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Mars V.P. talks chocolate bar trends

One-on-one with Hank Izzo, v.p. of research & development, Mars Chocolate North America

August 6, 2014
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Milky Way Bites

Hank Izzo, v.p., research & development, Mars Chocolate North America, recently took some time to reflect on the current state of the chocolate bar category. He offers valuable insights on bite-size candy, seasonal chocolates and how much is too much when it comes to serving sizes. 

Hank Izzo
Hank Izzo

Candy Industry: What are some of the current trends with chocolate bars?

Hank Izzo: The bite-sized candy sub category has exploded, as consumers look for the full taste experience of their favorite candy bar in a smaller portion. It’s easy to share, and the resealable pouch makes it possible to eat some now and save some for later.

Last year Mars introduced Snickers Bites and Milky Way Bites, and they’ve been a huge success. This year, we’ve added three more brands: 3 Musketeers Bites, Milky Way Simply Caramel Bites and Twix Bites. Consumers have always loved bite-sized candies, as evident by the success of M&M’S Brand Chocolate Candies.

CI: How are chocolate bars competing with all the other types of chocolate on the market?

Izzo: Traditional chocolate bar brands are now able to compete in a wider playing field, since they’re available in an unwrapped, bite-size format that offers convenience, share-ability and portability.

Plus, seasonal chocolate is growing in popularity. We’re offering our iconic chocolate brands in seasonally themed singles, such as Twix Ghosts, Snickers Nutcrackers and Milky Way Simply Caramel Snowmen.

CI: How is Mars working to make sure that their chocolate bars have serving sizes with fewer calories?

Izzo: Mars Chocolate has a global commitment to health and nutrition, which includes efforts to manage portions and calories. In support of this, no Mars Chocolate North America chocolate products exceed 250 calories per serving. 

This initiative began in 2004, when Mars made the switch from the former ‘King Size’ bar to a multi-piece format to enable sharing or saving a piece for later, and we label these items as ‘2 to Go’, ‘4 to Go’ and ‘Sharing Size.’  These sharing formats include multiple pieces inside an innovative, resealable twist-wrap package.  The wrapper has memory film designed to tightly seal the remaining candy by twisting it, keeping the remaining pieces clean and tightly wrapped.   

CI: Are there are any new flavor combinations that consumers seem to be especially responding to in the chocolate bar category?

Izzo: Consumers enjoy trying unique flavor combinations from their favorite brands. They know and trust these brands, so they’re likely to test the brand extensions. This year through next year, we’re bringing back two former limited edition items, because they were so popular.

Milky Way Brand French Vanilla and Caramel Bar was a limited-edition flavor in 2013. It has layers of creamy caramel and smooth French vanilla-flavored nougat, covered in milk chocolate.

And the Snickers Xtreme Bar features a unique blend of the ingredients fans love through a single layer of crunchy roasted peanuts and smooth caramel perfectly blended and enrobed in milk chocolate.

CI: What do you see for the future of chocolate bars?

Izzo: We’ll probably see more creative flavor combinations as consumers enjoy trying new variations. Healthy snacking is also a growing trend. Although it’s not exactly a “chocolate bar,” new Dove Whole Fruit Dipped in Dark Chocolate combines the health and wellness benefits of dark chocolate with fruits, the fastest-growing snacking segment. This new item comes in three varieties of real, whole fruit — cranberry, cherry and blueberry — that are the top-selling fruits on the market.

CI: Anything else you would like to add?

Izzo: Although the “sharing size” segment is growing, we encourage retailers not to lose focus on single serve. Front-end planograms should balance singles and sharing size confections to meet shoppers’ needs for portion and calorie delivery.

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