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A confectionery convention

How sweet it is! Or not! “Today” food editor Phil Lempert shares a look at some of the sweetest selections from this year’s All Candy Expo in Chicago.
/ Source: TODAY

“Today” food editor Phil Lempert got a sweet deal when he recently visited the candy show in Chicago. He shares a look at some of the sweet selections from the confectionery convention on “Today.” Take a look at some of the items he discusses here:

WHEN WE THINK of candy we think sweet, but that wasn’t all I saw or tasted as I walked the miles of aisles at the All Candy Expo at McCormick Place recently in Chicago.

This is one of those trade conventions you wish you could ‘work’ accompanied by a couple of seven-year-olds to see (and understand) just what would attract today’s prime candy consumers. Everything from the fanciest boxed chocolates to magic candy dust and every cartoon character license you could imagine were there. And I was loving it!

ACNielsen reports that in 2002, candy sales were up 1.5 percent to $24 billion dollars with “diet candies” growing the fastest at 23 percent. Last year there were over 1,400 new confectionery products introduced: 639 were chocolate based and 72 were gums.

So what did we taste? Everything!

We’ve divided the candy trends into a few noteworthy categories this year in order to make it a bit easier for Katie, Matt, Ann and Daniel to taste test and give these products their thumbs up (or down):


This category remains one of the most important as candy manufacturers continue to work hard to get past the aftertaste that so many sugar free products used to have and work even harder to capture the aging Baby Boomer population which continues to battle their increasing waistlines. One reason for the better tasting product offerings is that they are now using a blend of different types of sweeteners, in particular Splenda as their sugar substitute.

Choco’la Chocolate Gum: The first chocolate-flavored gum is both sugar free (using sorbitol and Splenda) and low fat. It’s brand new, introduced at the show, on shelves in a few weeks — — retails for $1.49 a package.

Hershey’s and Reese’s miniatures

have also gone sugar free with 19 percent less calories by using lactitol, which is a sugar substitute that slowly metabolizes and generally causes only a small rise in blood sugar levels — perfect for those who suffer from diabetes (which is now up to 17 million Americans). Hershey’s Dark Chocolate, Hershey’s regular, Hershey’s with almonds and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are on shelves now and retail for $1.99 a bag.

Sinfully Delicious is a line of 12 dessert flavors (e.g., banana cream pie, strawberry cheese cake, chocolate peanut butter cup) that have been ‘miniaturized’ into bite-sized pieces that are fat free, sugar free and have eight calories in four pieces. —assorted package sizes retail from $1.99 to $9.99.

Slim Mints: These are mints that promise fresh breath and weight loss. They’re sugar free with chromium polynicolinate to reduce appetite and L-carnitine to increase metabolism — 99 cents to $1.99 in two sizes.

Hollywood Dessert Sprays are designed to curb your appetite by satisfying your taste buds with a blast of intense flavor. For example, I sprayed Chocolate Cake in my mouth and it worked! Never want another piece of chocolate cake! Retails for $1.49 per spray container.



introduces it’s “microgum’ — each piece is about the size of a pea, and is designed to freshen your breath. In two flavors, comes 45 pieces to a box and retails for 99 cents.

Jolt Gum: Remember Jolt cola? Same brand, about 30 mg of caffeine (same as a small cup of coffee) in two flavors that actually taste good (you can’t taste the caffeine).


Casali Choco Banana:

Remember the first time you tasted a chocolate-covered banana? One bite of this product and you’ll be right there again! Produced in Austria by Joseph Manner Co. — the largest candy maker in that country — these candies are a soft banana cream (6 percent banana puree) covered in chocolate. Brand new.

Turin liquor-filled chocolates: These are not your grandmother’s chocolate cordials! Rich chocolates filled with Jose Cuervo tequila or Cointreau (approx. 3.2 percent alcohol) imported from Mexico. They come in three different sizes and are the perfect finish to any meal.

Butterfield’s Buds is a line of fruit-flavored hard candies with intense flavors and beautiful packaging.

Clodhoppers is a candy based on Grandma’s recipe that combines fudge and graham crackers in three flavors: chocolate fudge, peanut-butter fudge and original vanilla fudge. Addictive.

Minute Fudge: This is microwaveable fudge that takes only a minute to make and actually tastes great. Comes in its own microwavable tray. Sold in many supermarket produce departments. Retails $3.99 —

Got Milk? Caramels are fortified with calcium, Vitamins A, C, D & E plus iron. They come in three flavors, $1.79 for a 5.8 oz. bag.

Jelly Belly JBz: These are half jellybean, half chocolate, and they come in 20 flavors. They’re really very good!

Frugurt yogurt style snacks actually contain low fat cultured milk that does not require refrigeration. Four flavors.


Hulk is back and promises to be the summer blockbuster so we should expect the

Hulk twistlix

(hard candy in a lipstick-type container — 99 cents), the

Hulk Stamper Candy Topper

(rubber stamp hidden in torso — $1.99) and the

Hulk Bobble Candy Topper

(bobs like a Hulk on too many steroids — $3.99) to be the choice candy of the summer.

Toxic Waste is ‘hazardously sour’ candy that is packaged in plastic drums. Just rolling onto shelves, this candy comes in three different sizes.

Dots is one of America’s favorite candies and is now “hot” in a cinnamon flavor.

Paint Brush Spray: There’sno question that the buzz is all about spraying color (especially blue) on your tongue. Kids love it! Moms hate it! Four flavors and colors (blue does work the best) $1.49 a spray.

Magic Dust Mist: This is a candy designed for kids — those would-be mad scientists and those that have patience. You actually make a ‘granular jelly’ by combining two different packets in a preformed plastic tray. More fun than taste. Retails $1.29.

Rush Rx is carbonated candy (think back to Pop Rocks) in Dr. Pepper and Cherry 7up flavors.

Rolly Pop: Remember the Ban Roll On deodorant bottle? This is similar, but you actually roll candy on your tongue! Three flavors.

Juicy Drop Pop and Bottle Pop candies are ‘two-step’ candy. In both cases you take the hard candy and add more candy to it. Either drop a liquid candy in the center of a rectangular pop or insert the nipple-shaped candy into a powder coating. Gives new reasons for Mom to insist that we don’t play with our foods.

Dubble Bubble Pops: The famous chewing gum we all loved as kids now comes in the center of a round lollypop. Six flavors are just hitting store shelves now.

Candy Clouds is cotton candy packaged in a plastic tub that stays fresh for months. Go online and you can actually print out labels that fit on the lid. It’s perfect for kids’ parties. $2 a package.

CO2 Carbonated Hard Candy: This actually does taste carbonated and has C02 infused in the product. Three flavors.

Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru®, analyzes the food marketing industry to keep consumers up-to-date about cutting-edge marketing trends. He is a regular “Today” show contributor, columnist for the Los Angeles Times, and host of Shopping Smart of the WOR Radio Network. For more food and health information, you can check out Phil’s Web site at: