Happy Holidays

Seasonal offerings along with other new and unique items are bringing extra sweetness to the candy aisle.

It is shaping up to be a BOOtiful Halloween, holly jolly Christmas, lovey-dovey Valentine’s Day and EGGstatic Easter in the candy aisle, thanks to a plethora of innovative items from manufacturers.

Take Halloween. According to research from Mars Chocolate North America, 85% of consumers pass out candy to trick-or-treaters, with 90% of that being chocolate. This Halloween, Mars is adding innovation to the candy set with M&M’S White Chocolate Candy Corn, Milky Way Brand Caramel Apple Miniatures and Snickers Pumpkin Singles and 2-To-Go packs of pumpkin-shaped Snickers bars.

“With the recession, people go back to the things they know, and we are leveraging that quite a bit in how we launch our items,” says Timothy LeBel, vice president of sales, at Hackettstown, N.J.-based Mars. Last year the company did a limited-edition test on M&M’S Candy Corn. “We launched it as a limited-edition item in Walmart to get some consumer testing. It did phenomenal! This year we are launching it nationally everywhere. It has a strong white chocolate base with just a hint of that candy corn flavor.”

This fall Mars’ Dove brand is being expanded with Dove Brand Silky Smooth Cookies and Crème in singles, giant bar and lay-down bag formats.

On its salty snack side, Mars is introducing 12-packs of snack-size Combos available in Cheddar Cheese Pretzel, Cheddar Cheese Cracker, Pizzeria Pretzel and a Variety Pack. LeBel says they make a great alternative to candy as a trick-or-treat item. “When you display Combos the sales go up five-times because it is such a strong impulse item,” LeBel says.

The Hershey Co., based in Hershey, Pa., has several Halloween offerings, including the Cadbury Screme Egg. Modeled after the popular Cadbury Crème Egg, it is made with the same chocolate and fondant center but with a ghoulish surprise of a seasonally appropriate green candy yolk. Also new this season is the Kit Kat Halloween Bar. According to Hershey officials, the bar is molded to feature one of four spooky Halloween designs and messages, including “Best Witches” and “You’ve Been Bitten!” Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins also will have a new look this fall, company officials say.

Best known for chocolate Easter rabbits, Reading, Pa.-based R. M. Palmer Co. is scaring up sales this Halloween with Creepy Coffins, 2 ounces of double-crisp foiled chocolate inside a coffin-shaped box. “We are also going to do chocolate lollipops in four different designs that are decorated and will retail for $1,” says Dave Abramson, director of sales and marketing.

Promotion In Motion Inc. is launching Trick-Or-Treats multi-brand lay-down bags for Halloween. “It is a name designed to bring together some great sour and sweet brands that we have in the non-chocolate side,” says Josh Shapiro, vice president of marketing for the Allendale, N.J.-based firm. “It includes Welch’s Fruit Snacks, our Original Sour Jacks and Sour Jacks Watermelon and Nuclear Sqworms.”

A similar version, called Bunny Treats, will be introduced for Easter baskets.

Candy cane Peeps
Marshmallow Peeps are a must-have mainstay at Easter, but officials at Bethlehem, Pa.-based Just Born have hatched up new items for other holidays such as Christmas. “We have a candy cane flavored Peeps and are also reintroducing our gingerbread men with a gingerbread flavor,” says Mark Hoffman, senior brand manager, Peeps, at Just Born.
M&M’S are getting into the holiday spirit with several novelty products, including keepsakes. “Every year we’ve done collectibles and now we are taking it to the next level with these Christmas ornaments,” LeBel says. “They are metal tins that actually open and are filled with M&M’S that retail for $1.99.”

This Christmas Palmer is introducing Yule Tools as the perfect stocking stuffer. “They are a 3-ounce box of chocolates shaped like tools with a $1 retail,” Abramson says. Palmer is also re-introducing its popular Minty Bells. “We took it off the market for a while and every year we get so many letters asking when are we bringing Minty Bells back. We are bringing them back this year, but in a different format with a triple layer so the mint carries through the chocolate.”

Chocolates continue to be a preferred gift for Valentine’s Day.

“Our Dove brand plays a much more prominent role for Valentine’s Day,” says Mars’ LeBel. “We will also be promoting our Milky Way Simply Caramel Hearts. We launched Simply Caramel two years ago. We took the nougat out of the Milky Way and added more caramel. It really has done outstanding and given us multiple seasonal platforms to leverage it in too.”

Look for Just Born to capture hearts on Valentine’s Day too with their new cherry-flavored Peeps with a chocolate base. “It is very much like a cherry cordial,” Hoffman says.

Skittles riddles
Innovative permanent year-round products are also hatching up excitement in the candy aisle.

Chewing gum is a key impulse item and Mars’ sister company, Chicago-based Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. is introducing several new items, including Micro Packs of Orbit and 5 gums that are debuting in July. Micro Packs hold six pieces of gum, retail for 69 cents and are designed to fit easily into pockets, say Wrigley officials.

At the recent Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago, which was sponsored by the Washington-based National Confectioners Association, Wrigley’s Skittles Riddles won the show’s Innovation Award. According to Wrigley officials, the color does not match the flavor, resulting in a surprise every time one is popped into the mouth. In a somewhat related development, Starburst Morph, also from Wrigley, changes flavor as one chews.
Fruit-flavored chews continue to gain popularity, as evidenced by the introduction of Country Time Lemonade Chews by Trevose, Pa.-based Sorbee International. “We are launching Country Time Lemonade Chews in a 7-ounce peg bag, which the retailers seem very interested in because it will fit on pegs and we also sell it on a shipper,” says Daniel Werther, CEO.

Original Gourmet Food Co. continues to revive the once-staid lollipop category. The company’s latest innovation is an upscale-looking bag containing a variety pack of six lollipops, two flavors each, that was initially launched in Target stores in June. The varieties include:  Apple Pie Alamode, Cherry Cheesecake and Strawberry Shortcake; Watermelon, Strawberry/Banana and Blue Raspberry; Orange Creamsicle, Blueberries and Cream and Cherry Cheesecake; and Wild Cherry, Bubblegum and Cotton Candy.
“This is a big deal,” says Richard Alimenti, CEO of the Salem, N.H.-based firm. “It is a $2.99 retail, on sale two for $5. A lot of supermarkets like the in-and-out shippers that they come in and they can also be easily merchandised on the shelf.”

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