The Confection of a Clown

Put on a happy face with the newest addition in the candy plan-o-gram.

If you don’t have it incorporated into the kids’ candy section yet, what are you waiting for? Some say packaged cotton candy is bringing the circus to town everyday — right in candy aisles.
The Imperatives
The retail channel that has really skipped to the trend is the movie rental segment. Buyers claim that cotton candy is a fun item that all kids seem to want once they view it on display. A few have even said that it is the most profitable item in the plan-o-gram, with the highest margins in their candy section. The question is: Can more mainstream retailers capitalize on it in the same way?
Recent surveys show that kids relate this special candy to fairs, circuses and other fun events geared towards them. Parents relate to the nostalgia aspect of the fluffy sweet stuff and are happy to buy it for their kids, if not for themselves to share in, too. According to buyers in the movie rental channel, the category is popular across all ages and ethnic groups — they have labeled it their “universal sweet seller” (compared to popcorn which has universal “salty snack” appeal).
To help bring even more consumer interest to the category, cotton candy manufacturers are stressing the value of the candy. One of the best values available in the video arena is a 7-ounce bag that retails for $1.99.
Marketers have also successfully applied the sour trend to cotton candy. Many have launched their sour cotton candies with the most popular sour flavors — such as sour berry, sour watermelon, sour apple — and are already dreaming up new additions for the summer months (sour pink lemonade, sour cherry cola).
While it is still very early in the lifecycle of cotton candy, the guess is that growth will continue to come from the value side of the business. Some stores are in the process of testing “two-for-$2” bags, which run smaller (about 3.5 ounces each) than what’s considered standard right now. This value offer has been a good way to get consumers to try the sour flavors. Many are mixing a sour flavored bag with a regular flavored bag.

Merchandising Musts
Use the circus theme.
Why sell cotton candy if you’re not going to have fun with it? The most successful retailers in the category speak of highlighting display racks with "great signage" — pictures of clowns, Ferris wheels, and other circus and fair icons.
Capitalize on clip strips.
Other than the display racks, manufacturers say that clip strips are the best way to merchandise the new cotton candy SKUs. Mainstream retailers might take their cue from the video retailers and try "decorating" their video rental departments, as well as video aisles (videos for sale) with cotton candy packs. Customers are used to seeing and buying this type of candy when they rent or buy videos, so chances are, they’ll make the connection in your store.
Clip strip merchandising would also do well in the novelty candy section, especially since many novelty candy companies are starting to look at ways to package the special texture of cotton candy with a toy or novelty item. The theme park/carnival connotation of the cotton candy is a natural for novelty.
Finally, don’t leave out the adults on clip strips. Some retailers have already found that the nostalgic connection adults make with the product warrants an outpost in the regular and up-front candy sections. Savvy candy retailers might also attempt a nostalgic candy section, where even if adults don’t buy the candy for themselves, they’ll buy "a piece of their childhood" for their kids and grandkids.