At World Market, candy is a foreign and domestic affair. The Oakland, Calif.-based retailer brings together brands from internationally known confectioners and chocolatiers as well as nostalgic American sweets, seasonal favorites and value-priced private label products.

Shopping at World Market is like browsing an international bazaar of goods from around the globe: baskets from Bali, pottery from Portugal, wine from New Zealand, licorice from Australia, gummies from Germany, hard candy from Japan, chocolates from Belgium.

Countless other foreign finds hail from Italy, England, Turkey, Thailand, Greece and China, as illustrated by wall murals at the front of the store. The U.S. retailer’s diverse offerings range from home furnishings and accessories for the kitchen, bathroom and dining area to food and drink, including snacks, candy, cakes and cookies from brands worldwide.

Music played throughout World Market’s spacious warehouse-like stores - the average location ranges from 15,000 to 17,000 sq. ft., with loft ceilings - feature lyrics sung in different languages, too, further convincing shoppers that they’ve been transported to a far-off land … no visas or passports required.

After all, World Market’s mission is to “search out and share with our customers affordable, authentic, unique finds for gift-giving, home décor and entertaining from around the world,” Associate Public Relations Manager Henry Alvidres says. The Oakland, Calif.-based company opened its first store in San Francisco in 1958 and has since grown to encompass 268 locations in 30 states, including its most recent addition in San Antonio, Texas.

“Our buyers travel the world, visiting remote villages, centuries-old factories and foreign bazaars, searching for unique products,” explains Alvidres, who calls World Market “a spirited, eclectic and wildly different retailer that turns shopping into an adventure.”

The company’s candy, cookie, chocolate and snack buyers shop the All Candy Expo (now called the Sweets & Snacks Expo) for domestic product, the Fancy Food Show for more gourmet items and, for international finds, the International Sweets and Biscuits Fair in Cologne - “a great show, because I see the whole European market there,” notes Janice Leong, buyer, cookies and candy.

These trade expositions “give me ammunition to consider new product,” she says.

Product offerings are ever-changing at the international superstore. If Leong stumbles upon something innovative that would be a great fit for World Market’s merchandising plan, then she goes ahead and adds it, says Sarah Esterling, divisional merchandise manager, gourmet food.

“It’s a constant process,” Esterling notes.

Candy and chocolate make up a huge chunk of  World Market’s core food lineup. Its biggest sellers include chocolate brands Ghirardelli and Lindt, Leong says. These occupy freestanding POP displays with their respective Squares and Lindor Truffles products.

Chocolate bars from the United Kingdom like Cadbury, in addition to Chicago’s Vosges line, also fare well, Leong says. As such, Cadbury is featured in displays highlighting its Dairy Milk, Flake and Crunchie bars; meanwhile, various flavors of Vosges take up an entire shelf in the chocolate aisle.

Just who’s purchasing World Market’s international delights? According to Alvidres, the target demographic is a 25-55-year-old female who’s also a college-educated homeowner with a high household income of $50,000-$125,000.

From a psychographic perspective, “we have a large number of expat customers from Germany, England and Australia,” Esterling adds, so “we try and source some of the candy products that are really well-known in other countries.”

In addition, shoppers often come in search of items they enjoyed while vacationing overseas.

Still others purchase products that are foreign to them simply because “it’s easy to try candy,” Esterling says. “The barrier is very low.”

But consumers need not worry about getting lost in translation. Domestic products also are prevalent at World Market.

World Market's Northbrook, Ill., store is one of 268 locations nationwide.

Domestic Bliss

International scope aside, domestic goods play an important role for the retailer, especially when it comes to retro confections.

Since 2003, dedicated setups in the store’s well-marked “Nostalgic Sweet Shoppe” have drawn attention to old-time confections that Americans know and love. They include Sugar Daddy, Red Hots, Jujyfruits, Charleston Chews, Oh Henry!, Boston Baked Beans, Goobers, Swedish Fish, Atomic Fireballs, Razzles, Chuckles, Owyhee Idaho Spuds, candy buttons and products such as Tootsie Rolls dressed in their original packaging.

Sweets spill out of woven baskets and barrels or tubs for a classic candy shop aesthetic. In some cases, these items are coupled with old-fashioned bottled beverages such as Virgil’s Cream Soda, NuGrape Soda and Fentimans Dandelion & Burdock Soda and Old Town Root Beer.

“We cross-merchandise where it makes sense,” Leong says. Hence, a glass container in the home décor department becomes a candy dish when filled with Jordan Almonds for “a one-stop shop presentation,” she points out.

Cross-merchandising is geared more toward behavior than packaging, Esterling adds. For example, coffee may be paired with biscotti and tea paired with biscuits as “a solution for the customer or something delicious they should try,” she explains.

World Market’s Nostalgic Sweet Shoppe targets “folks that were born in the ’50s and ’60s,” Leong says. “When they see it, they get excited.” Kids buy their fair share, too, especially of the many portable theater boxes, she adds.

In order to keep the Shoppe fresh, World Market updates its graphics and signage every year, Esterling says. 

And it will continue to do so moving forward, as interest in confectionery nostalgia shows no signs of slowing, being further driven by the economy, Leong says.

The Nostalgic Sweet Shoppe’s various SKUs, sold at affordable prices, spark “comfortable memories of your past,” she notes.

Similar offerings are mixed with novelties in World Market’s Food & Wine department, which is located in the back middle section of the store, clearly demarked by overhead signage. Within Food & Wine are candy, chocolate and snacks.

