By Deborah Cassell
getting fresh: The power of love (and candy)
Some love it. Others love to hate it. Regardless, none can deny the power of Valentine’s Day, especially at retail. It’s one of the top-selling holidays of the year for greeting cards, flowers and, yes, candy.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, candy is the third most popular gift for V-Day.
Feb. 14 also is “the fourth biggest holiday of the year for confectionery purchases (after Halloween, Easter and Christmas),” the National Confectioners Association (NCA) reports. However, “confectionery sales posted a 9.4% decline for the 2009 Valentine’s Day selling season,” the NCA notes, due in part to a “negative economic climate.” V-Day also fell on a Saturday in ’09, “a double whammy” for the industry, the association adds.
While it remains to be seen how candy sales will shake out this year, one need only check their e-mail inbox for daily reminders that the (for some, fateful) day is approaching. Just this past week, I received e-blasts touting the following promotions.
Chocolate Hearts from
- ”How Well Do You Know Your Romantic Partner?” Divine Chocolate offers a quiz on the subject as well as a chance to win free chocolate for Valentine’s Day. www.divinechocolate.com.
- ”Exciting New Events” at Laurent Vals Handcrafted Chocolates include a “Hearts of Gold” fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House, a “Laurent Vals Chocolate Tasting by the City and Sea” at the American Institute of Food & Wine and “A Valentine’s Tasting with Newport Wine Cellar and Laurent Vale Handcrafted Chocolates.” www.laurentvalschocolates.com.
- Dylan’s Candy Bar invites visitors to make Valentine’s Day “the sweetest day of the year with 10% off any order over $50.” On the flip side, shoppers who are “’sooo over’ Valentine's Day” can share their best “dirtball story” for the chance to win a $100 Dylan’s Candy Bar gift card, among other prizes. www.dylanscandybar.com.
- Tips from Red and Green” on how to “Make this Valentine’s Day Sweeter” include sharing the love with everyone you care about by ordering MY M&M’S Candies. Options include the Romance blend and signature gift boxes and bags. Shoppers can even “Drop a Hint” to loved ones that what they want for V-Day is the chocolate that “melts in your mouth, not in your hand.” www.mymms.com.
- Just in time for Valentine’s Day 2010, Gnosis Chocolate “lovingly” announced its new Passion Collection, designed to “Evoke Emotion … Provoke Passion. Satisfy Sweet” via a colorful e-blast. But “since Valentine’s Day is all about love … which is about giving,” Gnosis also reminded readers of its “Global Cocoa Project,” to be held Thursday, Feb. 11. In addition, it made mention of the Gnosis Truffle Collection, which includes Cupuacu, Wild Rose and Aphrodisiac varieties, available in 3-, 9-, 16- and 24-piece boxes. As Chocolate Girl (company founder Vanessa Barg) says, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. The gift of chocolate is the best gift of all!” www.gnosischocolate.com.
- Through tomorrow, Godiva Chocolatier is offering 20% off all purchase in its boutiques. Plus, its “Share the Love Giveaway” grants those who send virtual Valentines through the Godiva site the chance to win two special-edition boxes of Godiva chocolate: “one for you to savor and one for you to share.” www.godiva.com.
- The Sugar Factory in Las Vegas is offering several “Lovely & Enticing” confections” for V-Day as well as discounts such as 10% off your order and free shipping on orders over $100. Read last month’s feature on the Sugar Factory at www.retailconfectioner.com.
Virtual promotions aside, candy industry historian Beth Kimmerle helped ring in V-Day 2010 by giving a lecture about Chicago’s beloved confectioners on Feb. 4 at the Chicago History Museum. The event was followed by a bus tour of Chicagoland sweet spots such as Vosges and Blommer. Yum!
As for me, I’m sending my love through the mail to friends and family nationwide, including candy and cards (filled with heart-shaped confetti) for my nephews – two good reasons to celebrate.
A very heartfelt Valentine’s Day to you all!
