The US confectionery trade organization announced nine most innovative products from several major categories recently at the Expo in Chicago, including chocolate, non-chocolate and novelty, with most winners being multinational CPG brands such as Mars, Ferrero and Jelly Belly.
When asked if being big brands have a better chance to win the award because they have a larger market, VP of public affairs and communications at NCA, Christopher Gindlesperger, said, “I don’t know how much that plays into it.”
NCA is the facilitator, but it is the retailers that get to decide which final products are the most innovative, he added.
“It’s their individual process. I think it takes a lot of things into consideration as they pick winners for each category,” Gindlesperger said.
“It’s really kind of amazing that they are able to have that whole process to come together, and for the panelists to provide frankly, unfiltered feedback to the manufacturers on what they think could work in their stores.”
Small Business Innovator
NCA said it added a new category to the Most Innovative Award this year, called Small Business Innovator, which was awarded to Montreal-based Buddha Brands Company for its Hungry Buddha Probiotic Coconut Chips in Cheeky Chocolate.
The new category idea was hatched out of a panel discussion that included the NCA, retailers and manufacturers, and it intends to show how much innovation is happening within the confectionery industry, Gindlesperger said.
CEO and president of NCA, John Downs, told ConfectioneryNews the organization chose nearly 400 nominations as it relates to innovation for this year’s Sweets and Snacks Expo. “Anybody can nominate their innovative products,” he said.
“One thing I would caution is if you don’t drink enough water, your palates might not be clean, and you might not enjoy the savory flavor of some other products.” - Larry Levin
However, NCA pointed out there was a nominating process where all proposed products are collected, and then a panel filtered through the products that end up being in the actual competition.
Down added the event this year has appealed to a broader range of retail buyers, including those from Publix, Whole Foods, the World Market, Walmart, and Target.
The judging process
The most innovative products judging session was held the night before the beginning of the Expo this year.
Levin told ConfectioneryNews the judging process was “fantastic,” and he had to go through each category, and evaluate all the products in that category on a four-star scale through a digital device.
“I had 80 chocolates to evaluate. Just the fact that there are 80 varieties of chocolate speaks about the volume of innovation,” he said.
“One thing I would caution is if you don’t drink enough water, your palates might not be clean, and you might not enjoy the savory flavor of some other products.”
NCA has started preparing for next years’ Sweets and Snacks Expo, and it expects to see continued growth in terms of volumes of attendees and exhibitors.