Photos by Rachel Greene
If you were lucky enough to live in Candyland, in a sugar shack just across the chocolate river from Willy Wonka’s gingerbread brownstone- then you just might have what it takes to experience 600 exhibitors across 3.5 acres at the 2013 Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago.
The 2013 Sweets & Snacks Expo presented by the National Confectioners Association is the largest confectionary, cookie and snack show in the Americas, featuring thousands of new candy and snack products.
In total, 15,000 manufacturers and buyers from 70 countries came together to deal in a dazzling array of currencies including chocolate and cookies, gummies and honey, jellies and icing, lollipops and licorice, mints and marshmallows, pretzels and pickles, truffles and toffees, and more. In total, the confectionary industry contributes $33 billion to U.S. retail sales each year.
A sampling of offerings below:
Eatwhatever is a breath freshener that consists of vegan gel caps and sugar-free mints. When swallowed, the gel caps’ organic oils dissolve in the stomach, providing fresh breath from within, as well as a calm stomach.
GoPicnic offers a terrific take on a ready-to-eat meal on the go. Every nutritionally balanced, shelf stable meal (in a handy little box) combines a healthful mix of protein, fiber, and fruit, and each bite, from crackers to hummus to applesauce to delectable dark chocolate, is full of wholesome ingredients.
Gud Fud. Marshmallow Chocolate – This little treat had large crowds clamoring for the soft marshmallows with surprises of rich chocolate or fruit jelly inside. Talk about hidden gems.
Hotlix Candy surprised palettes with edible insects, with an array of samples staring back at visitors. For nearly 30 years, they have provided products that satisfy the “evolving consumers.” Offering ants, crickets, scorpions and worms – Hotlix has something for everyone.
Java Gum, in spearmint and peppermint, fights drowsiness as effectively as a 10-ounce cup of coffee. Each piece of gum packs 65 milligrams of caffeine.
Koocchikoo – This organic snack food company featured creamy yogurt drops or “melts” made with real organic yogurt and fruit puree. Freeze-dried to deliver prebiotic and probiotic benefits of yogurt. I tried the creamy, yogurt blueberry drops and they were melt-in-your-mouth dreamy.
Nestle CRUNCH continues the celebration of its 75th anniversary, and now all everyday Nestle CRUNCH bars will be made with 100% certified, sustainable cocoa. The company also unveiled its Nestle Cocoa Plan to support farmers and cocoa sustainability. The plan tackles child labor, improved cocoa farming practices, and also builds schools in Africa’s Ivory Coast.
Pizza is 4 Suckers is a pizza-flavored hard candy full of flavor, but no sugar, sodium, potassium, gluten,fat or net carbs.
SNAP Infusion excels in the sports nutrition arena by offering a healthy, functional snack packed with B vitamins antioxidants and electrolytes. It’s available in five varieties: gum, mel (short for caramel), tart, bean and gummy and is available in interesting places including Yankee Stadium.
Tiddleywink Toffee, a new start-up, showcased traditional English Toffee: milk chocolate with walnuts. Milk or dark premium toppings include walnuts, pretzels or crushed peppermints. Next up? Dark chocolate with crushed pistachios.
The “No’s” Have It: A whole lot of companies went out of their way at the show to stress what they didn’t have: trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, added monosodium glutamate (MSG), artificial flavors or colors.
In other show trends, many of the brands spanned half a century or more – bringing buyers a dose of nostalgia with modern twists.
Baby boomers have a sweet and affectionate place in their hearts and memories for the candies they relished in the 1950s, '60's and '70s. Some candies are long gone but most have had a major resurgence based on strong consumer demand in recent years with original or brand new owners.
Sharon Sultan Cutler, a baby boomer nostalgia historian as well as co-author of the upcoming book, Once Upon Our Times (Because Life Isn't a Fairy Tale): 65 Years Growing Up Baby Boomer. She emphasized that today's baby boomers love reminiscing - and the sensory experience of past romps have an incredibly long memory shelf life.
“Bonomo Turkish Taffey is frequently mentioned at www.onceuponourtimes.com. “Folks remember breaking up the taffey by hitting it on the sidewalk or a table,"
The National Confectioners Association closed the show by delivering happiness to thousands of deployed men and women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Thousands of pounds of donated candy and snacks from the show will be sent to U.S. troops and their families stationed domestically and abroad. Last year the group sent 25,000 pounds of treats to our troops to remind them we’re always thinking of them back at home.
Photos by Rachel Greene