Enjoying the finer hard candies in life
Increased sales in the hard candy category allows industry to expand and specialize.
With summer only a few months away, nostalgic foods and drinks immediately come to mind. Refreshing cola cools you down, tangy lemonade calms the mind after a long day and watermelon with a punch of sweetness energizes you throughout the long afternoons.
These are the flavors of the season, and they are also some of the new flavors that are being introduced this year by Original Gourmet, Hershey and Colombina, respectively, into two of the few confectionery mediums that can withstand the summer heat: hard candies and lollipops.
In the past, manufacturers would choose either one of the products and make a line filled with only hard candies, or only lollipops. While it was, and still is, a successful plan, candy companies are seeing a third option: launching both a hard candy and a lollipop.
Though seemingly redundant, offering two hard candy products has been a successful venture for candy manufacturers. Last year, the industry made the largest sales increase in the non-chocolate candy sector, bringing in $613.2 million, according to research company SymphonyIRI.
Although hailed for having the “world’s best lollipop,” Original Gourmet is confirmed to have plans of launching an unsticked candy.
“We are working on launching a “lollidrop,” which is a hard candy product, to the consumer, and we hope to be able to launch soon,” says says Angela Bourassa, the company’s marketing and creative director.
Bourassa also says that although the brand is excited to launch this new product, it’s still 100 percent behind its innovative lollipop.
While hard candies and lollipops may appear to be the same product, merely separated by a four or six-in. stick running through the middle, the process of making lollipops is more complex. Utilizing a gravity deposited production method, Original Gourmet boast its 1.1-oz. pop as the ideal lollipop.
“It gets that nice, smooth texture all the way through,” says Angela Bourassa, the company’s marketing and creative director. “It doesn’t have any of the rough edges any other lollipops might have, and the flavor lasts all the way to the center. That’s what our consumers really love about our product.”
Another company to launch multiple products in the hard candy industry is Hershey under its iconic Jolly Rancher brand. What started as a hard candies has evolved to include not only hard candies and lollipops but other confectionery treats.
“Jolly Rancher consumers are always looking to experience the ‘Untamed Fruit Flavor’ of Jolly Rancher in a number of forms,” says Jeff Beckman, Hershey’s director of corporate communications. “That’s why the brand offers so many options beyond the hard candy.”
In addition to the basic hard candies and lollipops, Jolly Rancher offers filled versions of both of these products. Once the consumer sucks through, or cracks, open the shell, an chewy center is left for the consumer to eat. Not only does the chew add another textural component to the candy, it gives consumers one last burst of flavor before the product is completely gone.
Dual hard candy lines are a reality at Original Gourmet and Jolly Rancher, but Colombina is still keeping its hard candy and lollipop lines separated and developing them as such. Recently the company launched its iconic Bon Bon Boom (BBB) lollipops in the U.S. after having major success in Europe, Africa and Latin America.
“Bon Bon Boom delivers an intense flavor experience with a bold and mouthwatering flavors from berry explosion to a sour craving,” says Carlos Gil, general manager, Colombina USA. “Our product’s motto is ‘Living Intensely,’ and every one of our pops has intense flavor...you can’t just have one!”
Colombina’s Bon Bon Boom lollipops join the company’s Tiger Pops, which have been in the U.S. market for more than 25 years. The brand offers a range of lollipop options, from fruity spheres to striped heart, that all provide consumers with the company’s signature burst of flavor.
Classic flavors are timeless
While companies are beginning to expand their product lines, the flavors they offer are standing consistent. Even with an array of flavors, a brand’s originals seem to have the most popular response.
“Our original five mix — watermelon, apple, cherry, grape and blue raspberry — is still our most popular offering,” says Beckman.
Bourassa gave a similar response when asked about Original Gourmet and its flavor plans.
“Our tried and true flavors seem to be working for us globally,” she says. “The European flavors are a little less sweet, but aside from that, our flavors are definitely proven, so we’re not going to change the formula, because the public loves us.”
Gil says, despite the product’s variety, it’s too hard to tell which Bon Bon Boom flavor is the most popular because the answer is always changing.
“All of the flavor options are popular with consumers,” he says.
However, there is always room for innovations in flavors and textures. Although Colombina’s BBB Berry Explosion, BBB Sour contain expected flavors like strawberry and sour green apple, the BBB Watermelon pop is an entirely new concept for the category. The lollipop not only has a shape similar to a juicy watermelon, but also has mini capsules similar to seeds inside that burst with extra flavor.
“[The company] continues innovation in the industry, including different textures, shapes and inserts in the candy that provide bursting flavor experience,” says Gil.
Speciality products give consumers a feel of candy luxury
In addition to giving veteran companies the space to expand, the sector’s sales growth has allowed specialty and natural products to emerge and find success for themselves.
One of the most celebrity-endorsed lollipops of the moment are the Sugar Factory’s Couture Pops. Started in 2008 by Steve Davidovici, the company has launched four stores, and has two more stores opening this year.
While the flavors are important, Sugar Factory is all about its sticks. Originally starting out plain and disposable, Couture Pops’ sticks are now bedazzled and refillable.
“I thought I could get this couture pop in the hands of many celebrities and when we started showing it to everyone they loved it. From Britney Spears to Kim Kardashian,” Davidovici says.
This initial introduction evolved into the two stars creating signature sticks for the brand. Including the celebrity signatures, Sugar Factory offers 24 sticks consumers can customize with one of 12 different flavors.
And while Sugar Factory does highlight its sticks, the flavors are still important. In the past year, the company released three flavors — strawberry, grape and caramel. Although it only came out a year ago, one of these flavors has already gone over immensely well with consumers.
“Strawberry’s probably our number one, followed by Watermelon and Cherry,” Davidovici says.
Additionally, Davidovici says while all the flavors are doing well, he sees a new trend emerging from his clients.
“A lot of flavors are gelling together,” he says. “There will be a strawberry-watermelon or a cherry-bubblegum. I think a lot of flavors are coming together to make things more interesting.”
Even natural can be innovative
Stick customization, flavor fusions — while all of these innovations are great and are pushing the industry forward, sometimes it’s best to go back and transform something that the market already has into something greater, and better.
Island Abbey Foods Ltd. have taken an age-old ingredient and have transformed it into a hard candy products that has the potential to expand in the natural candy industry.
“We created the world’s first method to put honey into a solid form, without adding anything to it,” says John Rowe, the company’s ceo. “It’s 100 percent pure, and our process does not denature or ruin those natural properties of raw honey.”
The elaborate process of solidifying honey took Island Abbey Foods 15 years to perfect, but once the company got it right, they started production with a simple honey drop used to sweeten tea or coffee.
In the last month, Island Abbey Foods has launched its Honibe Honey Delights sucker, a mounted version of its Honey Delights candy. The product came about as an answer to consumers’ request.
“We had a lot of parents over the years come to us and say, ‘Could you make this? Your candies are too small for our young children,’ and there was a potential choking hazard there,” Rowe says.
Rowe also says although their honey candies don’t have too many flavor varieties, the most popular one is pretty expected: Honey Lemon.
With the rise of the health-conscious consumer, Rowe says Honibe has plans to take advantage of this and expand both its distribution range and its product line.
“We are going to be introducing solid maple, solid molasses and solid agave this year, and we have plans to have a national U.S. launch in the fall,” he says.
Whether it be a $22 refillable stick or a completely all-natural product, the expansion in the hard candy industry is allowing uncharted niches to be explored and developed, which will lead to even more sector growth in the coming years.