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    National Confectioners Association Reveals Market Trends

    More than 2,000 new candy, snack products showcased at All Candy Expo.

    Flavor fusions, international influences, sugar-free recipes and other trends will drive new product releases and sales in the candy and snack food categories in the next year, according to the National Confectioners Association. NCA's All Candy Expo, in Chicago, boasted 2,000 new products from nearly 500 exhibitors from 75 different countries.

    Manufacturers are creating novel flavor fusions in confections and snacks to tempt the adventurous American palate. For instance, chewing gum is going fresh and fruity with flavors like Cadbury Adam's Trident Splash Summer Spearmint and Eclipse Fusion Peppermint Berry. Sweet is melding with spicy in pairings like Lindt Creations Cherry Chili Dark Chocolate 70 percent bar and the new Spicy Maya bar (Chuao Chocolatiers) that pairs premium dark chocolate with a hint of Pasilla chile, cayenne pepper and cinnamon.

    Snacks are getting a savory surge with new flavor combinations like Boulder Canyon Spinach and Artichoke Potato Chips and Rice Works Sweet Chili Crisps.

    In another flavor trend, international influences are inspiring products such as Tortuga Caribbean Rum Cake and Sweet Maui Onion chips from Poore Brothers.

    Single-origin chocolate is hot, as seens in the latest additions of Russell Stover's Private Reserve Origin Select and Dove Origins lines of gourmet chocolates, which are composed of fine cocoa beans grown in different equatorial locales like Venezuela, Tanzania and Ghana.

    In another trend – dubbed "the artisan palate" -- specialty sweets and sophisticated snacks are evolving to meet consumers' more refined palates. Nestle Treasures bite-size truffles with gourmet caramel, cappuccino or dark chocolate filling cloaked in milk chocolate and new boxed artisan confections like Russell Stover's Soho Collection and Whitman's Urban Collection fit this niche.

    Others manufacturers are offering "sweet benefits," such as calorie-conscious confections and healthful and fortified treats. Among the new products at the show were Welch's Fruit 'N Yogurt Snacks, which are loaded with real fruit and contain live and active cultures, and Planters NUT-triton Heart-Healthy Mix.

    Some new confections are going sugar-free while staying flavor-full, such as Peeps sugar-free hearts and sugarless Life Savers Fruit Tarts. Others are earning the USDA organic seal of approval. Among them: Montana Monster Munchies all-natural cookies, Jelly Belly natural jelly beans, Green & Black's organic fine chocolate bars and RJ's all-natural black, raspberry and orange licorice.

    Other companies are reinventing classics. New to market are 3 Musketeers Mint Bar, Reese's Whipps bar, Nestle Crunch Crisp Bar and Oreo Cakesters. Plus, dark chocolate continues to grow in popularity, with new products such as M&M Dark Chocolate Peanut, Ferrero's Rondnoir with "black pearl" center and dark chocolate crème filling and Ghirardelli Evening Dream dark chocolate bars hitting shelves.

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