In the late eighteenth century, the era of the Declaration of Independence, the term "happiness" was synonymous with "prosperity." Here at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, that almost goes without saying — for the vendors, anyway. For the buyers and distributors, who are here to invest money on behalf of consumers, happiness will have to take on some other meaning.

It's almost a philosophical conundrum: In a growing and increasingly fragmented market, where the possibilities of a simple square of chocolate have become infinite, what combination of factors will bring the greatest amount of "happiness" to the greatest number of people?

Speakers overhead blare the Four Seasons chestnut "Candy Girl" to summon stragglers from the Au Bon Pain downstairs. And then all goes quiet for a split second as the ribbon is sliced through.

Sometime St. Louisan Darryl Strawberry was at the expo to promote All-Stars for Charity fruit snacks and sign autographs.
William Rice
Sometime St. Louisan Darryl Strawberry was at the expo to promote All-Stars for Charity fruit snacks and sign autographs.
Gamer Grub, the first snack mix developed especially for video game-players, sharpens your wits and ensures you can eat without pressing Pause.
William Rice
Gamer Grub, the first snack mix developed especially for video game-players, sharpens your wits and ensures you can eat without pressing Pause.

And then the crowd of buyers surges forward (slowed only by security guards who must scan the barcode on each badge), eager to spend the next two and a half days in pursuit of happiness in all its manifold guises.


Surviving Third Grade

There's a mythical character frequently invoked at the Sweets & Snacks Expo. She's wise and sensible and sometimes even bothers to read the lists of ingredients that appear on packaging. This makes her the ultimate arbiter of nutrition versus convenience and value versus pleasure. The vendors speak of her with awe, mostly because she's the one who makes all the family's purchasing decisions.

Her name is Mom.

For many of the vendors, even the females who happen to have children, Mom remains a vague, though benevolently frightening, construct; they just know that even if they have the so-called nagging factor in their favor, they won't get anywhere without her approval.

At the booth for HomeFree Treats, though, there's an actual Mom: Jill Robbins, whose son contends with the holy trinity of food allergies: peanuts, dairy and eggs. He also has an intolerance for gluten. (Contrary to popular perception, gluten — a protein found in wheat and other grains that gives baked goods their chewy texture — is not an allergen.) Perhaps because Robbins is a clinical psychologist, she and the boy spent a lot of time discussing his feelings about food. "He felt left out a lot," she says. "On social occasions there would be baked goods that he couldn't have."

Unlike the mythical Mom — who is, above all, a consumer — Robbins began baking for her son so he could have cookies in his lunchbox. Gradually it dawned on her: Given that one in twenty-five Americans has some sort of food allergy, mass-producing her cakes and cookies would amount to a public service.

So she sought out a bakery free of peanut cross-contamination (no one's allowed in if they've so much as consumed a single peanut earlier in the day). Her treats are kosher certified and carry the imprimatur of the Whole Grains Council, confirming that they're a legitimate source of whole grains.

The upshot being that the only sort of person who might have a problem with HomeFree products would be a diabetic, because the confections contain sugar. (Not a lot, but some.)

"It's a wholesome product that tastes good," Robbins sums up.

Well, actually...it doesn't. Not if you possess a reliable taste memory of homemade chocolate-chip cookies. Or even Chips Ahoy! Robbins' is a chocolate-chip cookie of last resort, a cookie for a person who'd risk serious bodily harm if he or she ingested any other kind but still refuses to give up the dream. (On the bright side, they're an agent in the other childhood war against bullying: No one would ever steal these from a lunchbox. Not twice, anyway.)

HomeFree cookies' candy analogue might be Sun Cups, which are aimed at the Mom whose kids have peanut allergies. Instead of peanut butter, these Reese's simulacra — incrementally superior to HomeFree chocolate-chip cookies on the knockoff scale — are filled with sunflower butter. As you might expect, the serrated chocolate cup could pass in a pinch, but the sunflower-seed purée within is bland and lacks the grainy, sugary texture of the beloved Reese's. In other words, it's clearly a "special" candy.

