All Candy Expo
Sunday, May 18, 2008
First, I’m not going to the All Candy Expo in Chicago this year. The dates (May 20-22) are simply unworkable for me this time around. I’m not terribly upset about it, the last show was just in September and I still have a few items left from that to review! Next year’s show will revert to the original June dates, and I’ll be back in ‘09.
Through the wonderful assistance of the folks at the National Confectioners Association though, I will be able to bring copious amounts of coverage including reviews that week! (Instead of readers waiting until I return home - so maybe things will be even better from a reader’s perspective.) But if you also want some first-hand coverage, Candy Addict will be on the floor and I’ll do my best to point to other coverage as the week goes by.
Changes this year at the convention include some new policies. Children are no longer allowed at the show at all and the Candy Time Room, which was that fabled space where you could fill a single bag with whatever you wanted from dozens of bins of candy ... that’s gone. (I scored a couple dozen snack sized Ritter Sport bars last year, they were so good.)
The show used to be on a Monday-Wednesday schedule, this year they’re going Tuesday-Thursday. The exhibitors are already on the floor at the McCormick center this weekend, setting up their booths. Some are quite elaborate, while other smaller companies opt for the old table & curtain display. The smallest booths are 10 feet square. The largest ones occupied by “Big Candy” like Hershey’s, Mars, Jelly Belly, Wrigley, Ferrara Pan & Nestle are more than 50 feet square, which is bigger than most candy stores (and my house). As an attendee, all I ever care about is the ability to view their product line, sample items, perhaps take a sample home and of course talk to someone. The larger booths not only feature the candy but show off how global they may be (Hershey’s was sampling some of their Asian versions last year) as well as the advertising campaigns & marketing tie-ins. While I may not care about some NASCAR merchandising deal, there are plenty of stores that will.
The show is continuing to diversify to include more snacks (popcorn, chips, jerky, etc.) and gourmet confections. One of the cornerstone events will be the sessions under banner name “Taste of Gourmet” featuring Frederic Loraschi (Michel Cluizel) and Michael Antonorsi (Chuao). This year also shows the continuation of the “Gourmet Marketplace” are of the show floor where companies like Stephany’s Chocolates, Fannie May, Wolfgang, Bloomsberry & Co and other upscale (but not quite artisan) makers will be grouped together. I’ll have some reviews of their items to at least tip my hat towards the gourmet corner this year.
The show has a wide number of attendees. Most are buyers for large companies like Wal-Mart, Trader Joe’s, Rite Aid, grocery chains and other general merchandisers. Others are candy brokers & wholesalers, who are the middlemen for the smaller candy retailers. Most candy stores can’t afford the minimum purchases from the large factories, so they come to the show to see what’s new & how they’ll be marketed in the coming year, then they place their orders through the wholesale companies. Other people on the floor are publicists who work with different confectionery companies, writers from the industry or from consumer oriented publications (like bloggers) and finally, other candy companies.
I plan to give candy teases all week long as well, just announcements of new products that have caught my interest, keep an eye on the little sidebar to the left where it says “All Candy Expo” coverage. (Or sign up for my RSS feed and you won’t miss a thing.)
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Each day a the All Candy Expo I balanced my sense of discretion with each candy booth’s generosity.
I think the candy companies won.
Each attendee was given a small bag to put their samples in on the floor. The same bag was used each day and it was about the size of a shoe box for some nice women’s dress shoes. Basically, not too big.
Many booths had “eat it here” samples, little cups or sections of their products for sampling. I generally didn’t eat much while on the floor of the show, so I didn’t go for those often. (I couldn’t bring them home, they didn’t have the ingredients and nutrition info on them.)
I was pretty picky about what I picked up, but often when I’d get into conversations with the candy purveyors, they’d offer me full sized samples. A 6 ounce bag of some new gummi spiders, a stack of six 3.5 ounce chocolate bars, a 5 ounce bag of delicious dark chocolate coated toffee almonds or a half a dozen full-sized Ritter Sport bars. It adds up. So somewhere around the middle of the morning my bag would be full and probably weigh about five pounds. I had a benefit over most attendees, somewhere to stash the contents of my bag. I’d go to the press room and empty it out and leave it with my other stuff (my jacket, etc.) and go back out onto the floor.
At the end of the day I’d be hoofing it back to the hotel with 15 or so pounds of candy along with a sampling of press kits which are also heavy in their own right.
So with a little math you can tell where this is going. At the end of the show I had at least 45 pounds of candy, probably closer to 55 pounds (if you include the press kits, which as I said in my defense, are heavy).
I planned well, or at least I thought. I brought one large suitcase to Chicago. I packed my 8 days worth of clothes (I was heading to visit family in the Midwest when I was done) and another smaller, collapsible suitcase in the bottom. I had my laptop messenger bag and a purse. Once back at the hotel I tried to pack all my stuff. It all technically fit, but I was concerned that the large bag was going to be over the weight limit. If figured if I could carry the large suitcase down the three flights of stairs to the lobby, it couldn’t be that heavy. Certainly not over 50 pounds.