THIS JUST IN: Beth Kimmerle will appear on the Valentine's Day edition of "The Martha Stewart Show" on Friday, Feb. 12. For local listings, visit www.marthastewart.com/tv
Promotion In Motion, Mars in M&M'S partnership
In a move that’s designed to expand use and reach of its popular M&M’S brand, Mars Snackfood US has announced that it’s granting Closter, N.J.-based Promotion in Motion, Inc. exclusive sales and marketing license for single-color M&M’S.
Under the new venture, Promotion in Motion will produce and market the My M&M’S line of 21 colors in selected trade channels nationwide, with a focus on specialty retailers and locations.
“We are delighted to partner with Mars to help extend the consumer reach of one of the most loved candy brands in the world,” said Michael Rosenberg, president and ceo of Promotion in Motion.
The single-color range offers a unique opportunity for retailers to generate incremental sales by allowing consumers to mix and match colors to help make everyday occasions more fun or be the finishing touch to special occasions throughout the year. The initial range will include single color M&M’S in 7-oz bags.
WCF launches program to help Côte d'Ivoire farmers
At a ceremony held last week in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) launched its Cocoa Livelihoods Program (CLP), which is designed to significantly improve the livelihoods of 75,000 cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire by 2014. The program, first announced in February of 2009 and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and 14 chocolate industry companies, represents part of a larger five-country program targeting 200,000 cocoa-growing households across Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Liberia.
Activities in Côte d’Ivoire will focus on professionalizing farmer organizations, improving production and quality at the farm level, equipping farmers with business skills, promoting diversification of income, and improving access to inputs and support services.
“Cocoa is a vital component of our economy and a major part of the daily lives of so many people in Côte d’Ivoire,” said Gilbert Anoh N’guessan, president of the Coffee-Cocoa Sector Management Committee (CGFCC), Côte d’Ivoire. “This program is a wonderful opportunity for us to work with the private sector, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, our colleagues in other cocoa-producing countries and the World Cocoa Foundation to improve the livelihoods of smallholder cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire.”
Richard Rogers, program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, emphasized that to make “real progress against hunger and poverty,” it all “starts with small farmers.
“Strengthening farmer organizations, and improving farmer knowledge and productivity, and the quality of the cocoa production, can help these small farmers boost their yields and incomes so they can improve their lives,” he said.
CLP also awarded a 2010 World Cocoa Foundation Challenge Grant to Centre National de Recherche Agronomique (CNRA – the national agricultural research institute in Côte d’Ivoire) to develop an innovative approach for educating farmers on regeneration of their farms. Through this approach, farmers will learn to assess the productivity of each cocoa tree, rehabilitate less productive trees, and replant when necessary.
“The concept of ‘bringing science to the field’ is an important part of the World Cocoa Foundation’s programs,” explained Mbalo Ndiaye, CLP director. “These challenge grants support local efforts to conduct research that is relevant to local farmers’ needs and disseminate information in a way that is meaningful to farmers, especially women. Strengthening these linkages between farmers and their national research institutes is essential to the long-term sustainability of our efforts.”
Managed by the WCF, CLP will be implemented through a consortium of five organizations that includes the following: Agribusiness Services International (ASI), an ACDI/VOCA affiliate; Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH; the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)/Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP); SOCODEVI; and TechnoServe.
Funding for the program comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the following companies: major branded manufacturers The Hershey Co., Kraft Foods and Mars, Inc.; cocoa processors ADM, Barry Callebaut, Blommer Chocolate Co. and Cargill; and supply chain managers and allied industries Armajaro, Guittard Chocolate Co., Ecom-Agrocacao, Noble Resources S.A., Olam International Ltd., Starbucks Coffee Co. and Transmar Commodity Group Ltd.
Additional support is provided by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The five participating African countries involved in CLP will have representation on the organization’s steering committee.
