All Candy Expo
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Ah, day one of the All Candy Expo is done. I came back to my hotel room and dumped out my three mini-shopping bags (think small shoe boxes) onto the bed to rebuild my day. I spent most of the day on the show floor with Sera, from Candy Addict (so be sure to check out her thoughts!).
The addition of snacks to the mix of candy products this year means that there’s a savory respite while walking around. Some nuts, lots of pretzels, chips, popcorn products and of course jerkies.
Ferrara Pan has gone chewy ... it makes me think they’ve been reading Candy Blog or something. It’s always been my wish that there were chewy Lemonheads (kind of like super sour bursting jelly beans). Imagine my delight to find Chewy Lemonheads and Chewy Atomic Fireballs. The Fireballs are the small sized ones and like an incredibly intense cinnamon crossed with a soft jelly bean. (Update: here’s the review.)
Reese’s Whipps ... I can go on and on about how I feel when marketing folks spell things oddly, but I won’t. The initial description made me think of a peanut butter 3 Musketeers, but there’s a bit more going for it here. The center is a nougat-style with a light peanut butter taste and a nice hit of salt. That is then covered in a thin layer of a crumbly peanut butter fudgy thing and then the whole thing is enrobed in mockolate. I’ll have a full review of that in a week or two.
The fun new product that we saw was a Green Tea Hershey’s Kisses that they’re selling in China. Yeah, why they’re teasing the American candy wholesalers and retailers with a product that’s not available here, I don’t know. It’s a milk chocolate shell with a green cream center with a distinct matcha taste. I actually liked it quite a bit, but it isn’t something that I’d be particularly eager to consume in large quantities.
The other product they were showing that’s coming out in the American market is a Hot Cocoa Hershey’s Kiss. How it’s different than the Chocolate Truffle was not something that the young woman at the Hershey’s booth was able to answer (as is often my struggle as a blogger visiting a major candy maker’s booth). I found it rather ordinary ... just a Hershey’s Kiss with a slightly saltier, creamier center.
Andes Mints are coming out with new Dessert Indulgence candies. They come in Lemon Meringue, Raspberry Cream and Key Lime. They’re a white confection base, which I know is probably terrible for me, but I have a special fondness for it.
Ghirardelli had an afternoon dessert event at their booth that Sera and I caught the end of. They were featuring three little brownie/cupcake bites based on their new line of filled chocolate bars. I loved the brownie bites, but only tried one of their bars so far. It was a Dark Chocolate with Raspberry Filling. The caramelly filling tasted completely authentic to raspberry. The tangy and sweet bite set off the chocolate very well. The other bars in the line are Milk Chocolate with Caramel Filling, Dark Chocolate with White Mint Filling, Dark Chocolate with Caramel Filling.
I spent a few minutes at the Chuao booth as well, even though I’ve already tried their ChocoPods, I hadn’t tried all of their bars. The Chinita Nibs is my favorite, the nibs are crunchy and rich and have a hint of caramel to them and the dark chocolate is spiced with nutmeg. The Earl Grey bar is a milk chocolate base and is wonderfully floral and rich, a little sticky and sweet. The new standout are the Caracas bar, which blend El Rey chocolate from Venezuela with perfectly roasted Hazelnuts and Pistachios. It comes in milk chocolate (41%) and dark chocolate (60%).
Flix Candy was showing some new gummy products called Gummy Bands. Four little gummi bracelets in four flavors, four colors and four sayings. They look my juicier than the version I got from the Oriental Trading Company earlier this year, though the sayings are a little, I dunno, out of step with what I’d expect: Trouble, Team, Wazz Up and Crazy.
One of the standout European chocolate imports is a German premium brand called Rauch Plantagen Schocolade. All single origin, they have a few different styles of packaging, from standard bars to long sticks to little chunks that are packaged in a “treasure chest.” I know it sounds goofy, but I’ll try to get more info and some photos later. I tried two pieces (Tobago and Trinitario) and this was extra smooth but super dark and distinctive chocolate.
I also spent a bit of time at the Annabelle‘s booth as Sera is a huge fan of theirs. I’ve always been keen on the idea of them, but much of their product line hasn’t quite clicked with me (granted, my experience is limited). The good thing was that I was keeping an open mind and had high hopes for the new high end Rocky Road-type marshmallow bars: Rocky Road Supreme Dark Chocolate Mocha and Rocky Road Supreme Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter. The mocha one was my favorite and featured a lightly coffee flavored marshmallow that wasn’t particularly sweet, drenched in dark chocolate with chopped cashews. As is often the case with coffee flavored candies, it was more of a woodsy, maple or pecan flavor than that dark roasted flavor, but it was wholly pleasant and certainly something I want to give another try. The peanut butter version that was so rich and filling, I can’t believe that anyone could eat a single bar by themselves (and they probably shouldn’t with it clocking in at about 400 calories and 3 ounces and what is at least two portions). Think of them as King Sized bars that you can share ... a more affordable upscale marshmallow indulgence. Smart.