I got to the airport dragging things behind me (may I thank the fellow who invented the wheel at this moment?) I found that I was correct ... my luggage weight 101.5 pounds. However, the large bag was 61 pounds and the little one was over 39. (The good news, apparently, is that I can carry 61 pounds down three flights of stairs!)
Luckily the nice agent at American Airlines said I could take a moment and transfer some things around instead of charging me for being overweight (that’d be $50). She even helped me by pointing out the items she thought were heaviest. I stuffed some of the heavier things into my carry on and in the end each of my bags was balanced at 47 pounds each. (Yes, I was now toting an additional seven pounds in my carry ons.) I thanked the ticket agent for her patience and help and gave her a full-sized Hershey’s Cacao Reserve nibby bar. This was when she told me that she only worked part time for American Airlines. Her day job was as a dental hygienist. She said she would have given me a toothbrush if she had one on her!
At my brother’s (where the guest room is sadly on the third floor, but happily he carries my bags up for me) I took all my candy out and organized it and repacked it, using a bathroom scale to make sure that each bag was 45 pounds. I left plenty of chocolate and candy there, too. I gave my mother three full sized dark bars plus a box of Russell Stover Private Reserve chocolates that I just wasn’t going to get to review anytime soon (but I’ll go buy at some point). I left only a few things at my brothers ... sadly I didn’t find his new perfect candy bar for him at the Expo. He was a Snickers Cruncher fan. I’ll have to keep working on it.
It took about three days after I got home for the sore shoulders to go away (carry forty pounds on them regularly takes a while to get over). It’s been 10 days since the Expo ended and I can now say that my feet don’t hurt any longer. Maybe next year I won’t walk that mile to and from the convention center and just splurge on a cab.
In case you’re wondering, this is what 50 pounds of candy looks like, all dumped out on my dining room table (which is 50 inches around, by the way).
In case you’re wondering the result of this trip on my weight ... I’ve lost four pounds. Don’t worry, I have a notion of where to find them.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Kim from ChicagoParent.com has a great write up from a mom’s point of view.
Here’s the official press release from the All Candy Expo where they talked about the different trends (you can see how many of the reporters parroted that in their listings).
Other Coverage by Me
Finally, the National Confectioners Association site also has a nice roundup of coverage including video links!
Monday, September 24, 2007
In case you haven’t been following along at the new show launches at This Week in Tech, they’ve got a new one called Munchcast.
The show is about, well, munchies! It’s hosted by Cammy Blackstone and Leo Laporte.
I’m on this week’s episode, it’s only their eighth and I’m honored to be part of it. It’s all about the All Candy Expo and the new candies introduced there.
(I haven’t listened to it all yet as I’m hopping on a plane in a few minutes ... but I had a fun time recording it.)
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Yes, I have way too much candy from the All Candy Expo, so I’m going to share some of the extra booty with you. I have a nice package set aside of some of the new product previews, including a package of Chocolate Mix Skittles, Mike and Ike Lemonade Stand Mix, TicTac Bold! Apple Sour, Junior Mints Deluxe, Chewy Lemonheads, Chewy Atomic Fireballs, Welch’s Fruit ‘n Yogurt Snacks as well as packs of your favorite existing products.
I’ll ship anywhere in North America. You may only enter once.
Entries will be accepted until September 30th, 2007 at 11 PM Pacific. I’ll notify the winner within 48 hours (if the winner does not respond within 48 hours after that, then I’ll draw again).
UPDATE: Entries are closed at this time. Keep reading, I’ll have more giveaways at some point.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
My hit list is history. I plowed through the show floor today with my list of missions. Sadly there are many items that are not checked off, but a good number of them I can take care of through email or perhaps at the Fancy Food Show in January.
Jelly Belly has a couple of new products. The fun new one that you’ll seen in stores starting in the new year is called Bean Boozled. Lots of folks have been playing a game called Jelly Bean Roulette where you mix regular Jelly Belly and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans (you know, those Harry Potter themed beans that come in disgusting and uncommon flavors like sausage, pickle and earwax). The game is to eat a bean without looking at which one you take with the chance, eat it and not spit it out. This new twist in Bean Boozled is that the beans are in pairs that look exactly the same. You might pick a black one, it could be licorice but it could taste like skunk. Some of the pairs are less risky ... you might get berry blue but it might be toothpaste. Others are downright evil like the one that might be peach ... but it might be vomit. Fun times for car trips!
The last day of a trade show, especially All Candy Expo is particularly difficult. Many people leave early and of course the samples are sparse and those who are at their booths are as exhausted as those who have been trudging around for three days. There’s a free-for-all atmosphere that makes it hard to have a real conversation about products, trends, packaging, ingredients and availability because there are so many attendees who are just grabbing things (literally) away from you as you talk. I feel really bad for the candy companies sometimes. It’s this issue that made it hard for me to get the essential information that I needed. But then again, I need to remind myself that it’s really not about the press, it’s about getting their products into stores.
