MINTEL | Popping candy has come a long way since it was inadvertently developed by a food scientist in 1950’s New Jersey, who was trying to find a novel way to add carbonation to flavoured fruit drink powder.
It wasn’t distributed commercially until 1975, but was then withdrawn in the early 1980s because of its short shelf life, low consumer popularity and an urban legend that children would explode if they ate too many packages of the candy!
Poppy candy renaissance
Since its invention popping candy has typically positioned as a children’s product. Then at the start of this century, when manufacturers and consumers began to experiment with mash-ups of off-beat product combinations such as cronuts (croissants and doughnuts), popping candy became a popular ingredient in other categories.
Confectionary companies started investigating the mash-up of popping candy and chocolate and by 2014, popping candy was more likely to be found in chocolate confectionery launches than in those of sugar and gum confectionery.
While some chocolate confectionery products have children as their target audience, others aim at adults by providing a more sophisticated proposition. Mondelēz is one of the leaders in child-focused chocolate with its Willy Wonka range, which builds on the famous Roald Dahl book and subsequent movies. US-based premium chocolatiers, such as Chuao, on the other hand, has introduced a pair of adult-positioned tablets with popping candy in dark or milk chocolate.
Manufacturers of products in other indulgent categories are also trying to utilise popping candy’s unique texture and mouth-feel. The Firework Oreos were launched by Mondelēz in May 2017 and new technology has made it possible to include the candy in ice-cream, frozen desserts and puddings.
Cadbury Crunchie Blast Honeycomb Flavoured Ice Cream Coated in Cadbury Milk Chocolate with Popping Candy
Nabisco Oreo Firework Popping Candy Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
From sweet to savoury
Consumers are attracted to popping candy because of the sensation of the pressurised carbon dioxide trapped in the sugar and corn syrup candy. The next evolution for the product is to move beyond sweet categories to savoury foods.
Innovative chefs have started to incorporate popping candy into savoury dishes. At the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival, for example, Chicago’s Graham Elliot served a foie gras lollipop with a coating of fruity Pop Rocks. At Do or Dine in the New York borough of Brooklyn, chef George McNeese serves Pop. Corn. Shrimp. It consists of a crostini topped with grilled and pickled shrimp, chilled corn salad and sprinkled with unflavored Pop Rocks.
As more chefs experiment with molecular gastronomy, it is likely that they find more ways to extend the popping sensation from the current sweet or neutral flavour horizons to savoury ingredients such as spices or chiles.
Marcia Mogelonsky, Director of Insight, Mintel Food & Drink, has been with Mintel since 2000. Her expertise focuses on a number of areas in confectionery and snacks.