By Deborah Cassell
Editor
Confection & Snack Retailing
casselld@bnpmedia.com.

getting fresh: Gimme gimme more

In the words of the very wise (ahem) Britney Spears, “Gimme gimme more. I want more.” The former Mrs. Federline, crazy though she might be, is actually onto something here. Much like the lyrics to her Top 40 selection “Hit Me Baby One More Time” (which actually made sense once Travis slowed down the song and rerecorded it acoustically), Spears’ recent chart topper is right on. And it speaks to an issue facing every industry, including our very own confectionery business. Consumers want more. They want more from the stores they shop, more from the products they purchase … more for themselves.

I was reminded of this fact just recently by a Tim O’Connor, president & CEO of Brightspot Brands, Buffalo Grove, Ill., who visited my office last week to discuss with me a new line of products his company is creating in response to consumer demand for more, more, more.

Brightspot Brands’ aptly named chocolate candy collection’s initial product launch: Gimme Calcium, which describes itself as “crispy rice puffs dipped in real milk chocolate and sealed in a candy shell.” Sounds tasty, right? But wait. There’s more. Each single-serve, 1-oz. (12-piece) bag of Gimme Calcium contains 500 mg. of calcium (that’s 50% of your daily value) from TruCal, a form of real calcium that’s made from milk.

As O’Connor notes, TruCal is not the same thing as calcium carbonate, which often is used to fortify cereal and has been known to cause consumer health problems, including kidney stones in children. According to its Web site, TruCal is “a naturally-derived dairy ingredient, available in powder form. It contains a balanced mineral profile including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper and iron. These minerals are required for optimal bone health.”

Everyone knows that milk does a body good. But not everyone drinks it. Some people don’t “do” dairy at all. But hopefully, they’re getting their calcium intake from somewhere, right? O’Connor’s point exactly. Although he admits that, at first glance, you might liken Gimme Calcium to those chocolate calcium chews you find in health food aisles, he adds that you’d be completely mistaken. The calling card of the Gimme collection is that it’s candy … with benefits … from “the world's first nutritionally enhanced candy company.” Chocolate is simply the carrier of the nutrient, O’Connor notes.

The target audience for Gimme Calcium? O’Connor describes them as 20- and 30-somethings who grew up with fruit snacks and sit in front of a computer all day (hey --that’s me!) and haven’t had a candy marketed toward them in a long time. Why this group? “Because kids already get all the good stuff,” O’Connor says.

“One consumer at a time, we want to change the way people view the candy aisle,” he explains. To that end, Brightspot Brands has created a catchy product name that people can relate to; they’ve packaged their innovation in a bag that’s hard to miss; and they’ve made sure that there are no words on the ingredients statement that you can’t pronounce -- a smart move, given consumers’ growing penchant for reading labels.

According to Brightspot Brands, “Great ideas never tasted so good.” Maybe they’re onto something.

Next up for Brightspot Brands is Gimme Omega-3 -- dark chocolate candies containing (you guessed it) unsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids from flax, not fish oil. Omega-3s offer many benefits. According to www.webmd.com, these include “reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke while helping to reduce symptoms of hypertension, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain and other rheumatoid problems, as well as certain skin ailments.”

Now, I never intended to dedicate an entire column to a single product or company (“Oops, I did it again”), but what excites me about Brightspot Brands is its ingenuity. Here is a company that’s thinking outside the box and taking both the consumer’s wants and needs into consideration. As the recipient of a number of new products from confectioners, chocolatiers and snack producers every day, I welcome submissions from those who are taking risks and presenting themselves in such a way that one cannot help but pick the product up off the shelf, whether for its eye-catching package, unique health claims … or simply because the item looks good enough to eat.
 
“We’re trying to change consumer behavior here,” O’Connor asserts. “We’re not selling ounces. We’re selling an experience.”

Gimme gimme more.

