By Deborah Cassell
Executive Editor
Candy Industry
Retail Confectioner

In my oft-mentioned former life as a home furnishing editor, I had the pleasure of meeting the occasional (random) celebrity. They included supermodel Kathy Ireland (with whom I had lunch), “angel” Jaclyn Smith (with whom I talked colleges for her daughter), “Grizzly Adams” star Dan Haggerty (with whom I shared childhood memories of watching his show), and assorted HGTV and TLC hosts. (I also stood THIS CLOSE to Martha Stewart once, but missed out on an introduction. Sigh …)

On Opening Day of the 2010 Sweets & Snacks Expo, I added one more celebrity to the list: Marc Summers, host of the über-popular TV show “Unwrapped.”

The day before addressing show attendees at a keynote session on how to intrigue consumers with new products, Summers spent some time with media types like myself at a preliminary meet-and-greet. There, he discussed the events that led up to his involvement in one of the Food Network’s most successful programs and shared some of his best-loved confections, among other items of interest. (For instance, Summers regularly rubs elbows with Food Network chefs Paula Deen, Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse, calling them some of the nicest people he’s ever worked with.)

Interestingly, Summers pointed out that although only 30% of all “Unwrapped” episodes have to do with candy, they are among the most watched. The show, now in its tenth season, airs on Monday nights, but offers reruns both new and old all week long. Summers also contributes to other Food Network programs, including “Ultimate Recipe Showdown” and “Dinner: Impossible.”

Little-known facts: Once upon a time, Summers hosted Nickelodeon’s kid-centric, slime-time game show, “Double Dare.” In addition, he penned a book about obsessive compulsive disorder that landed him on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Summers actually got his start as a magician, doing tricks for a pots-and-pans company at the Housewares Show right here in Chicago, for example. He’s also performed as a comedian at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles, one-time home to talents such as David Letterman and Jay Leno.

In his career, Summers has worked for Lifetime Television and the History Channel, but he is most passionate about what he does for the Food Network.

“The impact of TV is great,” says Summers, who’s been performing in one way or another since age 5.

Summers’s favorite confections?

“I loveRed Vines, but you can’t get them on the East Coast,” he complains. Summers also is a self-declared Peeps freak. And he has a deep-seeded love of the Bun Bar, an old-time candy that’s available again due to continued interest in nostalgia – one of two reasons people enjoy “Unwrapped” so much, Summers suggests. The other reason, he says: “Everyone likes to go behind the scenes.”

TheBun Baraside, Summers was extremely excited to see the return ofBonomo Turkish Taffy, another retro confection, which appeared in the New Product Showcase at this week’s show, courtesy of The Warrell Corporation.

“I don’t think nostalgia ever goes out of style,” he asserts, adding, “We all have our favorites.”

I could never pick a favorite TV host, but I’m happy to add Summers to the list of celebrities I’ve now met in the flesh. I “dare” to say he won’t be the last.

Editor’s Note: Speaking of favorites, today, The National Confectioner’s Association (NCA) announced the winners of its first Buyer’s Choice – Best New Concept Awards, chosen by buyer attendees from selections in the New Product Showcase. They were: Jelly Belly forCocktail Classics, Mars for PretzelM&M’S, Proctor & Gamble for MultigrainPringles, The Hershey Company forReese’s Peanut Butter Minis and Just Born for Dark ChocolatePeeps. Congrats to all!