recognize that, if left untreated, tooth decay can negatively impact a child's well-being, self-esteem or even concentration level.
Smiles Across America supports dental services for more than 250,000 children annually in underserved communities nationwide. The program has pledged to deliver one million sealants, a critical preventative oral health care procedure for children, by the end of 2010. Having already reached that goal, Smiles Across America now has raised the objective to two million sealants by 2020.
"Through this program, we're committed to raising public awareness about the importance of healthy mouths for healthy lives," says Beth Truett, president and ceo of Oral Health America. "Our three-year partnership with Trident has enabled us to expand our area of service in 2010, helping us to be well on our way to meeting our increased goal."
When consumers purchase any pack of Trident gum between Sept. 13 and 19, Kraft Foods will donate five cents per pack to Smiles Across America. Anyone interested in the campaign’s progress can check the results on Facebook at
"We believe that every family should have access to preventative dental care for healthy smiles," says Becky McAninch, senior brand manager, Trident marketing. "Smiles Across America provides such an important service to communities around the country. We're proud to help aid their efforts."
Famed movie and television actor Chris O'Donnell, someone accustomed to striking a smile on the red carpet, echoes those sentiments. "As a parent of five children, I know first-hand the importance of healthy dental habits for my family," O'Donnell says. "The Smiles Across America program helps to not only promote healthy habits, but also provides critical dental care services through schools reaching those kids that might not otherwise have access. I'm thrilled to be joining this effort to help celebrate and protect smiles."
For more information, visit or

Lionel Clement, former chef chocolatier at Wynn Las Vegas, at the last U.S. competition.

