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:
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.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.