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August 22, 2017

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Finding God, or maybe just comfort, in candy

CHICAGO--Can a lollipop wrapped in a Bible verse help people come to Jesus? Can a piece of chocolate bring a moment of bliss? Or how about just a bit of comfort after a bad day?

A riot of colors, flavors and familiar characters filled the floor of the Sweet and Snack Expo in Chicago as manufacturers competed for crowded shelf space in an ever-growing market.

Angry Birds, the Avengers and even Andy Warhol graced the packaging of those who could afford the licensing fees. Others relied on clever or unique marketing to stand out.

One veggie sticks snack maker cleverly called itself "Hi I'm Skinny" and splashed the name across its cheerful bag. Specialty chocolate maker Wild Ophelia offered funky flavors like beef jerky and peanut butter and banana. Then there were the hunks of hand-crafted jaw-breakers called ChocoBoulder that look like delectable rocks.

Scripture Candy aims to use moments of sweet indulgence to preach the gospel.

"Our mission is to reach the world one piece at a time with the word of God and it just happens to be on a piece of candy," founder Brian Adkins told AFP.

"We know people have come to know Christ as their savior by reading it."

One of the company's best sellers is the Jelly Bean Prayer, which offers prayers for each bean color such as: "Black represents my sinful heart keeping me from you above" and "White shows the cleansing of my sin as I put my faith in Thee."

It's the more subtle treats like tins of peppermints with the word Jesus made out of candy canes that have helped Scripture Candy expand beyond Christian bookstores, Adkins said.

"The main market was a bit slower because they were afraid of offending people," Adkins told AFP.

But once retailers realize how quickly Scripture Candy's products fly off the shelves they soon order more, he said.

Sales of chocolate, candy, and gum topped US$32 billion (24 billion euros) in the United States last year, up from US$27.4 billion in 2007, according to the National Confectioners Association.

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