A Fruitful Pairing

The merger of fruit and chocolate offers consumers something truly new and different, but this emerging category needs some strong exposure at retail to help it take root.
R emember when fruit and chocolate used to mean just chocolate-covered cherries or perhaps chocolate-dipped strawberries sold in a specialty confectionery shop?
Well, the good news for consumers in 2005 is that the options have expanded dramatically. It’s now possible to find packaged products that deliver delectable pairings of sometimes-exotic fruits and rich, high quality chocolate.
Think chocolate and blueberries, apricots, blackberries, cranberries, pears and—yes, certainly still the more traditional chocolate and cherries or strawberries, perhaps with caramel, white chocolate or nuts added to the recipe. A wide assortment of fruit and chocolate is offered in various packaging formats.
Currently fruit and chocolate purchases seem to be skewing toward the seasons, when shoppers spend more time trolling the aisles seeking out distinctive products. But there’s no reason to relegate this subset of the candy market exclusively to the holidays. A price point of about $2.99 works well for everyday offerings. There’s considerably more pricing flexibility for seasonal products, with price points ranging from between $5 and $10 representing a good value to a broad base of consumers.  
Category participants feel strongly that featuring these items prominently in the store is vital. These are value-added products and should be presented as such.
Fruit and chocolate offerings tend to be specialty, premium items, and they belong in the candy set adjacent to other, comparably priced premium confections. Secondary placement in the store helps tremendously. In the supermarket, it makes sense to capitalize on the healthy aura of fruit with a produce aisle placement.  
There’s no clear-cut demographic definition of fruit and chocolate purchasers, but chances are it will be a well-educated woman who is attuned to—and curious about—new products and food trends. This is a consumer with a penchant for indulging in small luxuries and enough disposable income to support the habit.
There’s opportunity to develop this category seasonally and everyday.
Adding nuts into the mix opens up additional interesting avenues of product development. Like fruit, nuts enjoy the benefit of a “good-for-you” aura.  
And because fruit is a natural food, all-natural and/or organic offerings are logical line extensions for the future.
Merchandising Musts
Give it some attention.
Like a Hollywood diva, this category simply cannot be ignored! It’s an emerging segment of the confectionery market, and it’s going to take a bit of nurturing at retail. You can’t just plunk a box of chocolate-covered caramel cherries or truffle blueberries on the store shelf and expect consumers to flock to it. This is particularly true since vendors in this category tend not to be marketing behemoths with huge advertising budgets to stimulate sales.
So bring on the endcaps, power wings and floorstands and/or open up a spot on the checkout counter shelving. And don’t forget to flag it within the candy set. Consider having your vendor create a holiday shipper for your retail chain.
Do some sampling.
As with any new category, introducing consumers to the product is critical. So trial sizes and/or sampling programs make particular sense.