How sweet it is!

A well-merchandised candy selection can add fun and excitement to a shopping trip, plus sweet profits to the bottom line.

What is often not on the shopping list, comes in an endless array of sizes, varieties and price-points, is sold in just about every department and almost always finds its way into a shopper’s cart?


Despite competition from other classes of trade, ever-increasing ingredient costs and consumer concerns about obesity and nutrition, candy sales in the supermarket channel remain strong with chocolates, better-for-you, sour, seasommdisplaynal and extensions of popular national brands sweetening the pot.

Chocolates in particular are on a growth curve, say industry observers.
“We’re seeing an increased consumer demand for bite-size unwrapped chocolate,” says Timothy LeBel, vice president of sales, grocery/value/military, for Mars Chocolate North America, based in Hackettstown, N.J. “These bags offer convenience and portability and are easier to share. M&M’S Brand Candies are the ideal sharing product, and in May we’re introducing Snickers Bites and Milky Way Bites.”

According to LeBel, snacks combining sweet and savory flavors are another trend. “We found that consumers were mixing M&M’S Brand Candies into bags of salty snacks, like pretzels and trail mix, so last year we created M&M’S Brand Snack Mix,” he says. “We have also introduced Dove Milk Chocolate Covered Raisins and Peanuts, which fits both of these trends: sweet/savory and bite-sized unwrapped treats,” he adds.

Sweet/salty is also front-and-center at DeMet’s Candy Co., the Stamford, Conn.-based manufacturer of Turtles, Flipz chocolate-covered pretzels and other products.
“We are seeing a lot of trends surrounding sea salt,” says Dave Persaud, marketing manager. “In our Turtles line we recently launched Sea Salt Caramel. We use real sea salt on the caramel that we dollop on our pecans and enrobe all of that in chocolate.”

DeMet’s is further expanding the Turtles franchise with Turtles Minis, packaged in a 6-ounce stand-up pouch. “They are shipping in mid-July, and will be hitting store shelves in August and September,” Persaud says.

On the Flipz brand, Chocolate Mint was recently introduced. “With Flipz you have the nice sweet hit from the chocolate and then you get the salty hit from the pretzel,” Persaud says.
At Mars, Halloween is the biggest grocery channel season, followed by Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day, but the company is eyeing growth around other celebratory and sharing occasions including NASCAR races and the Super Bowl.

“We are creating retailer- and consumer-friendly programs that include merchandising fixtures and consumer offers,” says LeBel. “Building on this strategy we’ve introduced the M&M’S Brand ‘Better with M’ theme. This extensive marketing and merchandising program suggests new usage occasions for confections, including sporting events, birthdays and movies with themes like ‘Race Day is Better with M,’ ‘Baking is Better with M’ and Movies are Better with M.’”

Best known for its chocolate Easter bunnies, R.M. Palmer Co. is also embarking on a strategy to increase its year-round sales by launching a new consumer website,, that touts its Everyday candy collection with online candy-centric games, promotions, recipes, a retailer finder and Palmer Perks loyalty program, along with a Pinterest page.

“The world is now about social media and that is what Palmer is looking to do—more social media and more interaction with our customers,” says Dave Abramson, director of sales and marketing for the Reading, Pa.-based company.

Baking with candy
According to manufacturers, when it comes to candy, many consumers prefer economical laydown bags. “Our flagship pack is the 12-ounce laydown bag of our Caramel Creams,” says John A. Leipold Jr., director of sales and marketing at Goetze’s Candy Co., based in Baltimore, which also manufactures Cow Tales filled caramel sticks. “What sets us apart from other caramels on the market is that our number one ingredient is wheat flour, so our caramels have more of a pastry-type texture to them and do not stick to your teeth, like other caramels do.”

As a result, many retailers cross-merchandise Goetze’s Caramel Creams in the baking ingredients aisle with cake mixes, frostings and chocolate chips, opening up another area where candy can be successfully merchandised. “You can go to and our Caramel Creams Facebook page and see recipes using our Caramel Creams,” Leipold says.

KBC Kane Food Group has found success merchandising its line of Chocolate Party Cups in the baking aisle. “We are taking candy out of the candy aisle,” says Joe Kane, owner of the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based company. “We sell well either in gift, floral or better baking with the baking bars, chocolate chips and pie crusts. People fill them with chocolate mousse, fruit, yogurt or other fillings. They are great for entertaining.” He plans on expanding the brand with a full line of baking bars, chocolate mousse mixes and other products.

Sanders is doing its part to broaden the appeal of chocolate to the floral and gift departments with its newly redesigned boxed Boulevard Collection which was reintroduced in January. The updated packaging incorporates the Sanders historical family crest and early 1900s horse and buggy along with a modern, eye-catching and upscale design.

“We updated our chocolate assortments and included our most popular pieces, like our Honeycomb Chip and our Cherry Cordials,” says Tiffany Van Hemm, director of public relations, account executive for Sanders Fine Chocolatiers, based in Clinton Twp., Mich.
This year Sanders also introduced its Seasonal Mini Collection. “We took our most popular seasonal candies and made them into minis and are merchandising them in these very cute Chinese-style popcorn boxes,” Van Hemm says. The line includes products for Easter, fall, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

Unfortunately not every item in the candy category is doing well. Chewing gum, for one, is in a rather sticky situation.

