Candy of old is new again — and that much sweeter to retailers who carve out a retro niche.
Nostalgic candy is not tracked yet by any data group, but players in the category say that it’s growing in double digits, especially if Internet sales — pioneering the trend and still a big chunk of the excitement right now — are included. It seems nostalgic candy is just part of an even bigger CPG phenomenon: many “older” (and oft times previously extinct) brands are enjoying a renaissance as a result of a rejuvenated interest in material things from one’s past. It is apparent in car designs, furniture and fashion, as well as food items and candy.
Baby boomers have long been thought of as “retro magnets” — attracted to anything that reminds them of their youth — and indeed, the label fits. Now as they approach/enter retirement, recapturing a bit of their youth, especially through the candy products that brought them a lot of joy, is worth even more today than a decade ago from their increasingly sentimental perspective. The grandchildren factor comes into play here too; they are introducing their “old-time” candy favorites to their grandchildren.
But nostalgic candy doesn’t thrive solely with the baby boomers. Candy marketers need to remember that Gen Xers are parents now, and nostalgic candy will work with this crowd, too. Contrary to their reputation, they are not too young or too fickle to have candy favorites from the past.
Many of the nostalgic candy brands that are enjoying a revival are what used to be called “penny candy.” Thus, the price points are generally on the low end — between 10 cents and 25 cents per piece, which means that these versions of nostalgic candies work well as changemakers.
Retailers that make a special display out of per-piece nostalgic confections will have an advantage over the multitude of Internet marketers selling retro candy because the latter require minimum orders that have to be shipped.
Appropriate merchandising of nostalgic candy is determined somewhat by the packaging. If bagged, they do well positioned with like products (caramels with caramels, taffies with taffies, etc.) Changemakers were created for the counter or point-of-purchase. Tinned items are perfect for gift areas such as floral or bakery.
Summer seasonal aisles (using floorstands or carved-out shelf space near beach umbrellas or picnic supplies) represent an excellent opportunity for merchandising non-chocolate nostalgic candy.
Chocolate isn’t ruled out of nostalgic candy, but the true “meat” of the category is non-chocolate items that have a summer connotation to them (think carnivals, the circus, town fairs, summertime sweet shops). Originally, kids were more likely to purchase and consume candy when they were out of school, and thus, often out of sight of parents and teachers. The “fun” aspect was associated with the summer — being carefree and free to indulge. Today, many retailers are bringing back this summertime pleasure by making nostalgic candy a seasonal (spring and summer) section made up mostly of non-chocolate (non-melting) confections.
The category’s growth potential lies mainly in retailers who can sustain the renaissance beyond the baby boomers. Therefore, creating brand awareness and driving trial among a younger demographic — with stronger flavors, bold colors, engaging packaging, and recognizing the “new” nostalgic candies — will ultimately dictate the category’s future potential. n
Keep your eye on regional/national icons. Nostalgia is a big hit with Americans everywhere, but it doesn’t translate into exactly the same brands for everyone. If you’re going to get into nostalgic candy you need to know/test the most-requested older candies of not only the country (and your competitors), but of your store’s particular region.
Use packaging as promotion. Nostalgic packaging of the candies in tins and other old-fashioned style boxes and twist bags is all part of the category’s excitement. More and more candy manufacturers with a past are catching on — and recreating the exact packaging look and logo of their precious candies from the past. Often, getting this packaging out in front of consumers (even better if it’s in its own section with even minimal signage) is all a retailer has to do to create a nostalgia epidemic in-store.
In Praise of ‘Comeback Candy’
Highlighted comments from a candy buyer who is very fond of his nostalgic candy set.
“We treat it as a seasonal buy.”
“It sets the day after Easter in our stores and goes through September.”
“This will be our third straight year.”