Apple pie gum? Aerated Hershey Kisses? Just a couple of the new confections coming to a candy aisle near you. Marketers are debuting more than 2,000 new sweets like these at an industry event this week in Chicago, amid what industry observers call a "rather celebratory mood."
According to Ad Age, new product launches like these helped propel the $26-billion (U.S.) sweets and snacks industry to 2.5-per-cent growth in the year ending April 17, which is about double the growth of all other groceries.
Yes, despite all our tough talk about obesity, processed foods and the possible risks of sugar in particular, North Americans still love to gorge on treats - perhaps more so when the financial times are tough. We may be putting off spending money on big-ticket items, but a chocolate bar or bag of candy is a relatively cheap treat. (Like lipstick.)
Lawrence Graham, president of the National Confectioners Association told Ad Age that candy is an affordable indulgence.
"We are not recession-proof, but we are recession resistant." (See, also: The return of the KFC Double Down.)
But that doesn't mean we're loyal candy eaters - hence the drive for new textures and flavours to woo our taste buds. One of the big hits of last year was M&M's Pretzel Chocolate Candies by Mars Chocolate North America, reports Ad Age. Watch for candy makers to build on these and other winning trends
According to Ad Age, the fastest-growing segments are toasted corn-nut snacks, up 18.3 per cent, and nutritional health bars, up 15.1 per cent.
Candy makers, perhaps more than any others, have a lot to gain from adding "nutritional" and other health claims to their products. Watch for Mars to be adding vitamins and minerals to snack bars. There are also "Sleep Squares," a bite-sized chocolaty treat by Slumberland Snacks that claims to help "snackers fall asleep fast," reports the magazine. Gluten-free products will be out in full force. And treats that seem less fatty and caloric will always have a place in the hearts of conflicted snack hounds.
For one, Nestlé USA is building on its Skinny Cow ice cream and frozen snack offerings with a candy bar line. Don't call them "diet" foods. Nestle uses the term "better-for-you snacking," reports Ad Age.
Will nutritional claims make you more likely to snap up a sweet treat? (Be honest.) Or would you prefer your Snickers bar the old-school way? How much innovation do you need from candy makers, anyway?