GUEST BLOG: Ryan Conti Reports from the Sweets & Snacks Expo

by Ryan Conti

As I stepped inside the Sweets & Snacks Expo 2010 (formerly known as the All Candy Expo), I was greeted by a 10-foot-tall Lindt chocolate bunny and served attitude by a towering Garfield. Excitedly, I entered a place that the gluttonous Augustus Gloop would envy; delicious smells wafted throughout Chicago’s McCormick Place, and the worlds of candy and business met head on.

Eyes wide open and eager on my quest for the ultimate candy/toy integration, I spent the first half of day one scouring the aisles, making a concerted effort to see every booth. And what I saw, concerned me. Where was the creativity? Where was the fun? Where was that “it” product that would makes us all salivate?

I was relieved to discover that my sentiments were echoed vociferously by many in the pressroom. One reporter quipped, “They slap a character’s face onto a piece of candy, and they think that that’s a good job? Well, it’s not.” Others interjected, “Boring” and “Uninspired.”

Determined to find “it,” I soldiered on. Tucked in almost the very back of the Expo, I found it: Barbie. Some would say that in recent years the brand had lost some of her sheen, but now handled by Garry Campbell and Mandy Noss of The Big Idea Company, who hold the UK license, it has risen the bar.

Giddy, I excitedly shared the news, and everyone agreed that this was “it.”

Barbie’s exquisitely, perfectly packaged purse contained not only an edible bracelet and a candy lip gloss that the NET 25 reporter couldn’t stop licking, but a dainty writing pad and pen set and petite hair barrettes. And the best thing is that a child can buy it herself.

When asked what his inspirations were, Gerry cited the classic fashion houses of Chanel and Gucci. He said, “What would Coco Chanel do?” The product is so new that it’s not even out in their native England, but word on the street is that Selfridge’s department store chain is hot for it.

Encouraged by day one’s find, I approached day two with even more gusto, and came across another fine example of candy/toy integration: an M&M’S jeep.

John Capizzi, of Mars, Incorporated, told me that the product was created by former toy designer Rob Auerbach, who is now the CEO at CandyRific. Mars has made licensing deals with Monopoly, Twister, and Yahtzee, to name a few, integrating fun and firmly imprinting the M&M’S candy brand.

If you visited The Toy Book’s Facebook page, and/or followed on Twitter, you might have seen my comments on Taki. Taki, a cub who counts and sings in Greek, is combined with sweet treat baklava popcorn, and distributed by Garvey Nut and Candy. Creator Bob Kellinas commented that he picked the cub to be Greek because he was determined to teach his triplet boys the language. So far, they have sold more than 25,000 Takis and expect to run out by December.

Many thanks to Jan Jackson and Amy Simmons from Lindt chocolates for making this exposition even more fun.

Ryan Conti can be reached at www.simply-toys.com, or by emailing ryanconti@simply-toys.com or ryanconti@rainbowbookslimited.com. You can also follow Ryan on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/RyanConti.

10-foot-tall Lindt chocolate bunny

Garfield with attitude

Mandy Noss and Gerry Campbell of The Big Idea Company

Rob Auerbach, CEO of CandyRific

M&M’S Jeep

M&M’S Monopoly

M&M’S Twister

Taki, the Greek bear

Amy Simmons and Jan Jackson from Lindt