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

getting fresh: Coupon nation

Time is money. A penny saved is a penny earned. The buck stops here. Never were there so many clichés as there are about the almighty dollar. And never was there a time when these clichés came to mind so much as right now.

As the American government works on implementing a stimulus package that hopes to rejuvenate a down economy, everyday consumers must find ways, in the meantime, to bear increasing financial burdens. For some, finding innovative ways to make or save money is a new challenge. For others, it’s something they’ve been doing all along.

Take my mom, a woman who’s been clipping coupons her whole life, elevating the process almost to an art form, where discounts come in triplicate (Me: “Why do you have three coupons for the same product, Mom?” Her response: “You want one?”). She uses them on almost every item she buys, from those zesty pickle chips I couldn’t find here in Chicago to the honey-baked ham we had for Easter. Mom’s been pinching pennies for as long as I can remember – partly to off-set other household and entertainment expenses (such as Dad’s season tickets for Iowa football – Go Hawks!). She shops multiple grocery stores in order to get the best items at the best prices. Sometimes, my mother even turns a profit on purchases, thanks to the double-coupon deals supermarkets in her town offer. Price-matching on the part of competing supermarkets in her area further fuels the savings for economy-stricken shoppers.

Take the recent coupons found in her local Meijer store’s weekly circular, which included 17 pages of “Dollar Deals” designed to help consumers “Save Some Serious Coin.” Offers included bulk nuts for $2, $4 and $6 per pound; Voortman bulk cookies for $2 per pound, Nabisco cookies and crackers, two for $5; and Twizzlers, Whoppers and Milk Duds, three for $2. The flier also advertised double coupons up to 99 cents. (Visit www.meijer.com for a closer look.)

Mom’s not alone. Pick up the paper, turn on the TV or go online, and you are sure to find articles about men, women and entire families who are clipping coupons like mad in an effort to spend less and save more. CNN recently spotlighted one “coupon queen” who purchases six (yes, six) Sunday papers every week as part of the thrift process. Yes, coupons are everywhere – in the newspaper, on the back of your grocery receipt – even on the Web. Virtual sources such as www.mycoupons.com, www.valpak.com and www.coolsavings.com offer consumers downloadable savings at the click of a button.

Just ask my brother. He’s not a clipper, but he’s no less addicted to finding a good deal online, whether it be for a flight to Ohio, a resort stay in Mexico or a new laptop for his sister, for which she will eventually pay him back. (Thanks, Michael.) My brother and his wife have seen fit to teach my 7-year-old nephew (who’s been known to clip coupons himself) the value of money, as well, giving him an allowance and a bank in which to save, spend and give. Although it will be years before Christian owns a car or has a mortgage, what he’s learning now will hopefully serve him in the long run.

As for me, I do my part. For example, I never purchase anything from Borders or Bed, Bath & Beyond without a discount. I earn points towards rewards with my credit cards and free retail club memberships. I’ve joined every e-mail birthday club in existence so that come January, I’m the recipient of a free stir fry, free ice cream, a free burger, you name it. (Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch?) I try to take in matinees to avoid paying full-price for movies. And I avoid ordering soda pop for $2 or more while eating out when good old ice water will do.

That said, I’ve got to get back to clipping. I brandished some scissors and clipped for a while at my parents’ house this past weekend, but I’ve got a lot more room for savings in the magnetic coupon organizer my mother stuffed in my stocking this past December. According to The New York Times, the “humble coupon” is this season’s “must-have.” And I’m not one to miss out on what’s in style.

But I’m not stopping there. After doing my taxes last night (just in the nick of time), I was offered two free services by TurboTax: Quicken Online and Quicken Picks. The first allows you to track your spending and find ways to save money. The latter provides users with discounts and cash-back bonuses for shopping select stores, from Wal-Mart to Restaurant.com.

Am I going to look into these alternate budgetary avenues?

Bet your bottom dollar I am.

Mars aims for sustainability by 2020

McLean, Va.-based Mars, Inc. has announced its goal to certify its entire cocoa supply as being produced in a sustainable manner by 2020.

“As a leader in the pursuit of a sustainable global cocoa industry, Mars, Inc., in line with its five principles, is working toward developing and advancing sustainable cocoa farming systems for the millions of small holder farmers involved with cocoa production,” says Paul S. Michaels, president & CEO of Mars.

“Our commitment to sustainability is serious and long-term, and this announcement is a major step toward our global commitment to purchase only cocoa that is certified as being produced in a sustainable manner,” he adds.

As a result of this initiative, Mars and the Rainforest Alliance have announced a multi-year, multi-country collaboration, which would give Rainforest Alliance certification to 100,000 metric tons of cocoa for use in Mars products each year by 2020. Additionally, Mars will be using Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa in its Galaxy Chocolate, sold in the U.K. and Ireland, beginning in 2010.