'Magnificent Seven' to compete in World Chocolate Masters' U.S. finals

Seven of the country’s leading pastry chefs and chocolatiers have been selected to compete in the U.S. selections for the World Chocolate Masters -- one of the most elite competitions for chocolate craftsmen from all over the world.
The event, which is sponsored by Barry Callebaut, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and chocolate products, will take place Sept. 27-28 during the International Baking Industry Exposition in Las Vegas.
The competition is designed to offer chocolate artisans and pastry chefs a forum to showcase their skills in designing chocolate showpieces as well as creating chocolate pastries, pralines and desserts.
This year, each participant will be challenged to create a large chocolate showpiece that conveys this year’s theme -- “Cocoa, Quetzalcoatl’s Gift” -- using professional gourmet chocolate brands Callebaut, Cacao Barrys and Carma supplied by Barry Callebaut.
In addition to the showpiece, contestants must create a chocolate pastry, two types of pralines and a plated dessert.
The winner of the competition will be named U.S. National Chocolate Master and go on to compete against chefs from approximately 20 other countries, including Belgium, France, Switzerland, China, Australia and Brazil, at the 2011 World Chocolate Masters in Paris.
This year’s competitors for the U.S. selections for the World Chocolate Masters include:
-- Sylvain Bortolini, assistant executive pastry chef at Bellagio Las Vegas. Prior to joining the Bellagio resort, Bortolini worked as a pastry chef at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach resort in Florida and the InterContinental Presidente hotel in Mexico City. In 2007, he won the Mexican Pastry Championship for his sugar work and chocolate sculpture. Bortolini also has served as pastry chef for two star Michelin-rated restaurants and gourmet chocolate shops in France. He studied at the Association Ouvriéres Des Compagnons Du Tour De France in Bordeaux, France.
-- Stephen Durfee, pastry chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, Calif. Durfee’s professional experience includes working at the French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, Calif.; the Wheatleigh Hotel in Lenox, Mass.; and the Alison on Dominick Street restaurant in New York. He placed third in the National Pastry Team Championships in 2007. In 1998, he received the James Beard Foundation award for outstanding pastry chef.
-- Naomi Gallego, executive pastry chef at the Fairmont Hotel in Pittsburgh. Gallego earned a degree in culinary arts management from St. Philips College in San Antonio, and also holds a master pastry diploma from the prestigious Konditormeisterschule in Cologne, Germany. Prior to joining the Fairmont Hotel in Pittsburgh, she held the position of executive pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, Texas. She also has worked at Vidalia Restaurant and PS7’s Restaurant in Washington, D.C. Gallego has competed on two “Food Network Challenge” television programs and was named “Pastry Chef of the Year” by Washington, D.C.’s Modern Luxury magazine in 2007.
-- Jove Hubbard, executive pastry chef at the James Hotel in Chicago. Hubbard is responsible for the whimsical and creative desserts at David Burke’s Primehouse restaurant located in the hotel. He also has worked as an executive pastry chef at The Peabody hotels in Little Rock and Memphis, Tenn., and at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans. Hubbard studied baking and pastry at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and completed an internship at the French Pastry School in Chicago. In addition, he competed as a finalist on the “Food Network Challenge: Chocolate Masterpieces.”
-- Frederic Loraschi, chocolatier and owner of Chocolat Frederic Loraschi LLC in Hummelstown, Pa. Loraschi opened his own gourmet chocolate company near Harrisburg, Pa., five years ago, supplying handcrafted chocolate confections to restaurants, hotels, catering companies and other luxury venues across the country. Prior to that endeavour, he was executive pastry chef at the Hotel Hershey in Pennsylvania and pastry chef at the Ritz-Carlton hotels in Boston and Dana Point, Calif. He studied at the Lycee Hotelier Quercy-Perigord in Souillac, France, and has been featured on the Food Network’s “Unwrapped” television program.
-- Richard Ruskell, executive pastry chef at the Montage Beverly Hills hotel in California. A graduate of The French Culinary Institute in New York, Ruskell has been called “one of the top 10 pastry chefs in America” by Chocolatier magazine. Prior to joining the Montage Beverly Hills, he was a pastry chef at the Montage resort in Laguna Beach, Calif., and The Phoenician in Scottsdale, Ariz. He has taught at the New England Culinary Institute and has made numerous appearances on the Food Network. In fact, Ruskell is one win shy of holding the record for the most wins on the “Food Network Challenge” television series.
 -- Orlando Santos, pastry chef at The Duquesne Club in Pittsburgh. Santos graduated from Johnson & Wales University in North Miami, Fla., and attended the French Pastry School in Chicago. Prior to joining The Duquesne Club, he served as executive pastry chef at Vince & Joe’s Gourmet Market in Shelby Township, Mich. Santos has also held pastry positions at Cherokee Town & Country Club in Atlanta and the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel. In 2004, he won first place in the wedding cake category at the Southern Pastry Classic.
For more information, contact

Askinosie Chocolate's new Tanzanian chocolate a 'good will' effort here and abroad

