All Candy Expo
Tuesday, June 6, 2006
I’m finally back in my hotel room and I’ve downloaded my photos and dumped out my sample bag for the day.
I’m dazed. Literally ... to the point where I’m slightly dizzy. I’m probably just tired. Probably? Definitely!
The show floor is huge and wonderfully colorful. The booths are in a great linear pattern that makes it relatively easy to navigate, but I got lost and I don’t think I did all the rows completely. But that’s why I’m here for three days.
I picked up a lot of samples but tried to focus on a few things that I’d read about or wanted to try. I tried not to eat too much on the show floor, but I did a terrible job of eating properly.
In all fairness, I did try to start the day right (as suggested by desertwind). I met my husband for breakfast (as he is also in town for work) but my eggs arrived at the table so salty that I wanted to spit them out upon the first bite. I sent them back, but there was no way they’d be remade in time, so I just downed a little yogurt smoothie (more sugar than I wanted with my protein) and some toast.
I went to a marvelous session this morning about high end chocolate and the health benefits which I’ll post more about later.
Out on the show floor I did my best to seek out nut products for sampling in the first hour, finding some excellent cashews and then some panned peanuts.
Here are a few things that I tried (and I’ll try to get photos later on):
Golden BonBon Soft Nougat - yes, it’s turrones or French nougat ... whatever country it is that’s making it, I’m in love with it. They had a great selection of flavors and I loved the Orange and Maple. A good honey hit. Not as good as the Nougat de Montelimar, but hey, if I could get this stuff on a regular basis, I’d be a happy candy blogger.
Dreamers - high milk content candy chews that provide 8% of your calcium. Sweet and chewy, they don’t taste at all like a calcium supplement - more like an extra creamy Tootsie Roll.
Hershey’s Peanut Butter Kisses - yes, they’ve been on the market for a while, but I hadn’t tried them. And apparently they’re so successful they’re going to stay. I wasn’t as fond of them as I was of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs (the little football ones) for Easter. The center of these Kisses is more emulsified than a Reese’s cup. Wonderful smooth quality with a satisfying hit of salt ... but lacking in that crumbly thing that I dig.
Bubble Chocolate - I’m going to have lots more to post about these guys, but this looks like it may be a big hit. I’ve written about quite a few aerated chocolates before, but this is by far the highest quality stuff. The cocoa content on the dark chocolate is satisfyingly high and of course the aeration gives it a light texture that allows the flavors to come through. There’s even a coffee version that I think might be my favorite.
Koppers - amazing booth (I hope I can go back and photograph it). I got to try so many different morsels. My favorites at the moment are the “savouries” line that incorporates herbs and florals. The very spicy cayenne that I got in NY is part of this line but they had black pepper (awesome), orange blossom, lavender, rosemary, and salt. I hope I can spend more time there tomorrow with the woman who is the next generation of the company. Fascinating stuff.
Yummy Earth - organic lollipops. Simplicity itself. Really flavorful lollipops. I had an orange one and chatted for quite a while with one of the sales guys and have an array of samples for later tasting. I’m hoping these will be available at Whole Foods soon.
Chocolate Dipped Pirouline - it’s about time! Pirouline has come out with several varieties of their filled wafer sticks dipped in chocolate. They’ll give those Nestle Stixx a run for their money!
I picked up lots of samples, including some other kinds of popping candies, different flavor versions of Mike & Ikes, more Rockaletas (what was I thinking?), the new Snickers Xtreme and some Jelly Belly.
The sad thing is that I tucked some candies into my bag and they’re not well marked and I have no clue where they were from at this point. Maybe reconstructing my path and looking at my photos will help.
(I’ll try to link up some of these items a bit later on when I get home.)
Now that I’m in the “press lounge” and have some internet access, I thought I’d backtrack for moment about what I’m planning on focusing on today.
Monday was so energizing and exciting but it was also a great way to ease me into things.
