- The Washington Times - Monday, June 20, 2005

CHICAGO - Energy-packed sports drinks apparently aren’t enough. Now there are vitamin-laced jelly beans and ginseng-stoked chews.

The nation’s candy makers are targeting fitness enthusiasts seeking to boost athletic performance or grab a jolt of energy.

Industry insiders and analysts who gathered last week in Chicago for North America’s largest candy trade show say the odd pairing of candy and fitness just might make economic sense. Consumers are scooping up more than $3 billion a year in “energy” gels, bars and drinks, and the crowded, $25 billion confection industry must continue to innovate if it’s going to sweeten the bottom line.

Considering that more than 60 percent of adults say they exercise, the new products stand a good chance of catching on, said Harry Balzer, vice president of a consumer marketing firm that tracks the food industry. “Americans are explorers; they like new things,” he said. “As long as you don’t upset my expectations of taste, that’s the most important thing.”

At the All Candy Expo in Chicago, Jelly Belly Candy Co. of Fairfield, Calif., introduced Sports Beans. Each 1-ounce serving has vitamins C and E plus 120 milligrams of electrolytes to boost energy and prevent dehydration.

“We felt there was an opening in the market for a non-bar, non-chocolate, functional product,” said Bill Kelley, Jelly Belly vice chairman. “This has the energy component, electrolytes and it tastes good” in lemon-lime and orange flavors.

BestSweet Inc. of Mooresville, N.C., signed up stock-car racing star Dale Earnhardt Jr. to endorse its new XLR8 Energy Chews made with caffeine, ginseng and guarana.

“Over time, more and more candy will contain something of additional value, vitamins or additives,” said BestSweet’s Steve Berkowitz. He said three of the candies provide a boost equivalent to drinking one can of the popular Red Bull energy drink.

But some question whether marketing candy as part of an active lifestyle makes sense.

“I don’t think that [the new products] belong in the candy aisle,” said Cynthia Sass, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “I’d like to see some research that shows they do what they claim to do, a track record.”

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