By Mary Ellen Kuhn
Belgium’s Van Damme Confectionery is working to whip up enthusiasm among U.S. retailers and consumers.
With the exception of the perennial favorite campfire concoction s’mores and Peeps from Bethlehem, Pa.-based Just Born, marshmallows are not mainstream confectionery items to most U.S. consumers.
In Europe, however, marshmallows have a much richer history and occupy a more substantial niche in the marketplace. Now Europe’s leading marshmallow maker, Van Damme Confectionery, is working to whip up enthusiasm among U.S. retailers and consumers for the soft and fluffy confectionery treat.
European-style marshmallows taste different than their U.S. counterparts because they are formulated differently, explains Michel Sas, vice president and general manager of Van Damme Confectionery and the man charged with the mission of cracking open the U.S. marshmallow market. For one thing, says Sas, European products are made with glucose syrup, which is a whey derivative, vs. the corn syrup used in traditional, U.S.-made marshmallows. Van Damme’s proprietary production process results in a lighter, fluffier product, he continues.
Van Damme’s campaign to establish a foothold in the U.S. confectionery market is well researched. Sas is currently presenting a variety of products to retailers, and Van Damme has the capacity to further customize its offerings for private-label applications, says Sas. Here’s a look at some of the Van Damme offerings.
Mallow Scoops – Van Damme’s best seller, these marshmallow “scoops” in peach, strawberry and banana flavors boast a crystallized sugar coating that makes them extra-crispy. They come in an ice cream cone-shaped 5.3-ounce bag and have a suggested retail price of $1.49.
Marshmallow Fries – These flavored, pastel-colored marshmallow pieces are shaped like French fries. Targeted to kids, they come packaged in a 7-ounce stand-up bag with a suggested retail price of $1.99.
Super Marshmallows – These are high quality Van Damme marshmallows shaped like mini logs and packaged in a 16-ounce plastic tub designed to ensure an extended shelf life. The suggested retail price is $4.49.
Jammies – Packaged in 3.5-ounce bags, Jammies are pink marshmallow puffs with a strawberry filling. The suggested retail price range is 99 cents to $1.19.
Twists – This item features colorful marshmallow “strands” twisted together and sold in a 3.5-ounce peg bag for a suggested retail price of about 99 cents.
Chocomallows – As their name suggests, these are chocolate-enrobed marshmallows. They come packaged in a 7-ounce plastic tub with the words “from Belgium” highlighted on the package to get consumers thinking about the reputation Belgian chocolate enjoys.
Van Damme also offers a full array of seasonal products.
Sas is convinced that the timing is right for Van Damme’s U.S. market push.
“What we’ve seen is that in the higher-end gourmet food market, there’s a revival of the hand-made marshmallow, a revival of nostalgic products, and marshmallows fit into that category,” he says.
The pink and white "marshmallow man" a.k.a. "Pinkie" featured on Van Damme’s packaging pays homage to the marshmallow’s origins in Europe. There, the earliest marshmallow offerings were sold in the form of pink and white strips. Because the strips resembled bacon, Europeans often describe marshmallow products as "spek," which is the Dutch word for bacon.