The winning products span nine categories, including chocolate, non-chocolate, gum and mints, gourmet and premium, sweet snacks, novelty and licensed, salty snacks, seasonal and savory snacks.
Most Innovative New Product Awards winners
- Gum and Mints: sugar-free Bazooka bubble gum
- Novelty and Licensed: Dippin’ Dots Redberry Sherbet Sour Patch
- Seasonal: DeMet’s original turtles in egg-shaped Easter box
- Sweet Snacks: Half Dips dark chocolate mango
- Savory Snacks: Hungry Buddha coconut chips
- Non-chocolate: Starburst gummies original
- Gourmet and Premium: Jelly Belly’s organic jelly beans
- Chocolate: Grand Ferrero Rocher
- Salty Snacks: Hardbite’s 18 carrot gold lightly salted carrot chips
Additionally, the panel of judges picked Reese’s milk chocolate peanut butter cups as NCA’s best-in-show product.
Transparency of selection
NCA, the organizer of the Expo, selected about 400 confectionery and snack products prior to the show, and invited nearly 20 product and trend experts, retailers and wholesalers to judge those products based on four criteria: taste, innovation, go-to marketability, and packaging.
“In an effort to make this process as transparent as possible and to acknowledge the wide variety of expertise among the panelists, there is no additional voting on the show floor,” NCA said.
The awarded brands do not necessarily represent the best selling products in each category, NCA added. The criteria are reflected by a five-star scale.
Candy buyer Ryan Deleon served as the one of the judges for the awards. He worked previously at Target and has experience in the food and packaging industry.
Deleon told ConfectioneryNews the overall trend this year is healthier and premium products.
“We got a lot of non-GMO and gluten-free in the salty snack category,” he said, “and organic is permeating into the candy industry, and it sells very well if candy manufacturers get the right price point. On the premium side, we see a lot of sea salt-flavored dark chocolate.”
What do some of the winners say?
Many industry leaders at the show agreed that innovation remains stagnant in the gum and mint categories.
Bazooka Candy Company’s global vice president of marketing Anthony Trani said this was the first time their bubble gum was presented in sugar-free form since the product was introduced 70 years ago.
“[Sugar-free bubble gum] is certified by the American Dental Association,” he said. “We are also initiating a Bazooka Joe-themed TV commercial, starting in June, to promote the gum product.”
Bazooka’s sugar-free bubble gum will be sold in giant to-go packages for $2.99 each at Stop&Shop this summer. Its smaller packages are currently available at Dollar Tree across the US, according to Trani.
On the other hand, Ferrero North America’s CEO Paul Chibe hopes to enhance the reputation of his company in the US, even though consumers are already familiar with their products, including Ferrero Rocher, tic tac and Nutella.
“We will continue to build our power brands and drive their sales performance,” he said, “but all the consumer packaged goods companies in the confectionery industry need to pay attention to the income pressure on middle-class consumers. We need to make sure we have the right portfolio.”