Thursday, May 28, 2009

What's Hot What's Not: The Mundane and the Fabulous at the All Candy Expo

In:Licorice Friends
Out: Licorice Foes 
  • For most, licorice evokes childhood memories of wading through their Halloween cache and separating out the hard, chewy candy coated Good & Plenty for Mom and Dad. Long time enemy of children coast-to-coast, licorice has entered the 21st century with hip flavor combinations, a shift from hard chewy sticks to creamy centers, and by the way it’s healthy too!  Check out Goetze’s Caramel Cream Licorice: marrying classic licorice taste with their signature creamy centers, they also provide 30% of your daily calcium needs and 11% of your daily fiber.      

In:Wax ‘Staches
Out: Wax Lips
  • Remember biting down onto a big set of giant red wax lips and feeling like the coolest kid in town?  Now you can feel that way, but be the adult, masculine man (or woman) you are.  Or perhaps you need a quick disguise that you can chew on as a snack later? Enter wax mustaches.  Black wax in a delightful grape flavor and classic handlebar ‘stache style affords you a quick and delicious disguise.  Check out Wack-O-Wax, available in individually wrapped ‘staches for everyday use.    

In: Inhaled Candy
Out: Spray Candy
  • Spray candy was pretty cool…for five seconds…if you like an outrageously sour liquid sprayed into the back of your mouth, although it always reminded me of antiseptic spray. Gag!  Inhaled candy (think smoking a cigarette that looks like an asthma inhaler) allows your natural breathing rhythm to gently mist chocolate over your palette, for zero calories…yes you heard me correctly.  The result: you get your chocolate fix quickly, have room in your calorie budget for a brownie later, and look sophisticated while you do it!  Check out Le Whif: with original chocolate, raspberry chocolate, mango chocolate, and mint chocolate “whiff” flavors.     

In: Peanut-filia
Out: Peanut-phobia
  • After battling panic-stricken parents of children with peanut allergies and the recent peanut salmonella outbreak/recall the peanut industry needed a break: insert two of the most powerhouse chocolate brands around: Dove and Reese’s.  Both have recently unveiled brand new peanut butter products.  For Dove, they have finally branched in to the realm of peanut butter with Dove Peanut Butter.  It is a rich blend of peanut butter with Dove’s unbelievably smooth milk chocolate, with the signature inspirational quote on the inside of the wrapper. Perhaps capitalizing on the still hot, but not quite recent craze of dark chocolate, Reese’s unveils dark chocolate peanut butter cups.  Don’t worry, the recipe for the peanut butter portion remains the same, but purportedly the dark chocolate coating is very pleasant if you’re into a darker chocolate.  All in all, these powerhouse chocolate brands are doing their best to turn people back onto peanuts. 

In: Chocolate parties
Out: Chocolate pairings
  • For a while people were experimenting with how to portray chocolate as the upscale, elegant confection that it can be, often sharing the spotlight with beer and wine.  Hosting special chocolate/beer and chocolate/wine pairing parties for your friends has now taken the next step and been replaced with an up-to-date pyramid scheme-esque marketing strategies. Here’s the catch: you have to be invited to a Dove Chocolate Discoveries tasting party, similar to a Tupperware party or a visit from the Avon Lady these get-togethers are ways for “associates” to make a little extra spending money and move up the pyramid to the next level, and so on and so on.  For only $149 you receive everything you need to host 4-6 tasting parties.  Products include chocolate mousse, smoothie and martini mix packets, chocolate pretzels, chocolate dipped strawberries, and much more.  And you don’t have to do the work either.  You set up the event date, and the guest list and a Dove Chocolate Discoveries chocolatier comes to your house and does all the hard work, and you get all the credit.  Similar to Avon and Tupperware, the more you sell at the tasting parties, the more you make, so “what you put into your business is what you’ll get out” exclaims Party Host Tammy Krichmar. Products sold at parties are then shipped to the host’s home to be distributed… a good way for a host to encourage repeat business.  I’m not sure that Dove is the new Tupperware, but how can you go wrong with a chocolate party??    

In: Partnered mint
Out: Solo mint 
  • Gum makers have been utilizing the breath-freshening almost effervescent quality of mint for decades.  In mint alone there are several varieties: spearmint and peppermint to name only a few.  But with the popularity of the mojito cocktail (sugar and mint mottled together, then mixed with rum, lime juice and soda) the world realized the power of mixing mint with other flavors.  Enter Orbit, the “clean mouth” gum and it’s myriad mint-partnered flavors of gum.  Personal favorites include mint mojito, maui melon mint, strawberry mint, and raspberry mint.  So well known in Orbit’s obsession with creating new gum flavors, there are joke lists of rejected Orbit flavors circulating the Internet.  Personally I don’t think “Kentucky Fried Mint” or “Peppermint Paxil Twist” sound that bad.  So maybe they’ve taken it a little far, but Orbit’s new line of mint-partnered flavors are not to be missed.

