CHICAGO -- Apparently energy-packed sports drinks 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 quickly grab a jolt of energy.
Industry insiders and analysts who gathered this week in Chicago for North America's largest candy trade show say the odd pairing of candy and fitness might just make economic sense. Consumers are scooping up more than $3 billion a year in ''energy" gels, bars, and drinks, and the $25 billion confection industry must continue to innovate if it's going to sweeten the bottom line.
And when you consider 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," said Balzer of NPD Group. ''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 Sport Beans. Each one-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 nonbar, nonchocolate 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.
The new beans are expected in stores this summer.