In the candy and chocolate aisles, consumers can pick and choose from every category and brand imaginable, including timeless favorites like Hot Tamales, Abba-Zabba and Big Hunk bars and novel creations like Pac-Man Ghost Sours, Pop Rocks and Hello Kitty candies.

For consumers seeking three specific categories - gummies, licorice and marzipan - World Market also is a “destination,” Leong notes, adding that although Germany is the country best known for the last of these, the store also carries marzipan made in Greece as well as the United States.

In the cookie aisle, McVitie’s, Loacker and Walkers share shelf space with private label offerings from the World Market brand. 

Nearby, potato and tortilla chips from brands such as Kettle, Mexi-Snax, El Sabrosa, Jensen’s Orchard, Sensible Portions and Zapp’s also compete with World’s Market’s own line of salty snacks.

World Market's Nostalgic Sweet Shoppe features retro theater box candies from America's past. 

Private Party

Private label products have gained great popularity over the last few years, especially given the recession. As such, World Market offers a signature collection of products, including both snacks and confections, bearing its company logo.

In the Food & Wine department’s snack aisle, shoppers can find World Market brand potato and tortilla chips as well as hanging bags and plastic containers of World Market brand snack nuts and dried fruits.

The company also sells World Market brand chocolate bars, for $1.99 each, in Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Toffee Caramel, Chili & Lime, Honey & Green Tea, Chipotle Chili and Triple Berry varieties. The bars are positioned in the chocolate aisle of the Food & Wine department as well as at the checkout, doubling their exposure. Shoppers also will find plastic containers filled with bulk candy such as cherry sours, malt balls, milk chocolate pepitas and other confections featuring World Market branding.

With its private label offering, “we try to seek out really good quality at a really good price and value and uniqueness for the customer,” Esterling sums up.

Chocolate bunnies -- and more unusual seasonal favorites -- abound in World Market's Easter displays.

Seasons Change

Customers looking for traditional seasonal products and more unusual options can turn to World Market, too.

When it comes to candy sales, “holiday is very key,” Leong asserts, adding that top-selling times of year for World Market’s confectionery lineup are Christmas followed by Halloween.

However, if you’ve visited the store recently, “you might have tripped over a few bunnies here and there,” Esterling says, jokingly.

Currently, Easter is, indeed, the main event. Colorful displays up front feature a wide variety of hollow and solid chocolate rabbits in both foil and metal containers from brands such as Germany’s Riegelein Confiserie and Switzerland’s Frey, in addition to items such as marzipan Easter figurines, sour gummy bunnies, miniature chicks from Lindt, Bunny Tails White Cheddar Cheeseballs, Pixy Stix Green Grass, seasonally shaped animal crackers, pink and yellow containers of cotton candy from Fun Sweets, Lee’s Mini Easter Snowmallows and Splendid lollipops.

Here, the World Market brand also is engaged, offering clever products such as Gummy Fried Eggs.Since Easter just wouldn’t be Easter without certain brands, World Market boasts several shelves of bunnies and chicks from Just Born’s Marshmallows Peeps line, in hues ranging from hot pink and purple to yellow and orange, as well as seasonal PEZ dispensers and Eastertime favorites from Cadbury: “A Tasty Tradition,” according to in-store signage.

Decorative baskets, egg ornaments and “creative crinkle” (aka artificial grass) also populate the area, which is accented by a rotating greeting card rack. Meanwhile, baking supplies such as Guittard butterscotch, choc-au-lait and green mint chips appear alongside Gingerbird Bird House and Ladybug Cupcake kits, Carrot Cake Cookies, springy scone mixes and even kitchen tools that shoppers can grab just before checking out.

Checkout This

Just steps from World Market’s ample Easter displays, friendly employees stand ready to ring up customers.

Candy and gum are “integral to front of store,” Leong notes, when asked about what’s selling at the register. Here, World Market stops shoppers in their tracks with in-your-face confections. Large displays on all four sides of each lane host hanging bags of Haribo gummies in Peaches, Gold-Bears, Licorice, Raspberries, Happy Cola, Twin Cherries, Fizzy Cola and Sour Sghetti varieties as well as chewing gums not found in traditional supermarkets, such as Clove, Black Jack, Fruit Stripe, Choward’s and Glee brands.

The vast array of unique items here also include Sunny Seed Drops from Sunflower Food & Spice Co., Utz Pretzel Rods, Peko Sweets, Sukoka Soft Coffee Candy by Unican, Katjes Gummies, Jelly Bellys, Milkita Milk Candy, Fox’s Glacier Mints, Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles, Choward’s Lemon Candy, Cocoa D’or NutTflles, Botan Rice Candy and Gin-Gins Boost.

As if that weren’t enough, three-tiered baskets filled with different varieties of Ghirardelli chocolate squares sit at the end of the actual checkout counters for added impulse enticement.

But the impulse to purchase is not exclusive to the checkout. As shoppers navigate the bazaar that is World Market, they will be sure to pick up one unique find after another, as if on vacation. The cost of travel may escalate, but wannabe globe-trotters still can enjoy some international flavor - without boarding a plane - at this domestic marketplace.

At a Glance

World Market

Headquarters: Oakland, Calif.
Key Executives: Berry Feld, ceo; Jane Baughman, executive vice president & cfo; Jeff Turner, executive vice president of operations; Joan Fuji, executive vice president, human resources
No. of Employees: 6,000
Stores: 268 locations in 30 states
Average Store Size: 15,000-17,000 sq. ft.
Annual Sales, Year Ending 2009: $863.5-$879.5 million
Categories of products offered: Furniture, home décor, kitchen & dining, bed & bath, accessories, food & drink (including candy, chocolate, cookies & snacks)
Web site: