Catherine Sleep reports from the International Food Exhibition (IFE) in London on some of the more interesting product launches in the confectionery sector.

Soller add two flavours to Popz range

Soller, the 18-month old Californian popcorn maker, is driving the growth of the underdeveloped European popcorn market with two new flavours, launched for the first time at IFE in London. The two new flavours of ready-popped microwave popcorn are cheddar cheese and jalapeno pepper and form part of the Popz range.

Soller spokesman George Phillips told he was highly optimistic that the European popcorn market will undergo rapid expansion. Currently half the size of the saturated US market, the products has already become firmly established in some EU markets. In most of Scandinavia, for example, per capita consumption is higher than in the US. In many markets, however, there is still huge potential for growth.

Soller and its rivals hope to grow the market by convincing consumers that popcorn is ideal for a number of snacking occasions, not only in the cinema. The fastest growing segment of the market is microwave popcorn, currently enjoying 40% year on year growth. With microwave ownership riding high (for example, 70% of UK households own a microwave), the potential for expansion is enormous.

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Green & Blacks go for home baking

Green & Blacks, the UK-based organic chocolate maker, is presenting a new product for home baking at IFE. The group has launched a family-sized bar of organic cooking chocolate with 70% cocoa solids. Currently available only in dark chocolate, the group is mulling extension of its cooking chocolate range.

Jelly Belly adds flavours to jelly bean range

The Jelly Belly Candy Company celebrated a quarter of a century of Jelly Belly beans by launching three new flavours at IFE. The three new varieties are strawberry jam, sweet ginger and cinnamon popcorn, the latter building on the success of the buttered popcorn bean, which was launched 13 years ago to such popularity that it overtook cherry as the front runner.

As well as the new addition to its flavour base, the Fairfield, California-based company has launched three new packaging formats. A mini-bean machine, which stands 28cm high and comes with a 100g bag of beans, is being marketed as a desktop executive toy. The Jelly Belly 21 Select Tin, which is filled with 65g of 21 flavours is designed as a taster to introduce consumers to a wide variety of flavours. Meanwhile, the Jelly Belly Sour Stick is aimed at children and features the sour varieties of Jelly Belly.

The US jellybean maker launched its Jelly Belly jellybeans in 1976. This year it expects to sell over 14 billion Jelly Belly jellybeans worldwide.

Kate's Cakes launches new cake bars

Kate's Cakes, the UK-based supplier of cakes to upmarket coffee bars, launched a number of new cake products at IFE. Miniature cakes sold under quirky names such as: Reindeer Treat, Lovebite, Chocolate Chick, Nuts About Chew and Fruity Feeling represent a new development from a company more traditionally used to supplying own label cakes.

Kate's Cakes, founded by husband and wife team Kate and Colin Lloyd, recently relocated to a £3.5m factory in West Sussex. The move has tripled its capacity and saw the group invest in fully computer-controlled ovens. The management team has also been strengthened with new appointments in the areas of product development, accounts and logistics.

Walkers creates a fairy tale for children

Walkers Shortbread, the most famous of all Scottish shortbread manufacturers, made its mark at the IFE in London by launching its new Fairy Tale Choc Chip Shortbread. The new shortbread is chocolate based and features dark and white chocolate chips. Presented in a gold barrel decorated with scenes from popular European fairy tales, it is designed to appeal particularly to children.

The Speyside-based group has also revamped its Scottish Biscuit Range. Recipes have been altered to make the produce even more indulgent, while on a lower price scale, a new range of cellophane-packed shortbread is intended to make sure the company maintains its position in the everyday consumer market despite its growing presence in the travel retail and luxury goods sector. Walkers Shortbread has been awarded the Queen's Award for Export Achievement on three occasions.