I got settled in and was able to go to three sessions and then the general welcome reception.
I ran into some candy buddies (Chris from CandyWarehouse.com, his wife and two partners, Dave and Karl Hoff) and I think I made some new friends.
As part of my press packet, I got an update on the new products being introduced at the Expo. Here are a few things I have my eye on:
Botticelli Belgian Chocolate with Omega3s - called Choco-Omeg, they’re formulas and flavors that have dietary supplements added in without sacrificing taste.
Ghirardelli Intense Dark Gourmet Bars - a 72% cacao bar and three new 60% cacao flavored bars called Citrus Sunset, Toffee Interlude and Espresso Escape.
Jim Beam Chocolate Bourbon Fudge - yep, bourbon and fudge, what more do I need to say?
Snickers and Snickers Almond are being given limited edition runs again in dark chocolate.
Bubble Chocolate - aerated chocolate. It’s about time we had some here in the States!
Au’Some Fruit Juice Sour String - super sour strings fortified with vitamin C and other supplements in an array of flavors and co-branded with “Florida Naturals (the orange juice people).
Tung Toos - yes, you can give your tongue a tasty temporary tattoo.
Candy Logs - compressed dextrose logs that you can build with. Flavors will include banana, strawberry, orange and blue raspberry.
Crunchy Gummies from Albanese Confectioners - you’ve probably seen a version of these if you go to the candy stores in the mall that have the bulk bins. These will be made right here in the US and come in bear and worm shapes.
Choco Rocks Gold Nuggets - candy coated chocolate that looks like rocks from Kimmie Candy.
Hershey’s Sweet & Salty Granola Bars - I’ve been wondering why no one has a more savory snack bar. Hershey’s is introducing a bar with pretzels, peanuts, oats and crisped rice that’s salty and then dipped in chocolate.
Honey Roasted Peanut Roca from the Almond Roca people, Brown & Haley.
Snickers Xtreme Bars - this is a regular Snickers without the nougat, which as already debuted in the miniature variety pack this summer. It’ll come in full size bars as a limited edition product this fall.
Stay tuned ... I’ll pick up samples and have more to report soon!
I’m on the floor of the All Candy Expo!
They have internet kiosks positioned around for folks to check their email or to look at company websites.
I’ve done about 1/3 of the floor, just walking it and glancing at the booths - taking reference photos for later posts. I’ve only talked to four companies ... because they’re so nice and welcoming.
Any nervousness I had about coming here is completely gone and it’s all exceeded my wildest expectations.
I hope to get my internet issues resolve, and as William suggested, if I can’t log on at the hotel, there is a Panera with free wifi about a block from there so I can pop over and post some photos with the posts.
So I booked myself into this swell hotel and got all settled in and now their server has died and I have no internet connection.
Have no fear, I’m continuing to write all my lovely posts about every little thing going on, but there will be a slight delay in posting them.
I’m having a fantabulous time and people are wonderfully open and I’ve enjoyed talking to every one of them. My fears of being ignored as one of those “internet” people has completely and happily dissipated.
More later if I can find a computer with a USB port that will let me transfer over my other write ups! The show floor opened 2 minutes ago to the press, so I’m off!
Monday, June 5, 2006
Here I am, all settled into my hotel room and it’s not even 10AM. The trip was okay. It was raining in Pittsburgh and of course the middle of the night when I left the house (and my brother was quite the sport to get up and help me throw my bags in the car and make sure I didn’t forget anything) at 4AM.
The flight full and being the first one out for the morning at 6AM, it seems that the ticket counters still don’t understand that as passengers we’ve been trained to show up 90 minutes to 2 hours before a flight. They didn’t open the ticket counter until after 5. Which meant that I didn’t get any breakfast before getting on the plane. I’ve had three mint Mentos. I’m soooooo hungry.