For more information about Gimme Calcium, visit www.brightspotbrands.com


OTA launches marketing campaign

An authority on the organic industry, the Organic Trade Association recently announced its marketing and public relations initiative, which is expected to reach more than 25 million consumers in 2009.

“This unparalleled effort to educate consumers about the benefits of organic comes at an historic point of change for America,” says Christine Bushway, executive director, OTA. “Never has there been as much evidence backing the benefits of organic to public and environmental health, as many organic farmers on the land, and as many educational programs preparing a new generation of organic farmers. But never in recent years has there been as high a level of consumer spending confusion and concern. The role of this campaign is to set the record straight and help consumers make the educated choice.”

To meet these goals, the OTA plans to relaunch its organic Web site and E-Newsletter, introduce an Organic Input Almanac and sponsor consumer events, among other marketing initiatives.

“OTA’s massive new marketing campaign will heighten awareness, enthusiasm and active support for organic products, and will help ensure that organic sales continue to grow,” says Laura Batcha, marketing director, OTA. “The organic industry is destined to reach a whole new level in the year ahead. More consumers than ever will be using organic products in their daily lives.”

For more information, visit www.ota.com.

Cadbury announces sustainability report

On Nov. 6, Cadbury launched its 2007/2008 corporate responsibility and sustainability report, which was reviewed by Forum for the Future.

“Since our last review, we’ve significantly strengthened our sustainability agenda,” explains Alex Cole, Cadbury global corporate affairs director. “With ‘Purple Goes Green’ and the ‘Cadbury Cocoa Partnership,’ we’re responding to climate change and securing the future of our key ingredient cocoa. And we’re investing accordingly, over €45 million in the case of the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership. It’s all part of our belief that ‘doing good is good for business’ -- a tradition which was started by the Cadbury family nearly 200 years ago, but which has never been more relevant than today.”

Cadbury’s “Purple Goes Green” program plans to reduce carbon emissions, packaging and water use. So far, the company has reduced 3.6% in carbon emissions and 10% in water use in 2007. Cadbury also plans to invest more than €45 million over ten years into the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership.

For more information, visit www.cadbury.com.

Chew this gum…for a good cause

Project 7, a Southlake, Texas-based consumer goods company that’s passionate about social change, will distribute an all-natural chewing gum at Whole Foods Market’s natural and organic grocery stores beginning in January 2009. Half of the profits from Project 7 Chewing Gum will benefit seven critical areas of global need: Build the Future, Feed the Hungry, Heal the Sick, Help Those in Need, Hope for Peace, House the Homeless and Save the Earth.

“With the success of Project 7 Purified Water, we want to continue ‘changing the score’ with our second line -- chewing gum -- a product used daily by millions of people around the world,” said Tyler Merrick, president and founder of Project 7.  “We are extremely pleased and proud that Whole Foods Market, the leader in high-quality natural and organic foods, has recognized Project 7 Chewing Gum’s naturally flavored, cause-driven attributes, thereby making it available to like-minded consumers.  This launch is another catalyst for giving, offering one more way to make helping those less fortunate as habitual as actually chewing gum.”

Project 7 Chewing Gum comes in three flavors, each representing an area of critical need: Fresh Mint for Save the Earth; Peppermint Vanilla for Feed the Hungry; and Mango Mint for House the Homeless.  Available in 12-piece packs, the gum is enhanced with vitamins B12, B6 and C as well as with green tea, and contains no artificial flavors or preservatives. Project 7 Chewing Gum will be packaged in 40% recyclable material using soy inks and retail for $1.39 - $1.59.

For more information, visit www.Project7.com.

Private label a viable alternative

It’s not your father’s or mother’s private-label product anymore. At least that what 72% of consumers surveyed by Schaumburg, Ill.-based The Nielsen Co. said, affirming that private-label products are good alternatives to name brands.  In addition, 63% of the nearly 54,000 shoppers polled indicated that private-label quality is as good as name brand, with 33% pointing out that some store brands are of even higher quality.