“Over the past several years we’ve seen a decrease in gum category sales for a variety of reasons,” says Caroline Sherman, U.S. manager of marketing communications, for Chicago-based Wrigley. “Among those is an increase in competition from other categories—like energy, beverages and technology—that are all competing for a greater share of wallet and pocket space. In grocery, we can regain consumers to the category by focusing on key strategic insights surrounding accessibility, innovation, simplifying the shopping experience and in-store execution.”

Wrigley has updated its products and packaging for today’s modern on-the-go lifestyle. “To grow the category, it’s critical that we provide packaging options for different needs or occasions, like impulse purchases, pantry storage, bulk sharing or on-hand personal supply,” Sherman says, singling out Wrigley’s Micro Packs and Car Cup bottles.

The “It” pack
Just Born Confections, the Bethlehem, Pa.-based manufacturer of Peeps, Mike and Ike, Hot Tamales and other brands, has also updated its packaging. Mike and Ike, for example, is availableJust Born Confections and other brands, has also updated its packaging. Mike and Ike, for example, is available in a range of sizes from a 25-cent .78-ounce “change maker” box, the flagship 5-ounce Theater Box, 8.3-ounce Big Box and a new 10-ounce gusseted bag.

“The gusseted bag is resealable and we’ve had a few retailers already take it on,” says Donald Houston, business team leader and senior marketing manager, Mike and Ike/Hot Tamales. “It is from a very small base, but definitely the stand-up is the new ‘it’ pack and a number of retailers are creating sections for it.”

Just Born has also moved all of its Theater Boxes into 12-count PDQ shippers. “Essentially they are coming in a 12-count tray that you just peel the overwrapping off and put right on the shelf,” Houston says. “We’ve had a lot of accounts, especially grocery, asking for that.”

But the really big news is that after a highly publicized split in 2012, Mike and Ike are finally back together and are introducing a new Strawberry Reunion variety. “It is five different flavors that are all strawberry themed: Strawberry, Strawberry Banana Smoothie, Strawberry Watermelon, Strawberry Tangerine and Strawberry Pineapple,” Houston says.

Manufacturers say all-natural is another growth area.

“Consumers are looking for indulgence that is made with high-quality ingredients,” says Jill Trekell, associate brand manager, Red Vines, at American Licorice Co. based in Bend, Ore. “The premium side of licorice continues to grow in both the traditional and all-natural classes of trade.”

That is fueling sales of American Licorice’s Natural Vines, a licorice sweetened with cane sugar and made with all-natural ingredients that hit all of today’s nutrition hot buttons.

“The bite-size twists, available in black and strawberry, are low in fat, sodium, cholesterol-free and contain no trans fat,” Trekell points out.

This spring American Licorice expanded its Sour Punch line with Punchies. “Punchies, born and inspired by Sour Punch straws, are a bite-size, chewy fruity sweet and sour soft shell candy,” says Trekell. Punchies are available in a 2.5-ounce pounch, 3.5-ounce theater box and 14-ounce laydown bag containing Strawberry, Blue Raspberry, Green Apple, Tangerine and Lemon flavors.

Sour candies are also big business at Promotion In Motion, the Allendale, N.J.-based manufacturer of Sour Jacks, Sqworms and licensed products, including Welch’s Fruit Snacks and Sun-Maid Chocolate Covered Raisins.

“Sour candies and gummies are growing, and 65% of gummies consumers are adults,” says Christina Bunzendahl, senior brand manager. “They are seeing growth beyond what the general candy market is doing. We continue to see lots of innovation in this area. The consumers of sour gummies and sour candies tend to be younger and are interested in trying new things. That is great for our Sour Jacks.  We stepped up our marketing this year and will be making inroads with the sour lovers’ community.”

Soft & sour
The sweetest sellers in the candy aisle are often the sourest. That is what prompted Doumak to create Campfire MallowBursts Bite Size Marshmallows, billed as the first sour marshmallow produced in the U.S.

Available in Lemon Meringue and Key Lime flavors, officials at Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based Doumak say Campfire MallowBursts are fat-free, gluten-free and have only 90 calories per nine marshmallow serving.

“They are a sweet and tangy alternative to high calorie, high fat desserts and will add a zing when used in traditional recipes, like crisped rice treats,” says Mark Schuessler, president and chief operating officer.

Campfire MallowBursts Bite Size Marshmallows are available in an 8-ounce lay down bag with a suggested price of $1.49.

Doumak has also introduced Campfire S’mores Kits. The 16.3-ounce kits have a suggested retail of $4.99 and contain Campfire Regular Marshmallows, premium chocolate and traditional honey graham crackers. According to the manufacturer, each kit makes 12 s’mores and is perfect for camping, backyard barbecues, the beach and the microwave. For more information, contact Don Muff, vice president, sales and marketing at:          

Something to chew on
Nice things come in small packages, so Natural Vines, the premium gourmet soft licorice created for the licorice connoisseur by American Licorice Co., has introduced a 3-ounce bag of bite-size twists.

Natural Vines licorice, available in black and strawberry, is made from all-natural ingredients and contains no artificial flavors or preservatives. The 3-ounce bags have a suggested retail price of $1.59 – $1.79.

“This new smaller-sized bag is perfect to grab-and-go when you want a treat you can feel good about,” says Mercedes Davidson, brand manager, Natural Vines, for the Bend, Ore.-based American Licorice Co. “While our large 8-ounce bag is a great seller, we expect the new size to be a hit for those licorice-craving moments.”


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