getting fresh: PEZ, from P to Z
Last month, the man credited with the creation of the PEZ dispenser passed away. (See today’s edition of sweet & healthy for the full story.) Prague-native Curtis Allina grew up in Vienna, Austria – an interesting fact, given that he went on to pioneer one of America’s most beloved confectionery delights.
Today, the PEZ dispenser, which dates back to 1949, is among a handful of brands with steep histories that are still going strong, as mentioned in my editor’s note in the January issue of Retail Confectioner.
And kids love the product as much as their parents and grandparents once did. New characters come out on a regular basis as well as seasonally. Perhaps most importantly, the PEZ dispenser has become a major collector’s item.
Just ask my colleague Marina Mayer, managing editor of Candy Industry sister publications Dairy Foods and Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery, who started collecting PEZ dispensers around age 5 or 6. (She turns 30 this month – Best wishes, Marina!)
“I’ve just always had a thing for the way the dispenser worked,” she says, adding that “it’s one the very few candy or food related packaging items that are out there that you can collect and that come in different sets.”
Today, Marina owns 50-75 dispensers, the majority of which are in complete sets, from Star Wars to Wizard of Oz. Her favorite? A PEZ Peanuts collection featuring Snoopy and Woodstock, among other characters from the cartoon. Marina also owns sets designed around holidays such as Easter and Halloween. Her most recent acquisition: A Cubs baseball dispenser given to her by yours truly for Christmas. (Marina also owns a large version of said dispenser, on display in her cubicle here at work.) Although most of the items in her arsenal were gifts, she’s also made purchases at Walgreens and online.
During my own Web search for PEZ, I found single dispensers, sets and candy refills for sale everywhere from Walgreens to Walmart, in addition to untold numbers of articles, blogs and Web sites all about the popular brand. For example, at www.amazon.com, visitors can buy a giant PEZ Frankenstein, PEZ Disney sets, PEZ Batman, a PEZ Pixar collection and – stop the presses – a line featuring various PEZ Elvises. Interested parties hoping to grow their own confectioner menageries also can pick up the book “A Collector’s Guide to PEZ.”
The only thing better than PEZ Elvis? PEZ Star Trek. At www.worldmarket.com, I found a gift set featuring the latter (“an exciting new collectible for both the diehard Trekkie and the PEZ collector …”) and promptly e-mailed my parents to request it for my birthday next week.
Although most PEZ collectors do it from the heart, some say they’ve made big money selling the dispensers. In fact, one ebay seller claims to have earned $4.5 million selling PEZ dispensers. (He’s now offering up the rights to publish his life story for the low cost of $250,000.) Another seller is asking $4,995 for the domain name www.pezme.com There are even bootleg PEZ dispensers. (Gee, what I wouldn’t give for a Vintage Hungarian Maharaja; that’s Sanskrit for “great king” – word of the day!)
At www.burlingamepezmuseum.com/store1.html fireman from 1970, PEZ in the shape of Japanese bullet trains, mini-PEZ and a retired set featuring another favorite character of mine and my family’s: Garfield. (The collection comes complete with Nermel and Arlene, lesser-known characters from the comic strip.) Other hard-to-find dispensers, like a PEZ bride and groom and some old-school PEZ Valentine dispensers, are located at www.pezdispenser.org. (The “PEZ collector’s paradise” is not to be confused with the brand’s official site, www.pez.com).
Yes, Curtis Allina’s legacy will live on forever through the ubiquitous PEZ dispenser. Whether in the shape of Charlie Brown, Captain Kirk or a giant clown (my mother’s one and only), the PEZ dispenser will outlive us all.
Consultancy predicts more mergers, economic turbulence for 2010
Whether Kraft Foods succeeds in acquiring Cadbury PLC or not, Gary Stibel, founder and ceo of the New England Consulting Group, still foresees increased merger and acquisition activity this year.
Stibel predicts that the confectionery industry will experience both “blockbuster and bolt-on” deals during the coming year, a result of ongoing consolidation that’s been going on in the food industry for the past several years, increased availability of capital and the presence of a new administration in the White House. Reducing costs and responding to changes in the retailing environment continue to play a role in fostering acquisitions.
“The economy in 2010 will resemble the month of March,” he adds. “It will come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. Many are underestimating the strength of this recovery; the recession isn’t over. Unemployment is still in the double-digits, and banks aren’t lending.”
Stibel believes a second stimulus package is necessary to ensure continued growth. He also sees “huge opportunities” for natural and organic confections that focus on healthy alternatives to consumer demand for sweets and treats.