Two-thirds (67%) of consumers surveyed said store brands deliver “extremely good value,” while 35% opinioned that they are willing to pay the same or more for store brands if they like them.

“In today’s economy, consumers are looking for more ways to save money and for many of them, that means taking a new look at private-label products,” explains Nielsen’s Todd Hale, senior vice president, Consumer & Shopper Insights. “With more retailers offering satisfaction guarantees on private-label purchases, and even serving up blind taste testing and trial programs, consumers’ exposure to private-label products has never been greater.”

Earlier analysis by the global information and media company suggests that private-label sales growth is driven primary by rising commodity and food prices, particularly in staple categories that are dominated by private-label brands. Nevertheless, the latest uptick in private label sales -- store brand sales were up 10% in supermarkets and 13% in drug stores for the 52 weeks ended September 6, 2008 -- suggests that budget-conscious consumers may be shifting away from established brands for better deals, Nielsen reports.

According to statistics published in the November issue of Candy Industry’s and Confection & Snack Retailing’s sister publication, Private Label Buyer, food, drug and mass market private-label sales in the total chocolate category account for $83.7 million or 1.7% of the $4.94-billion segment. Still, private-label growth compared to last year -- 4.9% -- outperformed total category growth -- 2% -- in the same period (for the 52 weeks ending August 10, 2008).

In non-chocolate candies, private label accounts for a larger portion of revenues -- 8.7% or $212.1 million of a $2.45-billion segment. This reflected a 15.1% jump for year-ago private-label sales versus a 0.1% gain for the total category.

For additional information, visit www.nielsen.com and www.privatelabelbuyer.com.

Sweet hazelnut savoir-faire

Few confectioners can trace their recipes back to 1649. Nor can many monitor production of their items in a 200-year-old wine cellar. But Edith and Michel Noyez of Blaignan, France, who resurrected a regional confectionery delicacy called Noisettines -- essentially sweet hazelnuts coated with caramel -- do so with pleasure.

The husband-and-wife team established their company, Noisettine du Medoc, in 1980 in a small village of Blaignan, which boasts a population of just 230. It’s not the size of the village, however, that was critical to the entrepreneurs. Rather, as with all real estate, it was the location.

Based in the Medoc wine-growing region of southwestern France, where artisanal traditions rule, Blaignan provided the Noyez with the right environment to bring back a regional treat based on a 459-year-old recipe.

Today, Noisettine du Medoc has ten specialists producing (yes, in the wine cellar, using only the most modern production equipment) not only Noisettines, but two other hazelnut-based products: Mécoquines, a variation of Noisettines in truffle form, and  Crème de Noisettines, a hazelnut spread.  

Owners Edith and Michel note that their all-natural product Noissettines “are really pleasant with coffee, wine or champagne and are popular for weddings, baptisms and business conferences or any event.”

The company’s hand-packed treats, specifically the Noisettines, have become “ambassadors of the Medoc region” the Noyez assert. In fact, more than 30,000 visitors drop by to see the museum and showroom in Blaignan every year.

For more information visit  www.noisettines.fr.

sweet of the week: Activ8 Probiotic Crunch Bars

When Seattle-based Cascade Fresh transitioned from making yogurt to making probiotic crunch bars, it was a logical step to take. Activ8 Probiotic Crunch Bars contain eight live active probiotic cultures, hence the name, and offer 5.55 billion colony-forming units of probiotics, which is more than one would find in 12 cups of typical yogurt. Probiotic cultures have been shown to improve the digestive system, stimulate the immune system and balance the amount of healthy bacteria in the body. In addition to their probiotic cultures, the bars are organic, gluten-free, dairy free and naturally sweetened with Agave nectar, and do not contain preservatives, stabilizers, artificial sweeteners or artificial colors. Activ8 Probiotic Crunch Bars come in four flavor combinations: Blueberry/Acai, Cherry/Vanilla, Peanut/Chocolate Chip and Pomegranate/Goji. For more information, visit www.cascadefresh.com.