After the show I toted my samples for the day back to the hotel, a little less than a mile walk from the convention center to the hotel for the dump ... that moment where I just spread it out on the bed and pick through the items and inspect the wrappers and, well, write this up. The above is only a small sampling of thoughts ... my bed was covered with over 100 different items at the end of the day, so expect a full inventory in next week and then the reviews!
Continuing coverage on the Expo here.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Mars made a surprising and pleasant announcement this morning, they have come out in support of the current standards of identity for chocolate. That means that no matter what the FDA decides, they will not dilute our sacred chocolate experience with cheap vegetable fats.
I’ll have more later, but I have to say the new venue is really great. It’s spacious and well organized and of course brand spankin’ new. I’m having some connectivity problems at the hotel, so I don’t know how well I’m going to be able to do updates. But I’ll be posting photos from the floor as often as I can.
Friday, September 14, 2007
I don’t usually do new product announcements, I like to have the candy in my hot little hands, photograph it, taste it, describe it and of course post as much info as possible ... you know, as part of my relentless public service.
But sometimes I really just wanna share my excitement about new products coming up.
Here are a few new products I know are going to be coming out soon:
Name: Twix Limited Edition Java Bar
Name: Pop Rocks Chocolate Bar
Name: PEEPS Peppermint flavored Stars
Name: Skittles Chocolate Mix
(All photos courtesy of the respective companies’ press kits.)
Thursday, September 13, 2007
I’m prepping for the trade show event of the year, All Candy Expo, sponsored by the National Confectioners Association. If there’s anything you’ve always wanted me to review now’s the time to tell me (or remind me). I’ll have an excellent opportunity to pick up samples and pick the brains of the confectioners themselves. (Curious? See the complete list of exhibitors here.)
Leave a comment here (regular reviews continue as usual below).
Monday, October 16, 2006
I mentioned in my All Candy Expo coverage that there were a few Food Network video crews working the floor and those shows are finally hitting the air.
George Duran included a snippet of his All Candy Expo experience in a recent episode of Ham on the Street, but he has a full special called Candy Convention that will air on October 28th. It’s 1 hour long - check your listings for an air time.
Jim O’Connor of “The Secret Life Of…” is also doing an episode from the show floor called Sweet and Sour Candy - it starts airing tonight (October 16th). Check the listings for this half hour episode in your area.
Monday, July 3, 2006
You can catch a segment all about new candy products from All Candy Expo on the Today show (NBC) in the 9:00 (eastern) /8:00 (central) part of the show on Tuesday, July 4th.
If you miss it live, they do a one week archive “netcast” of the show as well!
At this moment I know that they’re going to highlight Bubble Chocolate, Botticelli Choco-Omeg and Disney Light-Up Lollipops. I’ll update here when I see the segment about the other products they cover.
UPDATE: They did a segment on the floor of the show with their kid correspondent who covered all the sour stuff available.
On the live show they had a huge table full of all the new candy products. They covered the fortifiying of candy with vitamins and minerals as well as the grosser items like bugs. They didn’t really cover the all-ages items, but mentioned the Snickers Xtreme (and called Kissables a new product). On the table they had Bubble Chocolate as well and mentioned it in a list.
She highlighted the “interactive eating” products such as edible paper, Cars branded spinning lolly pops, Tung Toos, the Rolly Pops that I reviewed last week. I’m completely jealous that this kid got to go when she was so young and I think she did a great job for a young reporter.
You can watch it on the web after 11 AM, it’s at about 9:30.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
My husband happened to be in Chicago at the same time I was (it’s a long story) and stayed at the Hyatt at McCormick place.
What was cool about it was that all the keys cards looked like this: Hershey’s Special Dark bars.
I don’t know if the other hotels had other candy-themed key cards. But I’d love to have a Lemonhead hotel key!
It’s the little touches, right?
Just in case you’ve never been to a trade show, this is kinda what my days were like:
I’d get up in the morning about 90 minutes before I was due at the convention center, get showered and dressed and check my internet thingies.
Then I’d walk over to the hotel nearby where the free shuttle would take me to the convention center. I was kinda cheap (it was my dime, after all) and got a nice hotel near the Hilton and saved myself about $45 a night. And by being close enough to the shuttle to walk, I saved myself some taxi fares too. (I did take a taxi on Tuesday morning because it was too early for a shuttle. It cost me $8 with tip.)
