BY Carla Zanetos Scully and Renee Covino
As consumers get more pumped up on treats infused with health benefits, this fortified niche itself gradually grows stronger.
Cereal and beverage makers have been adding nutrients to their products for years, but do vitamins in candy really have consumer appeal?
It’s a slow growing trend, say some candy companies involved in fortifying their products. Nevertheless, it’s one that should gain momentum in the upcoming years.
According to the National Confectioners Association (NCA), candy comprises two percent of the caloric intake of adults and children. So the new thinking is—why shouldn’t consumers benefit from the addition of nutrients while indulging themselves?
The concept of fortified confections has been around for a few years, particularly in the energy bar segment, but now more manufacturers are starting to take advantage of it.
According to late-year 2004 data from Information Resources Inc., the $248 million diet/nutrition candies market segment posted nearly a 71 percent increase in dollar sales and nearly a 75 percent increase in unit sales in the food, drug and mass channels, excluding Wal-Mart.
“This is a market that probably has more potential than has been tapped,” says Alison Bodor, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the NCA. For one thing, she notes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just allowed menhaden oil to be used in confections. Although she didn’t know of any candy manufacturer taking advantage of it, those that would use the fish oil in a sufficient amount would be able to make a heart health claim because it can reduce cholesterol.
Currently, calcium has become a popular ingredient for fortification. Others are opting for vitamins. And some are going with both.
Thompson Candy Co., of Meriden, Conn., has recently launched a new product called Adora, which will be sold in 30-count zip lock pouches containing real milk or dark chocolate disks with 500 milligrams of calcium as well as vitamins D and K.
Adora is being marketed as a supplement rather than a confection because of the addition of vitamins D&K in the product, says Steve Gollob, the company’s executive vice president. According to him, two pieces a day will give women between 31 and 50 years of age 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance of calcium and 50 percent of their daily allowance of vitamins D and K. Vitamin D improves calcium absorption, while vitamin K helps bones process calcium.
The 125-year-old chocolate molding company has been producing a calcium-chocolate combination for about four years, and even has an organic line, but “this is our most refined and targeted approach to date,” according to Gollob.
“Ninety-two percent of women are aware they need calcium,” he says. Yet only 78 percent are using it in some form, he notes. “Today, it is abundantly clear that products focused on ‘women’s health’ could easily become the most lucrative U.S. nutraceutical and functional food market in history. It is a proven market.”
MacNeil Nutritionals markets VIACTIV Soft Calcium Chews, a Tootsie Roll-like chew that comes in multiple flavors including chocolate; its sales reportedly approach $40 million in the $400-million calcium supplement market.
Fun with fortification
It certainly appears that “chocolate isn’t a villain” in this market, according to Ellen Gengler, who does marketing communications for Seattle Chocolate Co. in Seattle. The 13-year-old company introduced its Chick brand of chocolates for women at last June’s All Candy Expo. One of the three flavors, Strong Chick, is a calcium-fortified European milk chocolate sold in three-piece, individually wrapped, portioned-controlled packages. The one ounce of chocolate provides slightly less than 50 percent of the daily allowance for calcium.
There’s a lot of emphasis on osteoporosis, yet as Gengler notes, women aren’t necessarily grabbing the milk. Seattle Chocolates wants women to know that there can be “some great health benefits” in chocolate.
“Chick’s been incredibly well-received,” according to Gengler, who adds that it’s packaged in a fun, vibrant container modeled after the cosmetics industry. The company is now working to get national exposure, and Gengler says the Chick brand has experienced an increase in sales.
Perhaps the biggest success factor, no matter the fortification, is that “in the end, it’s got to taste good,” Bodor points out. That’s why some companies wanting a fortified product—as in the energy bar market—are going to confectioners that already know how to make good-tasting candy, i.e., Masterfoods with its Snickers Marathon Bar, Nestlé with its PowerBar and Hershey with its new Payday PRO High Protein Energy Bar, with 15 grams of protein and 14 vitamins and minerals.