"Here's where candy runs against itself," says Steve Almond, author of the memoir-slash-ode to sweets Candyfreak. "People's mouths know candy. It's the most exquisite instrument. If you fuck with the recipe for Snickers one iota — if you mess with the calibration of caramel or the proportion of cream — people immediately recognize it."

Some nutrition experts take the extreme position that if Mom really gave a hoot about her children's health, gluten and allergens be damned, she wouldn't feed them cookies or candy, period. "There's a lot of making parents feel like they have to give their kids treats," observes Michele Simon, an attorney and the author of Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back. "There's a lot of messaging that it's win/win if you give kids 'healthy treats.' But you can't make healthy junk food."

Either Smith has not factored in the effects of peer pressure and nagging, or she's an idealist of the highest order. Or maybe she has in mind one of the most exceptional products on display at the expo, coincidentally located only a few booths down from HomeFree: the Chiquita banana.

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9 comments
Basti Auser
Basti Auser

YES , WE CAN...YES , WE CAN...WE WILL WIN IN WAR ON TERROR (30 whities or what are terrorists will never come back alive...thank you lord....aaamen).

What do you mean tragedy! It was just a birthday present for planet apes president !!! That's all ! Feels great to flip hamburgers and hip hop atop of good news...makes you feel vibrant and energized !!!

ARIZONA = UTOYA = GOVERNMENT‘S "AFTERLIFE" CASH & $$ FLASH MOB (there was no shooting in Utoya or Arizona, but tear gas and theater instead on faces of multiculturalism maniacs..your guilt or blame and shame weapon against us and our families in our own countries atop of forceful unemployment during so called "ECONOMIC CRISES" during which third world foreigners are allowed to rape, kill, and still is nothing else but fast way to early retirements for government related criminals/ terrorists...$$$ extra bonuses, and newly issued state identities while calling you a terrorists) !!! http://stateofterror.blogspot.... or http://stateofterror.wordpress...

OBAMA = STALIN = BUSH or USA = SOVIET UNION http://avsecbostjan.blogspot.c... or http://avsecbostjan.wordpress.... Whitie is fighting war on terrorism just to come home and be pronounced as terrorist...turned in Timothy, jobless, homeless ...YESSS, WE CAN...YESSS, WE CAN...GABBY OPENED HER EYES (Obaminator’s psychotic speech in Tucson = failed “Apocalypse Now“)

WAKE-UP !!! WAKE UP PEOPLE BEFORE IT GETS ALL TO LATE ON PLANET APES !!! TEARS WON'T DO YOU ANY GOOD !!! AS BUSH STATED "THAT'S WHAT THEY ARE PAID FOR"(to die ) !!

EVEN IF IRAQ WOULD HAVE BEEN WAR FOR OIL ONLY, VETERANS WOULDN'T NEVER EVER HAVE TO BE HOMELESS PEOPLE THE WAY THEY ARE AND NOR WOULD OUR PEOPLE HAVE TO DIE ALLOVER THE PLACE THE WAY THEY DO TO VERY TODAY(never ending “war on terror” story). BECAUSE EVEN IF WAR WAS FOR THE SAKE OF MONEY, MONEY SHOULD BE USED FOR AMERICAN CITIZENS AND NOT WHAT THE CASE IS OR AGAINST WHITES(to destroy us allover the world) !!! You don't really proof for 911, just put your sht together in your heads...THIS IS PLENTY ENOUGH TO HAVE O(B)SAMA INDICTED FOR CRIMES COMMITTED AGAINST WHITE AMERICAN HUMANITY TOGETHER WITH HIS ZIONIST MASTERS) !!!

Don't worry O(s)bama, you have just saved USA what is lots of Dollars in your DEBT DEALS as those best of America or Navy Seals would also grew older and then you already know how it goes...DEAD & ILL = DEBT DEAL !!!