Springfield, Mo.-based Askinosie Chocolate’s new venture in Tanzania will not only treat chocolate lovers to a new taste sensation, but benefit future generations locally and in Tanzania, as well.
The new chocolate, which is sourced from the village of Tenende in Tanzania by the woman-led cocoa farmer group UWATE, will debut in November. It will also support the Tanzania Education Trust (TET), a portion of proceeds supporting both the local farmers --who will share in the profits --and TET’s mission to build more than 3000 secondary schools for Tanzania’s children.
Springfield philanthropist Doug Pitt was instrumental in influencing Askinosie Chocolate to select Tanzania as its newest source of cocoa beans. As the Goodwill Ambassador for Tanzania, Pitt seeks to create opportunities for Tanzania and its people as well as bring awareness to TET’s mission.
 “I’m excited to announce this partnership and thankful to Shawn Askinosie and Askinosie Chocolate’s Cocoa Honors program for choosing Tanzania as the site for its newest cocoa origin and its dedication, also, to drilling a well in Tenende to provide potable water for the village,” Pitt says. “By creating this opportunity engaging the cocoa resources of the UWATE cocoa farmer group directly with the farmers and doing a profit-share with them, Askinosie Chocolate continues to be a pioneer in new ways of doing global business.”
In selecting Tanzania as the site for sourcing its newest chocolate, Pitt came together with 13 juniors from Springfield’s Central High School, who are part of Askinosie Chocolate’s neighborhood outreach program called Cocoa Honors, a program that helps students understand the cocoa industry of Africa. The students deliberated on bean quality and other factors in selecting Tanzania, and departed on Aug. 8 for a trip to Tanzania with Askinosie Chocolate founder Shawn Askinosie to meet the UWATE farmers in Tenende, and drill a deep-water well for the village.
“This is a taste of much more to come in developing sustainable ventures throughout Tanzania and other countries,” Askinosie says. “We are excited that we are able to impact future generations and utilize the country’s rich resources combined with enterprising residents to create a winning scenario for all of us.”
In meeting with the farmer group UWATE and utilizing the cocoa resources of the Tenende village, the Askinosie Chocolate partnership will mark the first time a cocoa farmer group in Tanzania has directly contracted with a chocolate maker, instead of brokering the business exchange through a middleman.
Through direct trade with Askinosie Chocolate, a business practice the company engages in with all their cocoa sources, UWATE farmers in Tanzania will be paid more, per ton, than ever before.
While they are in Tanzania, the Cocoa Honors students will continue their global learning with the assistance of Maji-Tech Engineering Ltd. to perform a service project in the community. In addition to meeting the source of their newest cocoa bean farming first-hand, the youths also will be drilling a well to help provide potable water to about 2,000 Tenende citizens. In addition, they will distribute samples of chocolate to local school children, many of whom have never before tasted the product, despite the community’s production of cocoa beans.
For more information, visit

Max Brenner to launch largest-ever chocolate bar In Las Vegas

The Max Brenner (MB) chain, a subsidiary of the Israeli-based Strauss Group, plans to open its largest chocolate bar at the Forum Shops of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The $3-million, two-story, 1,000-sq-meter restaurant and chocolate shop will house 280 seats, a full bar that offers a menu with a special chocolate martini launched at the Vegas branch, a chocolate and gift shop, two rooms for private events and a take-out bar on the patio of the restaurant. About 200 employees will serve diners and bar patrons.
This new branch joins 31 MB chain branches worldwide: two in the United States, 19 in Australia, two in the Philippines, two in Singapore and six in Israel.
"The Max Brenner chocolate bar chain, which is gaining much attention and success in the U.S. and is perceived as a fascinating concept there, continues to implement its strategy of building Max Brenner as an international brand,” says Giora Bar Dea, ceo of Strauss North America. “The new branch at the center of Las Vegas is a strategically ideal location for us to present our brand on the West Coast and to boost our international exposure. We believe that our concept perfectly fits the location and special experience, and are confident that both the millions of visitors and the local community will warmly embrace the unique concept of the Max Brenner chain."
Oded Brenner, founder of Max Brenner, affirms the investment. "You must open a branch in Las Vegas,” he says. “There is no other place in the world that fits Max Brenner perfectly like Las Vegas. It's as if this concept was specifically-tailored for Vegas ... and so, almost from the very first branch we opened, I have been chased by this mantra, which was repeated to me in every new location we launched, but the idea remained like Vegas: unattainable, larger than life, like a dream.”
The new branch was inaugurated at a Chocolate Breaking Ceremony attended by Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman; Ofra Strauss, chairperson of Strauss Group; Giora Bar Dea, Strauss North America ceo; and Oded Brenner, founder of the Max Brenner chain.
For additional information, visit

sweet of the week: Hershey's Drops

New Hershey’s drops from The Hershey Co. deliver all the flavor of its iconic chocolate in bite-size drops perfect for snacking and sharing. They come in re-sealable or king-size packages of two flavors:  milk chocolate or cookies ‘n’ crème. The suggested retail price is $3.29 per 8-oz. stand-up pouch.
For more information, call 1-800-468-1714 or visit