By Bernie Pacyniak
Editor-in-Chief
Candy Industry

getting fresh: Tracking natural and organic sales

For the longest time, observers have viewed the confectionery industry as “recession-proof.” And while there’s probably a good deal of validity to the fact that consumers always will find spare change for a sweet treat, I don’t believe that any industry, including confectionery, is somehow shielded from a sagging economy.

The same truth also applies to the natural and organic foods segment, where confections have an ever-growing role. A recent report issued by Rockville, Maryland-based Packaged Facts called “Natural and Organic Food and Beverage Trends in the U.S.” acknowledges the impact of rising fuel prices and consumer thriftiness in light of recessionary pressures.

Nevertheless, the overall forecast still foresees a positive push. Let me throw some numbers at you that are gleaned from this analysis. First, Packaged Facts projects that natural and organic food and beverage sales will approach $33 billion ($32.924 billion) in 2008, representing a compounded annual growth rate of 18.8%.

Organic sales alone comprise nearly $20 billion ($19.954 billion) while natural food and beverage revenues account for almost $13 billion (12.97). The next set of numbers probably provides the most important data for confectionery manufacturers: “Four-year growth is expected to reach 66% combined [natural and organic], while organic will surge 57.4% and natural foods a whopping 86%.”

By 2013, natural and organic products will top $48 million, with organic accounting for $28.5 billion and natural accounting for $19.6 billion in food and beverage sales. Consumers’ penchant for “better-for-you” products hasn’t escaped consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers.

In 2007 there were 1,112 organic and natural food and beverage products launched, a 50.3% bump from the previous year. Within those launches are several private-label items.

For example, Packaged Facts analysts cite Safeway’s Organics line, which surpassed $300 million in 2007. Whole Foods’ investor relations page states that 20% of its sales come from private-label items. As for Trader Joe’s, long a private-label retailer, the authors estimate that 80% of its revenues come from its own store brands. Finally, Datamonitor’s ProductScan pinpointed 186 private-label natural/organic product launches in 2007, a 155% increase.

Oh yeah, one last number for readers to digest: 52% of adults will occasionally shop for organic products.

So what does this all mean for confectionery manufacturers and chocolatiers focused on improving their sales? “In special bus generalia quaerimus,” say the Romans. In other words, seek the general in the specifics.

It’s not enough just to produce a natural and/or organic confectionery treat and expect it to be successful. As the authors of Packaged Facts’ trends report note, “Successful manufacturers are creating emotional ties through the use of compelling narratives about their brands along with producing consistently high-quality products.”

In other words, your product needs to tell a story, connect with the consumer, and then, taste damn good.

It’s hard to say when the economy will return to a robust state. Till then, consumers will seek solace in their everyday lives. Confectioners have the opportunity to brighten a day with an extraordinary taste experience, one that also can benefit a person’s health. It’s clear that organic and natural sweets have the capability to do that.

Endangered Species names new directors

One of the best-selling natural and organic chocolate brands, Endangered Species Chocolate, has named Curt Vander Meer director of sales and Doreen Gubernat director of education.

Vander Meer, an employee at Endangered Species since 2005, is a certified public accountant with a B.S. in accounting from Calvin College. He serves as the COO and leader of the sales team.

Gubernat, who has worked with Endangered Species since 1997 as a broker for Tozzi & Associates, joined the company’s sales team in 2006. She received her B.S. in social work from West Virginia University and her M.P.H. from East Stroudsburg University, and is a graduate of the Herbal Therapeutics School of Botanical Medicine, where she obtained the credential of Certified Health Education Specialist. Gubernat is responsible for East Coast sales and helping South American and West African cocoa farming communities with needed conservation and education programs.

For more information, visit www.chocolatebar.com.

Jelly Belly announces new flavor

After nearly 200,000 submissions for a new Jelly Belly jellybean, the company has announced a winner. The new flavor, acai berry, was suggested by 19-year-old Joel Tokarczyk from Matteson, Ill., because of its “super food” qualities.

“I’ve had acai berry juice, and I thought that might be a good idea for a Jelly Belly,” says Tokarczyk.

Aside from containing more antioxidants than grapes and blueberries, acai berries have been shown to provide health benefits ranging from improving digestion and boosting energy to improving circulation and strengthening the immune system, according to www.acai.vg.

For winning the contest, Tokarczyk will receive a supply of the new jellybean flavor along with a $10,000 grand prize.

“We received thousands of submissions for acai berry flavor - it’s clearly on many people’s radars,” says Rob Swaigen, director of marketing for Jelly Belly. “The voting for the finalist flavors was overwhelming in favor of acai … With so many contestants, we also required them to submit a 50-word essay as a tie-breaker, and our judging panel chose Joel’s entry.”

For more information, visit www.jellybelly.com.

Chocolatier combines chocolate & deer velvet

New Zealand-based Mamor Chocolates created a gourmet chocolate treat for the Meat Industry Association Conference held in Dunedin, New Zealand, Sept. 14-15, that combines the health benefits of chocolate with the benefits of deer velvet.

Male deer or bucks grow antlers annually. When the growth first begins, the antlers are made up of soft tissue covered in fine hair. Veterinarians or trained farmers remove the velvet in cooperation with the National Velveting Standards Body program to ensure that the deer feel no pain. Deer velvet is said to aid in healing, have anti-inflammatory properties, provide elasticity in joints, help build joint cartilage and stimulate the immune system, among other health benefits, according to www.gevir.co.nz.

Mamor’s new chocolate uses deer velvet from Gevir Premium Deer Velvet and Chesnique Chestnut Liqueur from Cheswood Estate for flavor. For more information, visit www.mamor.co.nz.

Biothera creates Wellmune site

Just this month, Biotechnology company Biothera launched a Web site designed to inform manufacturers about Wellmune WGP, a natural immune health ingredient. The Web site defines Wellmune WGP, offers articles and news releases on the ingredient, gives a list of distributors and describes the applications in which the ingredient can be used, in addition to other information.

Wellmune WGP is patented, GRAS-approved, kosher, non-allergenic and GMO-free. It can be used in foods, beverages and supplements in powder-form. The ingredient is proven to aid the immune system by allowing the body’s immune cells to better detect and get rid of a “foreign challenge,” according to the release.

“The new Wellmune Web site will help satisfy the growing demand for information about this unique immune health ingredient,” says Richard G. Mueller, Biothera president and CEO. “It’s another way manufacturers can obtain information about Wellmune quickly and conveniently.”

For more information, visit www.wellmune.com.

sweet of the week: ZAP Energy Bars

The latest introduction from Atlantic City, N.J.-based ZAP Products combines the convenience and taste of a candy bar with the health characteristics of fruits and vegetables in an energy bar. ZAP Energy Bars are made with peanut butter and contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. The bars also include 10 natural, dehydrated, kosher vegetables and fruits to provide consumers positive health effects with a sweet taste. For more information, visit www.zapproductscompany.com.