Nestle’s PowerBar has launched four new bars in its Triple Threat energy bar line, including two that are layered and two crispies. The layered caramel peanut fusion and the chocolate caramel fusion are each fully enrobed with a milk chocolate compound coating, while the chocolate peanut butter crisp and caramel peanut crisp are bottom-dipped in compound coating. Fortified with 100 percent of the daily value for vitamins C and E, each Triple Threat includes 10 grams of protein and four grams of fiber totaling 220 to 230 calories each.
“It has a candy-bar-like taste,” says Vanessa Wagar, communications manager at its Berkeley, Calif., headquarters. Marketed for men, she says, “that level of fortification is definitely unique for a candy bar and product for men.”
But fortified confections don’t have to all come from the chocolate category. The Spangler Candy Co., of Bryan, Ohio, started manufacturing a vitamin C-fortified Saf-T-Pop in November, says brand manager Diana Eschhofen. The Winnie the Pooh Saf-T-Pops are the first Saf-T-Pops, since the brand was established in 1948, to be fortified. The vitamin C-fortified Saf-T-Pops are just reaching retail shelves now.
Spangler also is the U.S. distributor of “the world’s No. 1 lollipop,” Chupa Chups, four billion of which are manufactured in Mexico each year in 40 flavors. Kirk Vashaw, director of contractual business activities, says even though the brand Chupa Chups has been long established in Europe and began being distributed in the United States in the mid-1990s, it wasn’t until last year the lollipops became fortified.
Chupa Chups fat-free creamy lollipops are fortified with calcium and vitamins D and A, which is good for the eyes and skin, while Chupa Chups fat-free fruit lollipops are flavored with real fruit juice and enriched with vitamin C, which helps the immune system and promotes healthy teeth and gums. The fruit pops come in strawberry, orange, watermelon and cherry and the creamy pops come in strawberries and cream, choco-vanilla, strawberry yogurt and peach yogurt.
In the gum arena, Jolt Caffeine-Energy Gum (in Spearmint and Icy Mint) “brings the growth and excitement of energy drinks and coffee to confectionery,” according to Kevin Gass, co-founder of GumRunners LLC. “Nearly 80 percent of consumers under the age of 40 already know the Jolt Brand name from its cola heritage.” Based on the success of Jolt Gum, the company is launching Nutra-Trim Weight Management Gum in October. “Our research shows a large percentage of women are already chewing gum to help tide them over between meals,” offers Gass. “So weight management ingredients in gum make a lot of sense to consumers.”
On the heels of last year’s calcium-fortified Cow Power Gum, Ford Gum is now introducing a new Pom-A-Berry gum made of pomegranates and blueberries, touted as high in antioxidants. The product will also be sugar-free and made with xylitol.
According to Harmon Berns, media representative for Ford Gum, “chewing gum is one of the best, fastest and most absorbable carriers for many healthy ingredients.” He adds that consumers are especially interested in value-added ingredients these days that also make the sugarless gum appetite suppressing, breath freshening, vitamin enriched, an aid for quitting smoking, teeth whitening and herbal ingredient-enriched.
“Sugar-free is a large and growing market,” states Berns. “Sugarless gum is now a whopping 68 percent of all gum sales and showed 10 percent growth last year.” Ford sees this as a solid growth market with room for many new value-added products.
Lotte USA currently manufactures and distributes Xylitol Sugar Free Chewing Gum.
“Clinical studies have shown that xylitol, with its unique 5-carbon molecular structure, reduces the incidence of tooth decay and plaque, and remineralizes tooth enamel,” says Larry Morris, spokesperson for Lotte. “It also stimulates saliva flow, increases plaque PH, and neutralizes acid, making plaque less adhesive and easier to remove.”
Currently, Lotte USA is working closely with the dental community through advertising in dental magazines, sampling, and selling through dental distributors.
Xylitol Sugar Free Gum comes in a package of 44 pieces at a suggested retail of $2.99, and “is suited either for the oral care section and/or the gum and mint section,” according to Morris. Right now in Asia, Xylitol Sugar Free Gum is displayed in free-standing units or attached to gum and mint racks, as well as being featured in line on the front-end rack.