At the airport my luggage was rather late in arriving ... which only made me realize that I should have grabbed breakfast while I was still in the terminal. The airport shuttle was a joke and I’m not doing that again if I can help it. I missed the first one because my luggage wasn’t there. Then there were eight other hotels on the list of stops. And guess where I fell on that list? LAST. So after a drive into Chicago with rush hour traffic it was a TWO HOURS before I was let off at my hotel. All to save about $8 off the taxi. Hmm, maybe I’ll buck up and buy myself an hour of my life back.
What was nice was how many other people I met and hearing about all the OTHER conferences and conventions going on this week (no one else was for All Candy Expo). It passed the time. And our driver was very nice as were the other folks on the shuttle, so I got a good sense of where I was at as people pointed out landmarks and places they’d eaten at.
I arrived at the hotel and hoped that there’d be a room for me to settle into at this early hour (check in is at 3PM, so the worst case scenario was that they’d hold my luggage until evening).
I’m staying at the Blake and the room is AWESOME. Huge, spacious and other big words that mean big. The decor is simple and elegant and there’s a nice large desk with a real desk chair and free WI-FI so that I can hook everyone up with every little thing for the week.
I’m headed off to the convention center now to get my registration and then back into town to see if I can catch a seminar on new chocolate trends.
Sunday, June 4, 2006
Technically the All Candy Expo starts tomorrow. Not really the meat of it - not the show floor. But tomorrow I fly to Chicago and check into my hotel and get my press badge and even attend some seminars about candy marketing and trends.
I’m trying my best to be prepared. Over the weekend I was at a party and met up with a family friend in the candy marketing biz and she and I talked at length about anything and everything much to the amusement of my sister, soon-to-be sister-in-law and mother. It was good prep to know whether or not I can hold my own with this country’s great candy providers.
Then this evening, since I’m in Pittsburgh for the weekend, I went off to have tea with Jon Prince of Candy Favorites in McKeesport (the man who started my Saga of the Valomilk). He and I had a great time talking about candy and he gave me some insider tips on how not to be overwhelmed by it all and cautioned me that it’s not a good idea to eat several pounds of malted milk balls at once. (Yes, I know this intellectually, as I’m sure he does, but sometimes you get carried away.)
I have an insanely early flight (6AM) which gets me in insanely early (6:30 AM thanks to the rotation of of the planet). But hopefully this will give me a good jump on the day. I also hope to be able to post several times a day, I’ll report back on my connected-ness.
Friday, June 2, 2006
Starting Monday I’ll be blogging from Chicago. If it’s a product preview/review it’ll be on the front page of Candy Blog, otherwise it’ll be on my special Candy Expo Diary. I’m hoping to post lots of photos on Flickr as well.
Daily reviews will continue, as usual, below.
The All Candy Expo is a trade show for buyers and sellers of candy. Why is it such a big deal to me?
The show is primarily for candy manufacturers to show off their wares on the floor of the McCormick Place in Chicago. The attendees are primarily candy buyers for the major candy outlets in this country: grocers, convenience stores, vending machine suppliers, drug stores & discount stores but there are a fair number of attendees such as brokers, candy/gift store owners and other internet stores.
It’s the one place to see it all at one time. Hundreds of exhibitors (about 450 booths) who get to hook up with 20,000 potential buyers. The Expo goes from Monday, June 5th through Thursday, June 8th. The show floor is only open from Tuesday morning until Thursday at noon. It’s a lot to take in with only a limited amount of time.
There are also seminars to learn more about trends and business concerns for the industry. A limited number of press people attend the Expo each year but the internet press such as blogs are getting more respect and have been fully integrated into the press policy this year.
The All Candy Expo is run by the National Confectioners Association.
So why do I want to go, beyond the free candy? (Yes, apparently there’s a lot of free candy.) Well, it’s an opportunity to see the middle part of the process of the candy sales business in the United States. The candy is made, but no one’s stocking it yet. How does this happen? What determines what we see at our stores?
I’m going to try to find out.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.