I tasted quite a few things today, some that I was very pleased with:
The big business news on the floor was a swirling rumor starting on Sunday night that Brachs (which is owned by Switzerland-based Barry Callebaut and has been “on the market” for a while) was purchased by Farley’s & Sathers. It’s definitely happening. Callebaut was looking to get out of the hard candy (I guess they tried to expand Brachs chocolate line, but didn’t make much of an impact on the crowded American market). I stopped by the Brachs booth, but we didn’t talk about that, I just picked up some of their new Soda Poppers, which are soda flavored hard candies that have real fruit juice in them.
I also ran into Katie Das of Das Caramels when I went to hang out at Chuao for a while (and beg for one their pretty little purse packages for their ChocoPods which were in the press room but disappeared by lunchtime the first day). She was so sweet, as I expected after our wonderful email exchanges, and was happy to tell me that they’ve changed the wrapper on the caramels to a thicker waxed paper that no longer sticks to the caramels (which was one of my, um, sticking points).
Other things I’ll tease you with right now that I picked up (forgive me if I don’t have the proper naming of the products as I’m going from memory):
Okay, that’s all I can write today! (Isn’t it enough?) I’m hopping on a plan shortly and I’ll have more later this week after I get some sleep and perhaps eat a decent meal. Thanks to everyone who has visited this week, I really wish I was able to write as much as I wanted, I was so torn, but I know that the priority had to be spending as much time at the All Candy Expo because I can always write later.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
I appreciate everyone’s patience with me not being my normal organized self. It’s been tough without consistent internet access. Right now I’m typing this while sitting at the Chinatown branch of the Chicago Public Library. Thank you free wifi!
Today I spent far more time on the floor focusing on my list of things that I wanted to see than yesterday. And of course I’m keeping an eye out for all the items you requested. But it’s tough ... I’ve started making candy friends (folks who run these companies, sell candy and of course fellow writers) and I find myself torn between visiting with them and gabbing and going out and finding new things. I know, you all feel really sorry for me!
I had a great conversation today with a gentleman at the Tootsie booth (I went back in search of the name of the Junior Mints Deluxe product that I mentioned earlier). It was fantastic to talk about all their products, the company’s history, their positioning in the market and the new items that they’re coming out with. I’m especially interested in their new holiday offerings including a Candy Cane Tootsie Pop (they had these last year) and the Junior Mints for the holidays that include candy cane crunchies on them.
I had a fun time looking at some of the licensed items (which I don’t ordinarily pay attention to). Folks will be happy to hear that Hershey’s will bring back the Dark Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in a tie in with the new Batman movie (of course it will be a bat-shaped Reese’s!).
I found another line of completely branded Bratz candy cosmetics. I wasn’t much for Barbie as a girl (I was more of a Lego fan), but I can see the appeal of these products, which are basically edible lip glosses. (Hey, women basically eat their lip gloss anyway, why not have it be actually made from edible things?) I’ll have more on that when I get home and can photograph them.
I spent a little while at the Nestle booth and was so pleased to talk to them about their product lines, especially the Wonka items and the dearly departed Tart ‘n’ Tinys. The bad news is they’re also discontinuing the bulk Banana Runts (you’ll still be able to get them in the regular Runts mix). They have a new Berry Mix Chewy Spree product as well, which I’m eager to try and picked up some samples of.
I tried lots and lots of black licorice today and had a great time talking to Kenny’s Licorice, which does an amazing job in the standard twists (they make the Root Beer ones!), an Australian style and a new release of an Organic line that will include black and red.
I also got to taste RJ’s New Zealand Licorice, Tubi’s Tire Tread and Lucky Country. I’ll have a licorice day (or perhaps week!) soon.
In another version of Licorice, I tried the J. Morgan Confections Licorice Caramel. Holy moly ... it was creamy and spicy and smooth. So satisfying. They have a whole line of butter caramels (and even some fudge). They amply sampled me up, so I’ll have more to say about this Utah confectioner.
On the fortified side of things, Hall’s cough drops came out with some fun new all natural lozenges, as well as a Ginger lozenge (in the regular square packs) and some zinc fortified lozenges (they’re going to send me samples, hopefully before cold season starts).
In other fortification, I picked up something called Java Pops by McJak company which have 60 mg of caffeine in them and come in a variety of coffee inspired flavors. They’re the gourmet style pop, dense and heavy. It’ll take me a while to get through them (since I can’t eat them all at once!).
Tonight I also went to a reception to honor the new Lemonade Stand mix of Mike and Ike. The limited edition (or perhaps seasonal) item has a fundraising tie-in with Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a fundraising program to benefit Pediatric Cancer Research. It’s a really sweet promotion for a tangy product. I’ll have more on that later.
There are so many other things on my list I fear that I’m not going to get to them all tomorrow. I’ll do my best, I don’t want to let you down!
I’m not publishing all the All Candy Expo coverage on the front page of Candy Blog, so be sure to look at the little “featured news” block on the upper right to make sure you don’t miss any of my briefer postings.
This morning I decided to really concentrate on my list of candies I wanted to seek out.
Here are a few highlights so far:
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.