June 11/Deerfield, Ill./Prepared Foods -- Confections and snacks are among the most-active categories in terms of product launches. In opening the 2012 Sweets & Snacks Expo, National Confectioners Association (NCA) president Larry Graham noted that, in any given year, about 30% of all confectionery sales are attributed to products launched in the previous 24 months.

“Innovation is an essential part of the confectionery and snacks industry,” said Graham. “Last year, there were nearly 4,800 new candy and snack items launched in the U.S.”

Gimbal’s Fine Candies introduced Sour Gourmet Jelly Beans in 12 flavors and claimed it represents“the largest assortment of flavors ever created for Sour Gourmet Jelly Beans.” The new candy features flavors such as Sour Mango, Sour Pomegranate, Sour Lemon, Sour Cherry, Sour Blueberry, Sour Strawberry, Sour Grapefruit, Sour Apple, Sour Grape, Sour Lime, Sour Tangerine and Sour Watermelon. The line is made with real fruit juice and claims to be a good source of antioxidant vitamin C.  

To develop new Sour Gourmet Jelly Beans, Gimbal’s focused on creating a recipe that balances the popular experience of enjoying sour candies without overpowering a delicious and identifiable variety of flavors.  However, unlike so many products that focus almost exclusively on younger consumers, the Gimbal’s line could appeal to parents as well.

“Many adults who currently purchase sour candies for their children enjoyed sours themselves as a child,” said Karin Vollrath, Gimbal’s sales and marketing director.  “Today, candy lovers appreciate flavor variety, and new and more natural tasting flavors. “

Gimbal’s says all its confections are free of the “major eight” food allergens contributing to 90% of food allergies. Additionally, the candies contain no high-fructose corn syrup and are certified kosher pareve by the Orthodox Union.  

Elsewhere, Mars noted that white derivatives may constitute the smallest chocolate segment, but this niche has shown the strongest growth, with annual sales up 21%. Within the white chocolate category, sales of“cookies and crème” products have increased 20.4% during the past year, despite fairly little marketing support. The company added that its study of flavor trends indicates the Hispanic population, which tends to prefer sweeter products, will contribute to strong performance for the category and the segment.

Mars Chocolate introduced Dove brand Silky Smooth Cookies and Crème confections. Blending sweet and creamy white chocolate and crunchy chocolate cookie bits, Dove Silky Smooth Cookies and Crème offerings are available as a single (1.34oz) bar, a large (3.07oz) bar and an 8oz bag of individually wrapped Dove Promises. A “360-degree” consumer marketing campaign will support the launch. Mars also announced a new derivative of M&M: white chocolate candy corn, set to launch in time for Halloween.

Ritter Sport added the classic Italian ice cream flavor Amarena cherry in a Ritter Sport chocolate variety. It features milk cream, sour cherries and the light flavor of almonds. The company also announced a few other holiday flavors for American candy consumers: Coconut Macaroon, Dark Praline & Caramel Almond and, after a five-year absence, Ritter Rum, Raisins & Hazelnuts (Rum Trauben Nuss) scheduled to return for holiday 2012.

Seeking to capitalize on the natural trend, the Sweet Candy Company introduced a line of Au Natural products including Nummy Bears, Squishy Fishy, Squirmy Wormy and Citrus Slices. Each features only natural ingredients with no artificial flavors or colors, corn syrup or preservatives.

Debuts also drew on inspiration from other parts of the world. In launching the Ginger-Lemon Gummi, Christian Jegen, president, Haribo of America Inc., explained, “Ginger-lemon is extremely popular overseas, and we anticipate it will be a big hit in the U.S., especially among adults who are looking for something new and unusual in their choice in sweets. We believe the American gummi candy market has yet to reach its full potential.”

However, some confections draw from flavors more associated with stateside locations.

Vosges’ new line, Wild Ophelia, features chocolates with a price point slightly below other Vosges products but also differing in their flavors, which have a theme of "An American Road Trip Through Chocolate." They feature such flavors as beef jerky and BBQ potato chip varieties.

"Trends in confectionery and snacks for 2012 are pushing new boundaries,” concludes Graham.“As consumer palates become more complex, flavor profiles across the industry are doing the same. People are looking beyond borders and convention for what's next; whether its crunchy snacks with Asian or Mediterranean influences, the growing popularity of all things salty and sweet, or tropical fruit flavors such as mango."

 From the June 11, 2012, Prepared Foods E-dition