Lotte also manufactures and distributes Green Tea Mint Sugarless Gum. “Flavanoids are the most active component in Green Tea, which are viewed as excellent antioxidants and are associated with many positive health benefits,” says Morris. “Green tea has a wide audience in America, and our product offers the consumer a mild tasting breath freshener and enjoyable taste when a cup of green tea is not readily available.”
GameFace Sports Performance Gum is a “caffeine and nutrient-fortified tablet gum aimed directly at the serious athlete for a pre-game burst of energy.” In addition to caffeine, the product is also fortified with taurine and B Complex vitamins “for a peak performance boost.”
Moving on to mints and chew products, Foosh Energy Mints and Buzz Bites Chocolate Energy Chews “are the next best thing to having a 25-hour day,” says Jason Kensey, president, owner and founder of Vroom Foods, Inc., based in Costa Mesa, Calif. “And with our products, you don’t have to get coffee breath or load up on a sugary energy drink to get it.” He believes the trend will continue as more and more studies are coming out about the many health benefits of caffeine, including lessening the chances of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Foosh and Buzz Bites have the caffeine equivalent of a full cup of coffee. “Another way to say it is each piece has 25 percent more energy (caffeine) than an entire can of Red Bull, plus five B-vitamins, ginseng and taurine,” Kensey maintains.
Slim Mints, in peppermint and cinnamon flavors, give consumers “the ease of a mint candy and benefits of a weight loss product. According to Josh Felber, vice president of sales for Lifemax LLC, the company that manufactures the product, “the most successful retailers have Slim Mints placed in the diet area and also by the front registers” either on a peg board or next to checkout with regular gum and mints.
The Slim Mints target market has been “the 18-25 year-old females who consume mints,” states Felber. “Our current marketing campaign is using a grassroots approach with sampling, events, Barnes & Noble College Bookstores, MTV and women’s magazines.”
Lifemax has plans to launch a similar gum product by the end of the year.
“Those of us in the candy industry are definitely aware that we live in a health-conscious society,” concludes Eschhofen. Yet, “people really enjoy eating candy. Candy should never replace a healthy diet, but if (candy manufacturers) can add nutrients, it’s a good thing to do.”
From a retailer and consumer perspective, “functional candies fire on all cylinders,” Gass maintains. That includes real and perceived consumer benefits, coupled with increased purchase occasions, greater product consumption, and slightly higher dollar rings.
“Confectionery has opportunities to grow that other categories can only dream of,” Gass adds. “Simply, confectionery is only beginning to springboard off other huge and growing categories such as energy, weight management and vitamins.”
New Company Marries Creativity and Fun to Healthier Confections
The path Frank Drab followed was not the one he intended on taking originally, but one thing remained constant–-it was one of creativity.
The marketing executive had the notion to jump into the toy industry, but as he began to see the potential of interactive novelty candy, and as he discovered how much more welcoming the candy industry was to new ideas, he changed course and founded the Original First Aid Candy Co. in 2004.
Based in Cheltenham, Pa., near Philadelphia, the company creates and markets a line of better-for-you kids’ candy, interactive candy, snacks and gum under its TreatTown label and a variety of adult confections and snacks in its First Aid Nutrition Line.
"I got interested in making candy more healthy, more fortified" says the new company’s president and CEO. "I think that’s the right direction—the candy industry has to put a new face on (candy) as a healthy treat," Drab says.
TreatTown’s philosophy is to motivate, educate and inspire children to live a healthy life and employ balance and moderation to their consumption of treats, and it does it with humor and entertainment.
"We’re hoping to get ourselves known as a healthy, fun candy company," Drab states.
Just a few of First Aids’ kids’ products include Bubble Wrap, an aerated, low-sugar chocolate bar that feels like eating bubbles wrapped in chocolate; a calcium-fortified gum called Breakfree; vitamin-fortified, sugar-free Sirens lollipops; vitamin-fortified, vegetable-shaped Treatables candy; and Finger Puppet Gummis, with which kids can put on a show and then eat the cast.
Among the offerings in the First Aid Nutrition Line are Energyment sports nutrition treats, Barbells nutrition energy bars, and Reschews fortified supplemental candies.