SOUR SALES SWEET AND POWERFUL FLAVORS STRONG

CHICAGO (FNS) -- Intense, powerful flavors are having an effect in the candy business.That translates into an explosion of new products in the "power" mint and gum category for adults and a move to "extreme sour" sensations in kids' candies, if products on display at the recent All Candy Expo here are any indication.Some 370 exhibitors displayed a wide variety of candies to more than 3,000 retail

CHICAGO (FNS) -- Intense, powerful flavors are having an effect in the candy business.

That translates into an explosion of new products in the "power" mint and gum category for adults and a move to "extreme sour" sensations in kids' candies, if products on display at the recent All Candy Expo here are any indication.

Some 370 exhibitors displayed a wide variety of candies to more than 3,000 retail and wholesale buyers at the three-day event sponsored by the National Confectioners Association.

Many candy manufacturers agreed that today's consumers, both young and old, are looking for stronger flavors. The trend is especially true in the breath-freshener mints and gum category, which was the fastest-growing of all the confectionery categories last year, with sales up 15.3%.

Bruce Thompson, vice president of marketing for Amurol Confections, Yorkville, Ill., with a new line of Everest mint gum, said he feels the "popularity of spicy ethnic foods has created a liking for stronger flavors in general."

Tony Prichard, national accounts manager for Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., Chicago, added that, as people age, their taste buds are not as responsive and foods need stronger flavors to have an effect.

Packaging innovations are also important in the mints and gum category. Several new products come in a tin similar to that popularized by Altoids, the market leader. Other new styles are credit-card-sized plastic packages for powerful mints smaller than aspirin tablets and mints or gum in individual blister packs inside a paperboard sleeve, similar to packaging for cold remedies.

Altoids, from Callard & Bowser, is adding a new cinnamon flavor, shipping in October, to its line of strong mints, and fellow British company Brown & Haley is also adding cinnamon to its Extra Strength Mints line. Both products are packaged in a tin box.

S.L Kaye Co., New York, has combined the tin used by the British companies with the Titanic name for Titanic Extra Strong Mints in a tin illustrated with the ship and Union Jack.

Amurol's Everest product is a "powerful mint gum" rather than mints, also packaged in a tin, that hit store shelves in February. "We're hoping to leverage the popularity of strong breath mints with a powerful gum," said Thompson.

The sour craze that struck children's candy a couple of years ago continues to intensify, manufacturers said. Among the newest sour products at the show were supersour liquid candies.

Foreign Candy Co., Hull, Iowa, which makes the WarHeads brand of candies currently hot with kids, has new liquid WarHeads in four flavors, packaged in a tiny 0.125-ounce bottle to retail for about 59 cents. Kids taste the liquid a drop at a time, said Bill Baldwin, director of marketing. The liquid joins other sour WarHead products -- hard candies, gummies, lollipops and gum.

Hammer Corp., Atlanta, has a liquid addition to its Too Tarts sour candy line. The liquid is packaged in a 9-ml container slightly larger than lip balm so that it can be displayed in-aisle as well as at the checkout, said Terry O'Brien, vice president. The liquid comes in eight flavors and retails between 79 and 99 cents. The company has just introduced multipacks of two and three flavors.

Three months ago, Hammer added sour powder in a tube to the Too Tarts line and is developing Xtra Sour Galaxy Goo, a gummy product in individual packets designed to be sold for about 25 cents.

Another sour liquid candy comes from Squire Boone Village, New Albany, Ind. The Formula Sour product comes in a real plastic test tube in seven flavors and retails for about $1.98. The label features a caricature of Albert Einstein and the dare, "Can you handle it?" The same flavors are available in a 1.8-ounce spray bottle as Mouth Explosion Spray Bomb.