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The Candymen Can

NOTE: Although this starts off like a business blog, hang in there for a food-related finish….

Look who’s takin’ tomorrow and dipping it in a dream. The confectionary industry posted gains in 2008, economy be damned. Among the increases from sales last year were:

* Sales of premium chocolate: up 28 percent in 2008; in double digits for the fourth consecutive year. Dark chocolate is up 12 percent.
* Sugar-free gum: up 11 percent.
* Licorice (who knew?): up 9.4 percent.
* Gummies and chewy (non-chocolate) candy: up 7.6 percent.

Stats are courtesy of Information Resources Inc. and the National Confectioners Association, the latter of which will host its annual All Candy Expo, a trade show, in Chicago next week. The NCA promises to unleash more than 2,000 new products, with some “that actually help keep teeth healthy and contain nutritious elements for kids.” What would Willy Wonka say to that?

Believe it or not, this candy has grown-up appeal. (Ben & Jerry's)

Maybe Ben & Jerry’s is partially responsible for the 2008 uptick. For the past six months or so, the company has been test-marketing its own line of candies that can be used as mix-ins, add-ons and sprinkle-overs. (Why, I am munching on a few dark chocolate Peaces right now.)

Karen Morse owns the B&J’s in Georgetown and eight other B&J shops in the Washington area. She told me she has watched the Pomegranate White Tea Gummy Pandas ($3.99 for a four-ounce bag) fly off the shelves since Valentine’s Day. That was our favorite flavor among the B&J samples sent to us last week as well: not too sweet, with a hint of tea that comes through. (The pandas are all-natural and organic, including the beeswax listed in the ingredients.) The milk chocolate used to fashion Phish and Cows is a little lifeless and bland, though. There are gift boxes of chocolates and a large, evil iteration called Chubby Hubby ($10.99 for a 6.5-ounce knob), with milk chocolate, malted milk balls, pretzels, peanut butter and dark chocolate chunks. No ice cream.

Here’s a Small Change kind of tip: Look for No-Topless Tuesdays to start soon at B&J’s. It’s a summer-long promotion in which customers who buy a B&J cone will get one free topping of chocolate pieces or gummy pandas. (I don’t know about cup orders…consult your nearest B&J parlor for details.) See? Ends with food, sort of. And free at that.

-- Bonnie S. Benwick

By The Food Section  |  May 11, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
 | Tags: Ben & Jerry's, Bonnie Benwick, candy  
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