WARHEADS Sour Chewy Cubes extreme hit at Winter X Games
Extreme sports require extreme measures. Thus, when Colorado Springs, Col.-based Impact Confections decided to continue its partnership with ESPN in being the lead candy sponsor for the Winter X 14 Games in Aspen, Colo., – two years running – it saw to it that no one would go sourless.
Impact Confections gave out more than a half a ton of candy to 80,000-plus people during the four-day event, held Jan. 28-31. In doing so, the company’s new WARHEADS Sour Chewy Cubes quickly became the talk of the town.
“The response to the new WARHEADS Sour Chewy Cubes was fantastic,” says Tony Porter, Impact Confections’ consumer marketing manager. “Kids and adults loved the just-right, sour-sanded chewy cube-shaped candy. Attendees kept coming back asking for the candy and where they can buy it. It was definitely a big hit.”
The company also introduced a new custom-designed WARHEADS Extreme Mountain Pinball game, a replica of a snowpark with a Super Sour Half-pipe, jumps, moguls, trees, and boulders. This innovative and interactive game allowed players to shoot pinballs into the snowpark and watch the excitement as the pinballs traveled down the course. Branded prizes such as water bottles, bandanas, candy and foam hats were awarded based on the slot that the pinball ended up in. Top prize was a WARHEADS branded snowskate, complete with board and snowskates.
“The pinball game was definitely the hit of the XFest Village with hundreds of attendees lined up to play from the event opening to closing every day,” Porter noted.
Topps appoints new ceo
Ryan O’Hara, former president of TV Guide Network and TV Guide.com, will take over as The Topps Co.’s new president and ceo on March 1.
New York City-based The Topps Co. has been a creator and marketer of sports cards, entertainment products and confectionery brands for more than 50 years. Its confectionery brands include Bazooka bubble gum, Ring Pop, Push Pop, Baby Bottle Pop and Juicy Drop Pop lollipops.
“Ryan is an outstanding leader with a strong track record in media, sports, entertainment and confections,” says Michael D. Eisner, Topps’ chairman. Eisner purchased the company in conjunction with Madison Dearborn Partners in 2007.
“That unique combination will help him drive growth in media and with interactive initiatives as well as continue to strengthen Topps’ core businesses,” he adds. “Ryan’s appointment will help Topps capture a greater share of consumers’ leisure time.”
O’Hara indicated that he’s “thrilled” to take on the challenge.
“The ability to work with Michael Eisner and Madison Dearborn Partners on the evolution of Topps makes this an incredibly exciting opportunity,” he says. “No brand had more of an impact on me when I was a kid than Topps, and I look forward to working with the entire Topps team to strengthen and grow this iconic company.”
O’Hara has led TV Guide’s business and growth strategy, overseeing all functional areas from programming to distribution to advertising sales. Under O’Hara’s leadership, TV Guide Network has become one of the most widely distributed cable networks, reaching more than 80 million households, and TVGuide.com has grown to 20 million monthly unique visitors.
Prior to TV Guide, O’Hara had experience across the sports, confections and international sectors– three key areas of Topps’ business – having served in various positions at BSkyB in London, Fox Sports Net and Nestle USA.
O’Hara, who has been based in Los Angeles, will relocate to New York with his wife, Victoria. Departing CEO Scott Silverstein, who remains on the Board, has led Topps since Eisner and Madison Dearborn Partners purchased the company in October 2007.
Sweet of the week: Tungsten Toffee
Nederland, Colo.-based Tungsten Toffee offers everything from traditional toffee, in Sweet Milk Chocolate and Smooth Dark Chocolate varieties, to Toffee Coffee/Espresso Dark Chocolate to Rocky Mountain Toffee Trail Mix, which blends roasted whole and delicately sliced premium California almonds, organic raisins and plump dried cranberries with bite-size dark chocolate toffee nuggets. The suggested retail price for a 12-oz. bag of trail mix is $10.95. Traditional Tungsten Toffee retails for $10.95 for a 0.5-lb. box and $19.95 for a 1-lb. box.