Category Development Research Premieres
By Mary Ellen Kuhn
At NCA State of the Industry Conference
Intermittent rain showers in normally sunny Scottsdale didn’t dampen the enthusiasm among more than 450 members of the candy industry who assembled there for the National Confectioners Association’s State of the Industry Conference last month.
Attendees from the manufacturing, distributor, broker, supplier and retail communities engaged in frequently animated exchanges with more than two dozen speakers who addressed topics including consumer behavior, retail best practices, and strategies for candy category development, among others.  
Ray Jones, managing director of Northbrook, Ill.-based Dechert-Hampe & Co., kicked off the conference with a report on preliminary findings from NCA’s new research project on “Opportunities for Confectionery Growth.”
The research initiative, conducted by Dechert-Hampe, will attempt to create “a blueprint that will position the industry for the future,” said Jones.
Jones presented what might be described as a good news/bad news scenario confronting the industry. The good news: Retail space allocated to candy hasn’t changed substantially in the course of the past decade. In 1993, retailers devoted an average of 21.7 linear feet to candy. By 2004, that total had climbed slightly to 22.2 linear feet. The bad news, however, is that in the same time frame, average store size increased by one-third—from 33,000 square feet to 44,000 square feet.
“Why is that a problem?” Jones asked rhetorically. “It’s an issue because candy’s presence in the store has gotten smaller.”
How They See It
(Opportunities for Category Development,Calculated on a 5-Point Scale)
Areas of Agreement
Strategic Action Manufacturers Retailers
New Product Innovation 4.5 4.8
Drive Traffic Down Candy Aisle 4.3 4.3
More Secondary Displays 4.5 3.7
Improved Store Coverage 4.0 3.7
New Buying Occasions 3.9 3.5
Improved Shelf Management 4.1 3.3
Areas of Disagreement
Strategic Action Manufacturers Retailers
Increased Shelf Space 4.6 2.7
More Product Variety 4.2 2.5
Larger Seasonal Sections 3.6 2.7
Rationalized Item Assortments 2.2 4.0
Candy not positioned at the front-end has an exposure problem because only 25 percent of shoppers go down the candy aisle, Jones added.
The initial phase of the research project—in which retailers, brokers, manufacturers and consumers were interviewed—revealed some significant differences in the ways in which vendors and their retail customers view the category.  For example, while vendors eagerly seek increased shelf space for their items, retailers don’t necessarily perceive this as an important vehicle for stimulating category growth.
Bill Kelley, vice chairman of Jelly Belly Candy Co., and former Mars Inc. research director Reg Ohlson were honored by their peers at the State of the Industry conference. Both men were tapped to receive a Distinguished Service Award, recognition that goes to individuals who have worked tirelessly throughout their careers to benefit the candy industry.
Kelley was presented with the award by Herm Rowland, Sr., Jelly Belly chairman. Making the presentation, Rowland cited Kelley’s contributions to the candy industry over the course of his 40 years in the candy business, noting, in particular, his active role in the leadership of NCA.
Accepting the recognition, a visibly moved Kelley said that his years of service were a reflection of the conviction he and his wife, Joanie, share that “you’ve got to give, not just get,” in life.  
Ohlson joined Mars UK in 1956 as a junior research associate and devoted the 34 years until his retirement to scientific pursuits that ranged across fields of study including biotechnology and cocoa breeding, cocoa and pesticides, and sugar and hyperactivity.
“I’m very pleased to see scientific research recognized in this way,” said Ohlson in accepting his award.
NCA/ECRM Partner;
Joint Event May 15-18
Rather than sponsoring similar but competing events, the National Confectioners Association and Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing are teaming up for events that bring buyer and seller together. The two groups plan to use the partnership as a way to increase the value of pre-existing conferences.
The first joint venture between NCA and ECRM, the EPPS Candy Marketplace, will focus on products for Easter and Valentine’s Day, and will be held May 15 – 18, 2005 in Scottsdale, Ariz.  The event will bring retailers and vendors together for collaborative strategic planning.
Buyers are able to scan products of interest and both parties can access meeting notes and information on a secured Website.  Manufacturer product data may be transferred electronically to retail custom formats, which facilitates program execution.
For more information, contact NCA’s Dave Klabunde at (703) 790-5750 or ECRM’s John Allen at (561) 218-3276.

Sweets Not a Big Factor in Weight
The amount of sweets an individual consumes doesn’t materially affect that person’s weight, according to statistics reported by State of the Industry Conference speakers John Stanton and Richard George.
They cited a study that showed that sweets represent 4.1 percent of total calorie intake for adults of optimal Body Mass Index (BMI). The total was slightly greater for underweight adults—a total of 4.2 percent.
For overweight adults, it was slightly less—4.0 percent. For obese adults, it was just slightly greater—4.3 percent.

Topps’ Nancy Bradley Retires
After 35 years of service at Topps Co., Nancy Bradley has retired. She began her career at Topps as a secretary in the purchasing department in 1970, moved to new product development, and in 1975 was promoted to the marketing operations department. She retired as marketing operations administrator on Feb. 25.
Reflecting on her years at Topps, Bradley observed, “Topps was and still is a family-oriented company, and I have had the pleasure of working with many warm, wonderful and knowledgeable people in the confectionery industry. Over the 35 years, we have shared many momentous moments both personally and professionally—both happy and sad—and I would not trade them for anything as they made me who I am today.”
“We at Topps are truly grateful for all of Nancy’s key contributions to so many different areas of our business,” said Alan Grupp, director of customer marketing. “She will be missed by all.”
Sonrics Candy Ready for U.S. Debut  
Marketers of Sonrics candy, a $200-million brand in Mexico, are gearing up for the U.S. rollout of a 15-item line.
The line-up includes chewing gum, lollipops, bubble gum and bagged candy mixes. Individual SKUs, such as a caramel-flavored milk candy lollipop, a star-shaped marshmallow lollipop, and a lollipop made with alternating chili layers and a mango gum center, all have an authentically ethnic flavor.
Initially, the rollout will target the 29 million U.S. Hispanics of Mexican origin, but marketers, including national importer Sweet Success Candy Co. of West Palm Beach, Fla., expect the Sonrics line to appeal to more than just Hispanic consumers.
“We’re gearing these products to a wide audience,” says Mitch Silverman, president of Sweet  Success Candy Co.
The sales effort will be handled by Royal Brokerage Group, Pompano Beach, Fla. Major chains such as Wal-Mart, HEB and 99 Cents Only will carry the brand. Millbrook Distribution Services, Leicester, Mass., is distributing it. All classes of trade will be targeted.
An extensive program of marketing support, including monthly promotions, pallet and shipper programs, permanent rack fixtures, plus participation in appropriate special events, is planned. The tag line for the Sonrics brand is, “magic, flavor and fun.”
Leading U.S. candy makers Hershey and Masterfoods both have acquired Hispanic brands relatively recently. The Sonrics launch has plenty of marketing muscle behind it, as well. Alegro International, a division of Mexico City-based Sabritas, which is owned by PepsiCo International, markets Sonrics.
Alegro also is introducing a line of peanuts to U.S. consumers. They will be sold under the brand name Karate, with the tag line, “You’ll get a kick out of our nuts.”