For more information, visit www.necg.net.
Impact Confections names Hanigan to head sales
Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Impact Confections has hired Jim Hanigan as its vice president of sales. Hanigan will be responsible for global sales of the company’s product lines, including its leading extreme-sour brand, WARHEADS.
Prior to joining Impact Confections, Hanigan spent 20 years with Mars, Inc., most recently as v.p of sales for its ice cream division. While at Mars, he also was national sales director for the confectionery division and held key sales positions under its pet food and Uncle Ben’s food divisions.
“I am extremely excited about joining Impact Confections, and I look forward to growing and enhancing the strong portfolio of brand,” Hanigan says.
For more information, visit www.impactconfections.com.
Chocolove to move to larger facility
Chocolove, a Boulder, Colo.-based producer of premium Belgian chocolate, organic and single-origin chocolate bars, will move its operations to an 80,000-sq.-ft. facility this summer.
Founder and CEO Timothy Moley purchased the former Johnson Printing Co. building for $4.5 million, as reported in the Boulder Daily Camera. After an extensive remodel, Chocolove will be in its new facility by July 1. The purchase of the building represents a commitment to continued growth of the business and a commitment to stay in Boulder, the company says.
“The 80,000-sq.-ft. building will allow us to expand and grow in an organized way,” Moley explains. “The additional space will permit installation of new lines of equipment and may lead to new products.”
The new building nearly doubles the space in which the company currently operates. Chocolove offers 17 varieties of chocolate bars, which are sold in more than 7,000 stores nationwide.
For more information, visit www.chocolove.com.
Pez dispenser pioneer passes
Curtis Allina’s departure from PEZ Candy Inc. in 1979 was abrupt, but his contribution to both the company and food packaging will live on for years. Allina, 87, died Dec. 15, 2009, in his Olympia, Wash., home.
A native of Prague who grew up in Vienna, Austria, Allina was appointed head of U.S. operations for Ed. Haas Austria GmbH in 1953 when the Viennese food company was expanding into the North American market. The brick-shaped candies had switched from a tin to a spring-loaded rectangular box with a hinged lid in 1949. It was designed to resemble a cigarette lighter, consistent with the product’s positioning as a cigarette substitute or smokers’ breath freshener. U.S. sales were sluggish until Allina convinced Austrian management to attach a figurehead to the container, effectively changing the package into a toy that appealed to children. While Allina championed the change, the originator of the idea is a matter of dispute.
“He was a visionary,” reflects Joe Vittoria, ceo of PEZ’s U.S. division. “He was mild-mannered, self-effacing, and clearly knew what he was doing.” As many as 50 new dispensers were created in 2009, says Vittoria, with the cumulative total “in the thousands.” Originally available in peppermint- the name is a contraction of “pfefferminz,” German for peppermint - PEZ itself was a manufacturing breakthrough in 1927. Eduard Haas III pioneered a cold-press process and used modified machinery for effervescent drink cubes to produce and package his mints. Before that, peppermint oil was added to boiled sugar, resulting in evaporation of costly oils.
Allina still was in charge when PEZ Candy left New York and established manufacturing operations in Orange, Conn., in 1974. One of three Haas production centers worldwide, the Orange plant still is in operation, producing more than 1 million candy rolls a day. The dispensers are manufactured in Hungary and China.
Sales began to stagnate in the 1970s as promotional support was cut, but the PEZ dispenser was reborn as a nostalgia item in the late 1980s, leading to an expansion of the Orange facility. Today, collectors eagerly await each new character, and the containers are among the most actively traded items on e-Bay. In 2006, the company made its debut on the list of the Top 100 global candy companies, as compiled by Candy Industry, a BNP Media publication.
Editor’s Note: This story is an excerpt from one written for Food Engineering, a sister publication to Candy Industry.
sweet of the week: Sacred Chocolate
“Naked Chocolate” author David Wolfe is the party responsible for the creation of Sacred Chocolate from Sacred Foods, which produces more than 22 varieties of certified organic, raw, vegan, kosher, halal, stone-ground chocolate. The company’s newest introductions are Mylk, a dark chocolate that tastes like milk chocolate; White Passion, the only raw vegan white chocolate in the world; and India Sunset, a chai-curry flavor. The suggested retail price for a 2.1-oz. bar is $9.99.
For more information or to order, call 1-415-456-3311 or visit www.sacredchocolate.com.