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Americans will bubble over with new aerated chocolate

BY Allison Cerra

SALEM, Mass. Aerated chocolate is making its way to the United States.

All-natural Bubble Chocolate looks like a regular chocolate bar, but the inside has tiny bubbles. The bar contains the finest European chocolate and is available in 2.82 oz. premium milk and dark chocolate bars. The MSRP is $2.49.

With an estimated $1 billion in annual international aerated chocolate sales (Mintel 2009), Bubble Chocolate introduces chocolate lovers to the light, airy, and unique melt-in-your-mouth experience.

“The timing is right to bring something new and exciting to the U.S. market. Americans will love it, the international community will be happy to have it and it will be a favorite among dieters who are looking for a satisfying, yet lower calorie chocolate fix,” said Frank Drab, president Bubble Chocolate.

Drab has partnered with Paul Pruett who will serve as CEO of Bubble Chocolate. Pruett also is CEO of Bloomsberry, a chocolate company known for its clever and sophisticated packaging. Prior to Bloomsberry, Pruett helped to build the ZonePerfect Nutrition Company from $1 million to more than $100 million in annual sales.

For more information about Bubble Chocolate, please visit the company Web site at www.bubblechocolate.com.

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Gluten-free takes the cake in snack food products

BY Barbara White-Sax

The market for gluten-free snacks is exploding. Once the exclusive arena of niche brands, now even mainstream manufacturers are getting on board. This summer, General Mills rolled out a line of gluten-free cookie, brownie and cake mixes under its Betty Crocker brand. In 2006, the company converted its Rice Chex cereal to a gluten-free product.

General Mills research showed that 12% of U.S. households want to eliminate or reduce their gluten intake. Part of the increased interest in gluten-free products is a spike in the number of patients diagnosed with Celiac disease. Incidence of the immune system disorder has increased dramatically in the last half century. Research from the Mayo Clinic suggested that young people today are 4.5 times as likely to have Celiac disease as were young people in the 1950s.

Even consumers without wheat allergies are showing an interest in eliminating or reducing the amount of wheat in their bodies. “We’re seeing a lot more interest from consumers who are opting to reduce their wheat intake,” said Christine Brown, marketing manager at Addison, Ill.-based Natural Snacks LLC. “When Oprah did her 30-day detox diet, gluten was one thing she eliminated.”

Kari Ramsey, a spokeswoman for Nature’s Path Foods, agreed that the appeal of gluten-free foods isn’t limited to consumers with Celiac disease. Nature’s Path is one of the largest players in the category. The company’s EnviroKidz line of crispy rice bars and animal cookies have performed well in the grocery channel. “For some people, opting for gluten-free foods is a lifestyle choice rather than a health-motivated choice,” Ramsey said.

Since one theory on the increased incidence of Celiac disease has to do with the way wheat and bread is processed, consumers who want more natural products may be opting for these gluten-free offerings. And consumers should have no problem finding an array of foods to fit their needs. More than 1,000 new gluten-free products were launched in 2008, according to Mintel Global New Products Database. Another 552 products were introduced through July 20. Cereal bars, snacks and sweets saw the most new product introductions.

Gluten-free cereals are one of the most rapidly growing segments in the health-and-wellness cereal category, according to Kent Spaulding, VP marketing for San Francisco-based Barbara’s Bakery. Spaulding said his company’s gluten-free products are growing at a rate of over 30% annually.

A recent report from Packaged Facts estimated that gluten-free products had a compound annual growth of 28% between 2004 and 2008, with sales reaching $1.56 billion. Supermarkets account for 30% of sales, and health food and specialty stores account for another 30% of sales. Drug stores largely have stayed away from the business, but maybe it’s time to rethink the strategy. “Consumers go to a drug store for products that make them feel healthier,” Brown said. Gluten-free snacks certainly fit that profile for a growing number of customers. Natural Snacks gluten-free business has grown 78% last year, according to Brown.

The company, which is expanding its offerings, recently added Cheddar Cheese Jalapeno Puffs to its line of Michael Season’s Baked Cheese Snacks. The newest flavor will be available at retail in November and will retail for $2.99 for a 5-oz. bag. Natural Snacks also is adding single-serves of its most popular baked flavors to its lineup. The 100-calorie, .75-oz. bags will retail for 99 cents. “We’ll be rolling out a whole program of sleeves, clip strips and other promotional vehicles so retailers can bring the products in on an in-and-out basis,” Brown said.

Barbara’s Bakery, which currently does not offer gluten-free snacks in its lineup, plans to add gluten-free snacks in the coming months.

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Artists ‘do the Dew’ in limited-edition series

BY Allison Cerra

PURCHASE, N.Y. A popular soft drink announced a limited-edition art series of collectible aluminum bottles adorned with custom designs from six of today’s leading artists.

Beginning Sept. 7, Mountain Dew rolled out its third Green Label Art series to retailers nationwide. This eight-week program is a fresh approach to package design coupled with its unique artist lineup, including creative luminaries whose work has been featured in music, action sports and more.

Additionally, Green Label Art Volume III will extend beyond store shelves and will be featured in a New York City exhibit, which will run for two weeks.

For more information on Mountain Dew’s Green Label Art and this year’s artists, visit greenlabelart.com

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