The US confectionery industry has big expectations for the coming year, as the recent 2006 All Candy Expo demonstrated.
The show revealed a number of interesting new product launches from a sector that ranks third among food categories in terms of sales.
In 2005, 2,767 new confectionery products were launched, according to the National Confectioners Association. And nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of confectionery sales can be attributed to new products that have debuted in industry in the past twelve months.
Dark chocolate clearly remains a consumer favourite and continues to dominate the marketplace. New creations like Ghirardelli Intense Dark Gourmet Chocolate Bars, Botticelli Choco-Omeg, and Nestle Raisinets Dark show that there is still room for new products in this particular segment.
Chewing gum has enjoyed incredible growth over the part year, and has been responsible for strong financial results. New gum products launched at the show included Ford Gum & Machine Pomegranate Power, Farley's and Sathers Super Bubble Blast (chewy on the outside with a liquid centre), and Cadbury Adam's Stride, a long lasting gum.
Sugarless chewing gum remains the favourite, reporting a 6.5 per cent increase. Overall, gum sales rose 4.1 per cent in 2005. (IRI data)
The high-end of the chocolate market has also shown impressive growth of late. Debuting this year in the Gourmet Everyday category was Chocolate Bowl Dark Almond Chocolates and Sweet Candy Company Gourmet Taffy Twists.
One interesting development, as shown at the All Candy Expo, has been the growth of fortified sweets. Nutrient-charged jellybeans and flavoured beauty strips delivering vitamins and skin-enhancing ingredients were all on display. And hitting shelves soon will be N.I. Corporations's Pure Beauty Strips with collagen and ceramide, and Jelly Belly Sport Beans.
For the health conscious, there was also a plethora of new twists on confectionery from sugarless creations to portion-controlled chocolate sticks and candy infused with natural fruit juices to 100-calorie packs. For example, Simply Lite Foods' Sunkist fruit gummies with Vitamin C and Hershey Sticks (a 60-calories chocolate treat) were on display.
Diet confectionery continues to pull its weight in the industry with a 17.3 per cent increase in sales over the last year.
Elsewhere, manufacturers have also fused new indulgent flavours such as espresso and home-baked apple pie into new confectionery creations. Delights this year include Jim Beam Chocolate Bourbon, NECCO Wafers Smoothie and Creme Savers Deserts in flavours such as cinnamon bun and apple pie.
Halloween continues to be the largest confectionery selling holiday in the US with Easter following close behind. Christmas and the winter holidays and Valentine's Day also finish high in sales for the confectionery market.
Founded in 1884 in Chicago by representatives of 69 confectionery firms, the National Confectioners Association is one of the oldest trade associations in the world. Today NCA has 700 members and is the major association representing the entire confectionery industry, offering education and leadership in manufacturing, technical research, public relations, retailing practices, government relations and statistical analyses.