Once at the convention center, the first day I had to register. Registration is usually a large ordeal, kind of like checking in at the airport without the metal detectors. Because I was press I had a separate process that meant that I reported to the press room and showed them something to prove that I really was press (a print-out of a blog page with my name on it and a business card I had made).
After I was credentialed, I got a name badge. Mine was green, which meant press. The pink ones meant exhibitor ... white was buyers. I can’t remember the other versions, but some people had “flair” on their badges depending on sponsorships and associations. The green badge was not all access. I could get onto the show floor, the seminars and the shuttles. I wasn’t allowed on the “Very Important Buyers” boat, which was a catered boat that was moored at the edge of the convention center were buyers could go and get sated.
First thing in the morning I usually attended a seminar, usually at 8 AM. They had continental breakfast! Each seminar was sponsored, and to remind you who sponsored them, there’d be a bowl of candy at each table in the small ballroom where they held the lectures that had their candy in it. I picked up some bags of Coffee Rio this way and ate some yummy snack-sized Take 5 another day.
Then there was the show floor. It was huge, as you can imagine. You can see a map of it here. The main exhibit hall is 300,000 square feet. Just walking the perimeter of that space is more than a third of a mile ... now imagine that there are ten rows ... seeing everything is a lot of work. Over 400 exhibitors and two and a half days to do it all.
Next year I’ll wear a pedometer!
After my seminar I’d visit the press room to check my email and blog if I could. There were internet kiosks out on the show floor, but they didn’t have chairs. They also didn’t have free coffee and water.
Out on the floor it was a little overwhelming the first day or so. There were a lot of booths and a lot of stuff being promoted. Things didn’t look like I imagined them and things that were heralded in press releases weren’t always displayed front and center.
The first day I didn’t have a list, per se, of things I wanted to see. I just took it all in. I did have a list of people to connect with though, as this is the most popular day of the show, so I made a point of hooking up with them.
Out on the show floor you’re not supposed to bring your own bags, so they issue you a small gift bag to pack your samples and literature in. I tried to be conservative in actually eating out on the floor, only sampling things that didn’t have take-away samples, and of course taking advantage of any nuts offered for more lasting energy. My bag, however, was usually stuffed to the gills within the first two hours.
Grabbing a bite to eat at the convention center, if you’re not a buyer entitled to the catered boat, was a little tricky. There were a few vendors on site in the “food court” out on the main patio section by Lake Michigan. There were other places to eat, but walking was an issue after a while. Just walking up and down the aisles, to and from the press room and of course to and from the hotel shuttle meant I was probably clocking about 6-8 miles a day.
So I skipped most meals. I did bring along some Lara Bars, which are basically a compressed bar of dates and almonds, which is a pretty good meal replacement for me.
I really didn’t eat that much candy while at the Expo, which is kind of surprising. I was always saving my calories for something better, and then when I’d find something I was really interested in, I’d put it in my bag to bring home.
After the Expo floor closed at 5PM each day, I’d head back to my hotel. The shuttles were absolutely fabulous. Nice busses equipped with little buckets of candy. The Hilton was really close to McCormick, so it was usually about 15 minutes from door to door. What was also great was talking to folks on the bus. Everyone was so friendly and happy to discuss whatever they were there for, it was a great way to make contacts. I got to talk to both brokers and marketing people. I don’t know if I would have made any inroads with Just Born without having a fab chat on the bus with one of their Chicago-based staff.
Back at the hotel I’d put my feet up and do a little blogging and answer some emails and make phone calls. The wireless internet at the hotel made it easy for me to sit on the bed with my laptop and write or sit at the spacious desk with real desk chair (it’s important!). Every night had a different event, most starting after 7PM. Monday was a reception at the Hyatt by the river, Tuesday was the party hosted by Ferrara Pan at Fulton’s and Wednesday was the House of Blues thing. I’d usually have someone to hook up with at those things, which is good because I am kinda shy when I’m solo. I’d try to grab something resembling dinner at these things, but never really succeeded at any of them.
When the festivities ended, I’d walk back to my hotel. Usually not more than a mile and half and because of the time difference between Chicago and Los Angeles, it was a chance to talk to my husband about our respective days.
Each evening meant that I’d have a new set of contacts to catch up with on the floor the next day or follow up on email when I got home.
If I’ve learned anything from all of this, it’s to travel light on the show floor (which I did, and I’m grateful for) and wear sensible shoes (which I did, for the most part). The one thing I can improve is my sleep. I was really, really tired. Next time I’ll try coming in a day early to get my bearings. And I probably needed to eat more regularly. Well, that’s the constant struggle in my life!
Next year’s Expo will be a little different. They’ve pushed it to September 2007 and it will be larger than ever, this time incorporating snack foods (chips, savory nuts, jerky). They’re still calling it All Candy Expo.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.