Wow. I am so overwhelmed that I’m not sure where to begin! I can say right off the bat that the Expo is everything I expected and more. It is a Candy Addict’s dream and is probably the closest thing to actually living the excitement and wonder equivalent to stepping into Willy Wonka’s Factory.
So let’s start from the beginning. Brian, Bonnie and I met Cybele (from Candyblog.net), who are all just the sweetest, and we all headed to the convention center where we settled into the special press room where were were allowed to ruminate. We knew we were in for something big when we were impressed just by the press room: giant bowls filled to the brim with samples (I was finally able to taste Abba Zabba, Twin Bing and Squirrel Nut Zippers!) and press kits were accompanied with full sized chocolate bars along with beautifully composed press packets. Very slick!
The actual press floor opened at 9AM and little did I know what fun I was in for! I didn’t go in with a plan other than a list of a few companies that I definitely wanted to talk to. I had a great time and I was able to make my way though the whole floor which is as big as 15 football fields and has almost 500 exhibitors. Along with that, I also took the time to attend two press conferences. So to say I feel accomplished would be an understatement!
One of the press conferences I attended was about the 130 new products that are being released this year. That’s a lot of candy! There are several trends to be seen: dark chocolate is still really big, limited editions are going strong (they calling the trend “traditional twists”), and natural and organic products as well as sugar-free candies are gaining momentum. Some of the new things that I saw were a trend called “flavor fusions” which combines fruit and chili flavors, and another is the portion-controlled 100-calorie packages. So keep you eyes out in your favorite stores for all this new and exciting stuff!
The other press conference I went to was a press release by the MARS company (who we are all familiar with as the geniuses behind such favorites as M&Ms, Dove, Skittles, and Twix). MARS took their stand on the FDA chocolate standard change proposition. I am thrilled and excited to announce that the FDA got a staggering 34,000 responses to the chocolate standard situation (more feedback than they’ve received for any other situation prior to this) and that MARS, regardless of how the FDA decides on the matter, will continue to use REAL chocolate in all their products. So today we saw a real victory for the future of candy, and I have to give a big thank you and congratulations to all of our readers who wrote in FDA on the matter. Thank you!
Most of my day was filled with introductions, shaking hands and exchanging of cards, picking up of samples, and stuffing myself silly with sweets. Despite all the walking, the constant supply of sugar kept my energy going and I never felt my standard afternoon slump! I knew eating all the samples I could would serve me well! As for the taste of all my samples? Well, there were a few things that were kinda gross, some things that were good, and other things were just fantastic! So here are some of the new things that I got to try that are just too good to not mention:
- From MARS I got to sample the new Very Cherry M&Ms (release not yet announced), Twix Java, Skittles Chocolate Mix, and Mint Chocolate Crisp M&Ms (with an Indiana Jones movie tie-in).
- The German Sweets’ chocolatier Plantagen Schokolade with their gorgeously designed cigar box full of slendar bars of some of the best-tasting single origin chocolate bars I’ve come across yet. I didn’t know 80% dark chocolate could be so smooth!
- Hershey’s Green Tea Kisses; they managed to balance the milk chocolate and the grassiness of the matcha. I was so sad to find they are unfortunately only available in China.
- Chuao Choco Pods (which David recently reviewed, check out what he thought!) who were super friendly and I thought everything just tasted amazing! From the flavored choco pods (the banana caramel was so good!) to their bars (the earl grey chocolate was amazing!), I was impressed overall with the taste and quality of their product.
I’d love to write more, but I think I need to leave that for another day. My hands are still shaking from the massive sugar rush I’ve put my body through all day, and I need to sort though all the samples I’ve picked up. There’s still so much more to talk about and share, so keep checking back because there’s so much more to come!