HOW MUCH FURTHER ARE WE WILLING TO GO IN ORDER TO PLEASE VERY SAME PEOPLE WHO DENY US EVEN THE RIGHT TO EXISTENCE(what is to you country without laws or lawless country in respect to your personal rights, but the one that in contrast to your denied basic human rights recognizes you extremely liable when payments are due) !!?

IS IT INDEPENDENCE THAT WE CELEBRATE OR DEPENDENCE (what are your credit card bills or alimony saying about it) !!? HOW IS YOUR DIABETES AND LOST MARRIAGES !!? FORECLOSURES AND JOB SEARCH !!? THAT IS THE QUESTION TO BE OR NOT TO BE !!! IS IT LAND OF THE FREE OR STATE OF TERROR AGAINST OWN POPULATION !!? IT IS TIME TO LET THEM KNOW WHAT COLOR ARE THE STRIPES ON OUR STAR SPANGLED BANNER !!! TIME TO DETERMINE WHOSE INDEPENDENCE/AMERICA, WE CELEBRATE TODAY(who wants to erase us and denies us the right to exist) !!! IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW WHOM WE ADDRESS WITH "PRESIDENT" (STOP HUMILIATING YOURSELF) !!!

VOTING POLL:

DO WE NEED MORE PROOFS TO INDICT OBAMA AND BUSH ADMINISTRATION FOR CRIMES COMMITTED AGAINST WHITE HUMANITY !!?

1)NO, THEY ARE CLEARLY GUILTY AS OIL WAR NEVER EVER WAS REAL ISSUE IN GENOCIDE AGAINST WHITES. REAL ISSUE ARE FACTS OR WHAT WE WITNESS TODAY WHEN VETERANS ARE HOMELESS, JOBLESS, KILLED, ETC.

2)NO, AS 911 ALONE AS WELL AS ACTIONS IMPOSED AGAINST WHITES IN USA (as well worldwide) ARE CLEARLY INDICATING ACTS OF GENOCIDE AGAINST WHITE HUMANITY

3)YESS AS JUST YESTERDAY(for over 15 years to very yesterday), WE (news/media = vacuum world of lies) WERE TELLING YOU THAT UNEMPLOYMENT WAS AT 10% WHILE TODAY ONE IS AT 50% (HOW COME NO ONE QUESTION JOURNALISM LIKE THIS OR WHAT IS WORLD OF LIES AND DEMENTIA)!

4)I AGREE WITH FIRST TWO ANSWERS ABOVE. IT IS TIME TO PRESS CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST BOTH ADMINISTRATIONS DUE TO ACTS OF GENOCIDE AGAINST WHITE HUMANITY FOR THE SAKE(SAFETY) OF US AND OUR CHILDREN(DO NOT TURN THEM IN WHITE REFUGEES ON PLANET APES OR WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE WHEN VISITING ABOVE PAGES) !!!

Jkenah
Jkenah

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AaronL
AaronL

I liked the fact that sources for this article included a professor named Nestle and an author named Almond.

Richard
Richard

Can I bring a hollowed out wheel chair?

will there be a gummy Venus De Milo?

Kel
Kel

I can't believe I just sat here and read a 7 page article on a candy convention in Chicago. But it was well-written and interesting. Which is more than I can say for most AP articles these days. Good story.

James Hodges
James Hodges

What ever happened to Chocolate Babbies?

David Klein
David Klein

One of the biggest hits at this trade show if not the biggest hit was a candy product called "farts." The headlines in a Chicago newspaper said "farts to be released in Chicago."

David Klein
David Klein

This is the best article I have read about the 2011 candy and snack convention. I too was in Chicago as an exhibitor. In fact I have written a whole chapter on the 2011 trade show for my upcoming book A Man and his Beans--the David Klein Story which will be a companion for our documentary Candyman:the David Klein Story.. Keep up the great writing style. Thank you.......

 
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