CHICAGO -- A panel of experts made up of retail customers, food industry icons and trend experts helped the National Confectioners Association (NCA) select the winners of the 2012 Sweets & Snacks Expo's Most Innovative New Product Awards (formerly the Buyers' Choice Awards). Adam Gertler, Host of the Food Network's Kid in a Candy Store; Harry Balzer, vice president of The NPD Group; Richard George, St. Joseph's University; and Joan Steuer, president of Chocolate Marketing LLC narrowed the field of more than 200 product entries to 40 nominations of companies showcasing the most innovative ideas, concepts and products in the confectionery and snacks industry.
The panel analyzed packaging, concepts and salability of each entry and had the opportunity to taste each product in their effort to select the top 40 items among eight categories. Retail and wholesale trade customers then selected one winner in each of the eight categories.
Industry representatives from some of the nation's leading retail and wholesale companies completed the group and included BP/ARCO ampm, Eby-Brown Co., KeHE Distributors, Marine Corps Exchange HQ, McLane Co. Inc., Redstone Foods, Walgreens and Walmart.
Food marketing expert Phil Lempert acted as facilitator to guide the collaborative process of the panel to reach an agreement of five nominations in each category.
Lempert announced the winners at the Expo's keynote session. The nominees and winners in each category were as follows:
Winner: Hammond's Candies, Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich Milk Chocolate Bar
Nominees: The Hershey Co., Hershey's Milk Chocolate with Almonds Pieces; The Hershey Co., Rolo Minis; Wild Ophelia, Wild Ophelia Beef Jerky Bar; Wild Ophelia, Wild Ophelia Peanut Butter and Banana Bar
Winner: Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., Skittles Riddles
Nominees: Hairbo of America Inc., Hairbo Ginger Lemon; Just Born Inc., Hot Tamales 3 Alarm; The Hershey Co., Ice Breakers Duo Mints, Strawberry; Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., Orbit Spotlight Series, Melon Remix
Winner: Ferrero U.S.A Inc., Nutella & Go
Nominees: Lowell International Foods. SesaKiss; The Promotion in Motion Cos. Inc., Juicefuls Fruit Wave; Setton International Foods, Pistachio Chewy Bites; Sheila G's Brownie Brittle, Sheila G's Brownie Brittle.
Winner: MARS Chocolate North America, M&M's Snack Mix & Peanut
Nominees: Gourmet Basics, Gourmet Basics Smart Fries Garlic & Rosemary; Plocky's Fine Snacks, Plocky's Greek Lemon & Herb Hummus Chips; Flamous Brands, Falafel Chips; Jack Links, Big Dippers
Winner: Nopal Bros., Nopal Bros. Sweet & Spicy Dried Cactus Snack
Nominees: Cornfields Inc., Hi I'm Skinny Sticks Sweet Onion; Cornfields Inc., Hi I'm Skinny Sticks Tangy Barbeque; FixMix, FixMix Chocolate Caramel Pretzels; Lord Nut Levington, Lord Nut Levington El Cheddarales
Winner: Jelly Belly Candy Co., Jelly Belly UNO Gift Box
Nominees: Amerilab Technologies Inc., Fizzies Drink Tablets Grape; Impact Confections, Warheads Sour Dippers; Jel Sert Co., Fla-Vor Ice Fudge Pops (Made with Real Hershey's Chocolate); Magic Straws LLC, got milk? Cotton Candy Magic Milk Flavoring Straw
Winner: MARS Chocolate North America, M&M's Candy Corn
Nominees: Brown & Haley, Dark Chocolate Peppermint ROCA; Just Born Inc., PEEPS Caramel Dipped (milk chocolate); Just Born Inc., PEEPS POP!; Praim Group, Choxcard
Winner: Brown & Haley, Dark ROCA
Nominees: Cornelia Confections LLC, Pecan Chipotle Brittle; Lord Nut Levington, Lord Nut Levington Rebel Mary; Nature's Habit, Nature's Habit Trail Mix Cranberries, Cherries, Raisins, Almonds & Pecans; Too Haute Cowgirls Popcorn Confections, Have Bacon Will Travel
The 2012 Sweets & Snacks Expo hosted a global audience of close to 15,000 industry professionals from 70 countries. Occupying more than 142,000 net square feet, and featuring more than three acres of candy and snack products, this was the largest show with the most exhibitors in the event's 16-year history, said NCA.
"Without a doubt, the 2012 Expo was our most successful show yet for both exhibitors and attendees," said NCA president Larry Graham. "For the third year straight, we posted significant growth in both the show size and number of companies. We delivered more than 570 exhibiting companies and 140 new exhibitors to the 2012 Expo--that's a 15% increase from the 2010 show."
Nearly 5,500 candy and snack trade customers registered to attend. representing key distribution channels such as grocery, convenience and mass as well as niche and specialty outlets.
More international customers and distributors supporting U.S. global export initiatives attended than ever before.
"Record-breaking growth is just one aspect of our success. Our event covers so much more than the show floor. The Expo provides many other useful vehicles and opportunities to connect face-to-face with other industry professionals and learn about the latest innovations," said Tim Quinn, vice president of trade development for McLean, Va.-based Mars Chocolate North America and Sweets & Snacks Expo chairman.
"The cookie and snack categories, added to the Expo four years ago, continued to flourish with nearly 40% of exhibitors featuring snack-related products," said Rick LaRue, vice president international sales at Allendale, N.J.-based Promotion In Motion Cos. Inc. and Expo vice chairman. "Candy and snacks offer more new products each year than any other retail category and the Expo gives you the tools and resources to simplify your search for the next best seller."
The 2013 Sweets & Snacks Expo will be held May 21 - 23 at Chicago's McCormick Place and the show floor is more than 85% sold out.