Candy Makers Seek to Cash In on Fitness Craze

July 9, 2005 — -- Americans are spending an estimated $3 billion a year on products promising to give them an added boost of energy -- everything from energy potions like Red Bull to sports drinks and fitness bars, according to industry analysts.

Now, a new twist -- energy candy -- is blurring the line between fitness food and pure candy.

Energy drink sales alone were up 55 percent last year, and it's becoming one of the fastest-growing niches in the food industry. So it comes as no surprise that confectioners are looking for a piece of the action.

"Our new product is Sports Beans, and these are jelly beans enhanced with Vitamins C and E and electrolytes," said Pete Healy, Jelly Belly Candy Company's vice president of marketing.

Jelly Belly bills its new beans as a quick burst of energy for fitness-minded consumers. The company says 15 beans will cost about a dollar.

For a dollar more, BestSweet Inc.of Mooresville, N.C., is marketing its XLR8 Energy Chews, which are aimed at truck drivers and college students.

"You want to fish where the fish are," said BestSweet's Richard Tucker. "You want to be where the people are in the hottest markets and the biggest sales."

Six of the candies -- which contain ginseng, caffeine and vitamins -- pack the same punch as two cans of an energy drink like Red Bull.

"Americans love candy," said Tonia Becker VerShaw, publisher of Confectioner magazine. "If you can get vitamins or some kind of additional benefit from eating the candy in addition to tasting good, I think there is a little less guilt there."

Is Energy-Fortified Candy Necessary?

But some question the need for energy-fortified candy. Doctors agree that most of these supplements are not necessary.

Dr. Bill Roberts, a physician on the faculty of the University of Minnesota Medical School, says the energy chew filled with stimulants won't hurt an adult when taken in moderation, but as the package says, he does not recommended them for children.

"I wouldn't want to see kids using this," Roberts said. "I certainly wouldn't want to see them using ginseng and extra caffeine from the candies. And I think that kids should get their nutrition from food and not from candy."

Still, candy makers are betting consumers will bite, and the candy aisle may never look quite the same.