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To truly succeed in these categories, suppliers and retailers alike must understand not just business and data, but the heart and the power of want, according to Dina Howell, worldwide CEO of shopper marketing network Saatchi & Saatchi X, who presented at the event, which kicked off Tuesday and concludes today.
"Don't lose sight of the emotion. Don't lose sight of why people love this business," Howell said. "Focus on the wants. Focus on people's desires. It is amazingly powerful what that will do."
Howell discussed the ways candy can evoke memories and strong responses even decades down the line. She also illustrated how consumers' levels of respect and love for a product determine how substitutable it is and how long-lived it is likely to be.
Companies should adhere to three principles of understanding: truly knowing the market/culture, knowing the retailer/channel and knowing the shopper. This helps a product transition into what Saatchi called a lovemark, or "a product, service or entity that inspires loyalty beyond reason."
Along this same theme, expo attendees got to vote on the new candy and snack products they believe stand a good chance of achieving long-term success in this year's Most Innovative New Products Awards, a subset of the New Product Showcase. Following Howell's presentation, food marketing expert Phil Lempert presented the winners in eight categories:
- Novelty/licensed: Tabasco Jelly Beans, Jelly Belly Candy Co.
- Chocolate: Kit Kat Minis, The Hershey Co.
- Salty: Pomegranate Pistachios, Sahale Snacks Inc.
- Gourmet/premium: Milk Chocolate Red Velvet Cake Bar, Hammond's Candies LLC
- Seasonal: S'mores Big Bite Bars, Russell Stover Candies
- Sweet: Marshmallow Sugar Cones, Sprinkle It On
- Non-chocolate: Coffee Thins, Tierra Nueva
- Savory: Fire Corn Popcorn, Pop Gourmet Popcorn LLC
The winners were selected from 40 finalists, chosen by a panel of industry experts who evaluated packaging, go-to-market potential, taste and innovation.
New products also shined on the show floor, which this year featured the addition of such big-name brands as Frito-Lay's Cracker Jack and Unilever's single-serve frozen novelties. The expo floor also had the strongest international presence ever, with a brand-new Ecuadorian pavilion joining the returning Brazilian, Chinese, German and Mexican pavilions.
When it comes to candy, it seems bigger is no longer always better. On the floor, major brands including Kit Kat, Snickers, Milky Way and Starburst showed off new bite-sized variations. Perfetti Van Melle also promoted its new AirHeads bites, aimed at bringing teens and young adults back to the brand.
The energy segment also seems to be catching on in candy and snacks. Products like Energems, Awake Caffeinated Chocolate, Good Day Chocolate and 2012 Convenience Store News Best New Products Awards winner Java Gum all offered expo attendees a way to boost their energy levels minus any drinking. Good Day Chocolate additionally featured a calmness-promoting relaxation chocolate.
Healthy snacks, too, had a strong showing with many suppliers touting the health benefits of products featuring fruits, vegetables and grains.
Along with highlighting its new products, the Mars Chocolate North America booth showcased front-end research and concepts for supermarkets and convenience stores, driven partially by the increase in self-checkout systems. By embracing concepts such as planogram consistency across checkout aisles and recognizing that all store exit points are not equal, retailers can attempt to capture the "for me" moment, company executives said. Mars' research indicates that consumers are twice as likely to purchase confectionery items for themselves rather than purchasing them for others.
Also on the expo floor, the Just Born exhibit heralded the reunion of iconic candy duo Mike & Ike, exactly one year after the pair announced their breakup. In a press conference, Mike & Ike credited their supportive fans and a shared love of candy for the re-teamup, as well as the help and career advice of Grammy award-winning hip-hop artist Nelly.
Nelly, a fan of Mike & Ike since he was 6 years old, attended the press conference and speculated that throughout his life, he's spent enough on Mike & Ike candy to fund the duo's reunion and the ensuing campaign, which will feature new packaging, a new "Strawberry Reunion" flavor, the movie trailer "The Return of Mike and Ike," and the Mike and Ike Movie Mania Promotion.