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Confectioners, Retailers Gather at Chicago's All Candy Expo; Industry Spokesperson Discusses the Challenge to Innovate

Aired June 7, 2000 - 2:39 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: For candy lovers, it's the closest thing to heaven: Retailers and candy makers are gathering this week in Chicago for the annual Candy Expo.

CNN's Keith Oppenheim has the oh-so-sweet details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yogurt-covered pretzel balls -- a brand new item.

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sometimes, I guess, it's OK to take candy from a stranger. For here at the All Candy Expo, candy makers must convince candy buyers their product, like marshmallow French fries or marshmallow shish kebab, is worthy of a store shelf.

LAURA GRIFFIN, CANDY BUYER: It's got to be different. It just has to be out there on the edge.

OPPENHEIM: For one Irish company, "the edge" would be provocatively packaged products called Gum Powder, or how about -- no joke -- Snot Shots?

(on camera): You're trying to be a little bit gross, aren't you?

DONAL KAVANAGH, ZED GUM: Yes, we're trying to be very gross, but without going over that threshold.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): Some items are built on tradition. Hershey has an innovative treat called the Candy Bar Factory. You fill a chocolate shell with a choice of spreads, like peanut butter. They say it's good for kids because:

THOMAS BUGG, HERSHEY FOODS: It helps build their sense of what they can do for themselves.

OPPENHEIM: There are sacred treats, such as "Testamints," with scripture on the wrapper.

PETER WATERS, CANDY MAKER: Individually wrapped, Old and New Testaments.

OPPENHEIM: There are not-so-sacred novelties, like chocolate body paint.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, my husband's standing here, so I don't know if I'm going to lick this off for you, but...

OPPENHEIM (on camera): That would be interesting.

(voice-over): Chocolate, by the way, is everywhere: soy chocolate, NASCAR chocolate, and sparkling chocolate that makes noise in your mouth.

Then there are the classics: da Vinci, Renoir, Monet. These chocolate pictures, as they're called, are said to be a great gift.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because you can put any image on it, you can appeal to anyone's taste.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OPPENHEIM: We're joining you live now from Chicago's All Candy Expo. And if it looks like big business behind me, it is. Last year -- get this -- the candy industry sold more than $23 billion worth of product in sales in the United States alone. And it's not just for folks of -- who are adults, it's also -- a lot of it goes to kids.

And with us now to talk about that is Susan Smith from the National Confectioners Association, which is the trade group that's putting on this show.

I'd like you to demonstrate for us, for me, Susan, a couple of the interactive products out there, because I know that's really big for kids.

SUSAN SMITH, NATIONAL CONFECTIONERS ASSOCIATION: This product by Shoopa Shoop (ph) is a really good example of that. I mean, it does all kinds of things. Yes, it does have a lollipop in it, it's got the candy, but it's also got a yardstick, it's got -- it's got here a little...

OPPENHEIM: Spy glass.

SMITH: ... spy glass, you can put it on your belt, it's got a pencil, it's got a whistle -- pretty neat product.

And we've also got, for a little older set -- it looks like a CD -- looks like a Christina Aguilera CD, but guess what? It's not. When you open it up, it's bubble gum instead.

OPPENHEIM: CD bubble gum.

OK, so it's obviously catering to the teen set here, but so is -- this is plastic that is surrounding bubble gum. There's nothing that unusual about what's inside. Why is the packaging such a big deal in selling this to the teen market?

SMITH: Well, for many people, just a plain old bubble gum and plain old packaging, like Bazooka bubble gum, would be fine. But teenagers like to be the same and different at the same time. And so this way, they can have something to be like everybody else -- they can have something that's Christina Aguilera, very popular, but they can also have something different. It's got bubble gum inside. So I just think it's just a -- teenage years are kind of special years when you want to be -- have something a little different than we normally have.

OPPENHEIM: All right, so it works for probably young girls, I'm sure.

I'm approaching this story not just as a reporter, but also as a parent, and I noticed that a lot of the kids' stuff is kind of gross. This is interactive and also slightly disgusting, if you don't mind my saying: ABC gum, already-been-chewed, with a toy inside and gum that looks like it's already been chewed. Or how about, Susan, Viper Venom? It's this gooey liquid candy.

Now, you know, I'm approaching this with some sense of humor here, but, you know, I'm sure some folks are looking at this and probably thinking: I'm not sure I want my kid eating that. What would you say?

SMITH: Well, again, I don't think you and I would want to have this, but, especially boys when they reach about age 8 or 9 or 10, they kind of start exploring the world a little bit and they get interested in gross things. This is kind of a harmless way to kind of look on those things. There's really nothing different than regular candy. And so it's kind of phase that they'll go through, have a couple of these, and then probably move on to sort of things that we consider more normal.

OPPENHEIM: All right, now, this is -- just to, you know, give you some sense of quantity here -- we're not just talking about gross, sometimes we're talking about a lot of sugar. And this is not a stick of gum, it is a yardstick of bubble gum. Would there be some concern that that's just a little too much sugar?

SMITH: Well, we all know that we want our kids just to have, you know, any kind of candy and sugar in moderation, but this isn't the kind of thing that we'd expect kids to have every day. It's the kind of thing you might buy for a birthday party, they might have it in a movie theater. They're going to share it with their friends. Its a novelty item, something they probably have once or twice, and then that would be the end of it and they'd move onto something else.

OPPENHEIM: And I should point out that some of the things that are here are really quite creative. Here are some Flintstones Real Chocolate Rocks. As you look at them, they really do look like rocks that you might find in an aquarium or by the seashore, but they taste basically like M&Ms. My question, Susan, is a key for these candy makers and distributors to find something that stands out in what's sort of a sea of probable sameness out here?

SUSAN: Well, there are many products that don't need to stand out, they've been around for a long time, consumers love them. But for a new company, a smaller company kind of trying to get into the business, they've got to be different than what's already out there and what the consumers know, and this is the perfect way for them to do that.

OPPENHEIM: And Lou and Kyra, I should point out to you that it's not just kids who fall to gimmickry, adults do too. We talked about the paintings in our piece: This is a chocolate painting, August Renoir's "On the Terrace." It is entirely edible, except for the box.

Back to you.

(LAUGHTER)

PHILLIPS: All right, now, Keith, this is for Lou here: We want to know what happened to his Whiz Bars.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, I don't want to date myself here, but it used to be "Whiz, the best nickels for the candy there is," and they just disappeared.

PHILLIPS: What happened?

WATERS: He doesn't know.

PHILLIPS: Keith?

WATERS: He's just a young man.

OPPENHEIMER: Yes, I'll tell you, all I really know is what I'm eating here, and I've been doing a lot. So...

WATERS: Uh-oh.

PHILLIPS: All right, bring us back a Renoir, would you?

OPPENHEIMER: .. it's all based on taste.

PHILLIPS: OK.

WATERS: I've developed a zit myself just watching that report.

(LAUGHTER)

PHILLIPS: I've put on a few pounds, yes.

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