In: Barbados Cherry
Out: POM/AÇAI craze
  • Remember when POM and Açai were the cool new super food because of their super high antioxidant content?  Watch out…the Barbados cherry is coming to town!  Also known as acerola, the Barbados cherry has burst on to the scene, and with its incredibly high amounts of antioxidants and vitamin C it’s definitely the new kid on the block. Reported to have 3000% more vitamin C than orange juice, and it’s off the charts in its antioxidant content.  Antioxidants are measured in mmol/g (millimoles per gramme) and compared with 6.9 mmol/g for açai and 18-20 mmol/g for pomegranate; acerola has an astounding 53.2 mmol/g!  Food manufactures have used acerola for decades, but its new identity in the confectionary world is the main star in jellybeans.  Jelly Belly pairs it with other antioxidant super fruits in their brand new Superfruit Mix, including the Barbados cherry, Açai Berry, Cranberry, Blueberry and Pomegranate.  All are made with natural flavors, real juices and colors derived from natural sources.  Look for the Jelly Belly Superfruit Mix on store shelves this summer.     
In: New wave cherry candies
Out: Old-fashioned cherry cordials
  • Gone are the days of your Grandma’s cherry cordials, with maraschino cherries swimming in syrup.  Not that there’s anything wrong with a cordial now and then, but cherries have been given a makeover in Gimbal’s Cherry Lovers, a vitamin C packed fruit chew, made with real cherry juice.  In various colors and heart-shaped, each pack has 9 different luscious cherry identities including cherry cola, cherry daiquiri, wild cherry, bing cherry, cherry cheesecake, chocolate cherry, cherry vanilla, black cherry, and the wild and crazy kiwi cherry chew. In other words a cherry for everyone!  Great as a treat or beautiful in a candy dish for Valentine’s Day, Gimbal’s Cherry Loves is a definite improvement over the leaky syrupy cherry candy of the past.    

Monday, May 11, 2009

Notes From The PMCA Production Conference

Every year hundreds of confectionery technologists, manufacturers and ingredient suppliers gather in Pennsylvania for an industry conference that’s been a must-do for confectionery types for over sixty years. Fantastic talks and demos are the main feature of the three-day affair but on the second half of the first day, an exhibition hall is filled with the latest and greatest ingredients and flavors for your ice cream, truffles or hard candy. Here’s a list of my highlights from the 2009 presentations and exhibits:

Make your candy green with Ciranda’s organic ingredients. They offer non-GMO and organic tapioca and agave syrups for use as sweetener substitutes. Along with other products you’ll find organic cocoa butters for your couveture and carnauba wax to polish your jellybeans. Jim Mitchell who works on innovations for the company discussed the business and future of organic ingredients. He even shared recipes and organic formulations.

Hilliard’s Chocolate System displayed their various tempering machines of all sizes next to all the essential utensils for chocolate producers and candy makers from scrapers to thermometers. You can find dippers, coaters, melters and molds in their line-up too. “What’s new?” I asked a Hilliard’s salesperson. “What’s old is new.” a seasoned passerby slyly smiled. Explaining that when it comes to making chocolate, what comes around goes around and he pointed to a marble slab across the hall, conveniently situated in his own booth.

For sparkle lovers, Candurin showed off hand-made macaroons by Cécile Cannone from Macaron Café in New York City. Cécile’s puffy, perfect macaroons were soaked with bold colors and then highlighted with Candurin pearl pigments that can make food from lollipops to truffles come alive. The pigment is derived from naturally formed mica; it’s totally edible and absolutely magical. Perhaps it is time to put some twinkle in your Twinkie.

Madison, Wisconsin based chocolatier, Gail Ambrosius, attended the PMCA conference for her first time and was awed by Gary Guittard’s first rate presentation about the origins of Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario cacao pods. Guittard Chocolate made origin chocolates produced with beans that were processed under varying conditions for a tasting. “Don’t eat the chocolate made with moldy beans”, Gary cautioned before nibbling on various samples along with an audience of over 400 people. After, just-cut cocoa pods were on display and all had the unique opportunity to experience raw beans pulled out of ripe pods without traveling to an origin growing country to do so.

Just when you think you know all about clingy plastic sold in rolls, there’s more to discover. Thanks to advances in technology, film manufacturers now offer products that provide better barriers to improve the shelf life of your food products. Anisong Pathammavong from Printpack discussed innovations and products in his presentation. They are offering renewable packaging, using sustainable and compostable components. This is a topic top of mind for those who cringe when encasing their lovingly produced pastries or pies in a typical Styrofoam clamshell casket.

Virginia Dare extracts was founded in 1923 and is now a massive flavoring house which supplies coffee, candy and cereal companies with thousands of food flavors from berry for your biscuits to sherry for your sauce. They may be best known for their vanillas but did you know you could buy exotic flavors like arequipe (Colombian caramel) or mamey (a sweet, pumpkin-like fruit with the texture of an avocado) in a bottle?

Sampling Oringer Caramel sure got me sticky but I was pleased to discover that they offer a wide range of cooked sugar suitable for stringing on your pie, covering your apple or layering in your pastry. They’ll help caramelize any confectionery creation: nutrition bar, ice cream and drinks too.

Vice President of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs for the National Confectioners Association, Alison Reich Bodor, discussed the unfortunate salmonella issues that have recently affected the confectionery business. Over the past few months, 100 candy and chocolate companies issued recalls. All were related to one malicious peanut supplier which had detected salmonella twelve times in their peanut factory before being shut down by the FDA and finally declaring bankruptcy. Nine deaths were traced to the tainted peanuts. Alison discussed the food safety focus of the new Washington administration and sadly stated that the because of the outbreak, “The point of entry for small food companies has just become much higher.”

 Frederic Loraschi, of Chocolat Frederic Loraschi talked about being an "Artisan Chocolatier". The classically trained confectioner creates his chocolates in his studio in Hummelstown, PA and provides his handcrafted creations to corporations, hotels and restaurants. Defining his artisan chocolates he said, “Each one I put my heart and soul into and no one can copy because each has my signature and personal imprint built in.” After tasting his flavor-filled chocolates just before leaving the convention, I concurred, this gentleman knows artisan indeed.

 Beth Kimmerle is the author of four books documenting the history of America's confectionery industry including the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Confectioners Association’s history book, Sweet Times: 100 Years of Making Confections Better.