“The move by Mars to Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa shows a real commitment to sustainable farming,” says Tensie Whelan, president of the Rainforest Alliance. “When companies with the scale and heritage of Mars show this level of leadership, the results are measureable improvements in the quality of life for cocoa farmers, their families and communities, and a cleaner, greener environment for all of us.”

In addition to the company’s new goals, it will continue to work with the UTZ Certified Good Inside program for cocoa and the Mars Partnership for African Cocoa Communities of Tomorrow (iMPACT).

For more information, visit www.mars.com or www.rainforest-alliance.org.

Barry Callebaut signs distribution agreement with Bunge Alimentos

Barry Callebaut Brasil S/A, a subsidiary of Barry Callebaut, and Bunge Alimentos, a subsidiary of Bunge Limited, have signed a distribution agreement making Bunge the exclusive distributor of Barry Callebaut’s artisanal chocolate products in the food service market in Brazil. The agreement also enables Barry Callebaut and Bunge to jointly produce a range of compound and chocolate products under Barry Callebaut’s Sicao and Bunge’s Gradina brands.

According to ECD Consulting, the Brazilian foodservice markets accounts for nearly 60,000 tons of chocolate and compound products annually. Barry Callebaut and Bunge hope to gain a share of about 10,000 tons within two to three years.

Additionally, in accordance with the distribution agreement with Bunge, Barry Callebaut is planning to construct a chocolate factory in the southeast region of Brazil. The company’s goal is for the factory’s annual production capacity to be around 20,000 tons and for the factory to be operational by the end of 2009, says Barry Callebaut CEO Patrick De Maeseneire.

“South America is the only significant chocolate market worldwide where we do not have a chocolate factory of our own yet,” De Maeseneire says. “Our renewed focus on our core business with industrial and artisanal customers allows us now to fully concentrate on expanding our business in South America. Bunge has the largest distribution network in Brazil. Every day, it serves about 25,000 points of sale and, therefore, is an excellent partner for us in the commercialization of our products that will be made in Brazil.”

For more information, visit www.barry-callebaut.com.

Tom and Sally's adds four new 100% Organic Skinny Bar flavors

Brattleboro, Vt.-based Tom and Sally’s Handmade Chocolates, Inc. has added four new chocolate bars to its line of 100% Organic Skinny Bars. The new flavors are Belgian 41% Milk Chocolate, Belgian 41% Milk Chocolate infused with Cinnamon and Nutmeg, Belgian 41% Milk Chocolate infused with Cocoa Nibs, and Belgian 66% Dark Chocolate.

"We named the bars 'skinny' because the bars themselves are slender,” says co-owner Sally Fegley. “Because they are skinny, the bars are only about 200 calories each.  It's all about portion control.”

For more information, visit www.tomandsallys.com.

The Warrell Corp. acquires Classic Caramel

The Warrell Corp., which sells candy under the Pennsylvania Dutch Candies and Katherine Beecher brands, has acquired the assets of York, Pa.-based Classic Caramel Co. As one of the largest caramel producers in the United States, Classic Caramel is known for making about 30 different types of caramel, including liquid and sugar-free varieties, along with salt-water taffy and maple, butter rum, vanilla and chocolate toffees.

According to an article written by Christina Kauffman in The York Dispatch, The Warrell Corp.’s senior vice president Kevin Silva has said that Classic Caramel would change its name to The Warrell Classic Co. The story adds that Warrell plans to rehire 10 of Classic Caramel’s former employees and hopes to re-hire the rest of the staff of 20 by 2010.

“The addition of Classic Caramel to The Warrell Corp. will enhance both our specialty distribution business and our contract manufacturing capabilities,” says Patrick Huffman, president of The Warrell Corp., in a release. “Several current and new products planned for production in the York, Pa. plant will be sold both through Pennsylvania Dutch Candies and traditional Classic sales channels.”

For more information, visit www.warrellcorp.com.

sweet of the week: Das Foods' Das Lolli

In tough economic times such as these, consumers turn to sweets for comfort, says Katie Das, founder of Chicago-based Das Foods. For an affordable non-chocolate treat, the company has launched Das Lolli in four exotic flavors: Fab-O-Pom (pomegranate and orange), Caramel Me Happy (caramel and lavender), Naughty Ginger (ginger and lemon) and Man Bait (maple bacon). Each lollipop is just 30 calories and retails for $0.50. Furthermore, Das Lolli treats are all-natural, corn syrup-free, and additive- and preservative-free, and contain no artificial flavors or colors. For more information, visit www.dasfoods.com.