Non-Chocolate Gets Exotic And Intense
By Carla Zanetos Scully
New offerings come with plenty of bite and in a myriad of flavor and texture combinations.
Intense, fruity and sour are among the hallmarks of the new non-chocolate candies that have been introduced this year as candy vendors up the creativity quotient in a bid to end the slipping sales that have characterized the category in recent years. For 2005, the downward trend in sales stabilized somewhat with a decline of just 1.2 percent vs. declines of 3.2 percent in 2004 and 4.4 percent in 2003.
Although consumer preference trends are always evolving, Stephanie Moritz of The Hershey Co. says confectionery fans are seeking new and exotic flavors and more intense flavors. That’s what drives Hershey into producing creations such as the new Jolly Rancher Sour Bolt Blasts, which offers a mouth-puckering super sour powder inside a sour hard shell available in sour apple, sour watermelon, sour blue raspberry and sour strawberry.
Or you can get a blast of two flavors in one in Jolly Rancher Double Blasts; one flavor in the hard shell while another is infused in the powdered candy center. Flavors include cherry/orange, blue raspberry/lime, strawberry/apple and mango/lemon.
The Wrigley Co., which acquired Life Savers and Crème Savers last summer, also has several new fruity additions, including the Life Savers Gummies Fruit Splosions, liquid-filled gummies combined with a burst of real fruit juice. The Fruit Splosions come in three varieties: Traditional 5 Flavors, Sour Cherry and a Variety Pack (orange, blackberry, strawberry and watermelon). “Fruit Splosions bring an innovative form to gummies and have a sour, fruity flavor kick in the center,” says Jessica Schilling, marketing communications director.
In January, Life Savers Gummies Wild Berry Sours was added; the new item features six “sour” gummy flavors: cherry berry, strawberry, red raspberry, black raspberry, blackberry and white grape. The Wild Berry Sours, available in new theater boxes, combine a kick of sour with sweet-tasting wild berry flavors, Schilling says.
Though more like dessert than fruit, Crème Savers has two new products: Crème Savers Tropicals available in multi-serve bags of Pina Colada & Crème, Banana & Crème and Mango & Crème, and Crème Savers Desserts in Cinnamon Bun, Apple Pie à La Mode and Strawberry Cheesecake.
Finally, Wrigley’s Altoids Mango Sours have been added to the lineup, offering fruity flavor yet the strong Altoids taste.
Tootsie Roll Industries also has tweaked its flavors, adding Lime Cola to its line of chewy fruit-flavored Frooties candies.
Soft and chewy
“The soft chewy segment of non-chocolate candy is showing continued strong growth,” according to Linda Mayer, director of corporate communications for Cadbury Adams USA, based in Parsippany, N.J. “Consumers are looking for more innovative offerings like Sour Patch Connectors and Swedish Fish AquaLife,” both released last June. “Consumers also tell us that they consider sour-flavored candy a unique segment in and of itself.”
More than a quarter of the total $2.3 billion in non-chocolate candy sales belong to the chewy candy category, according to data from Information Resources, Inc.
And with licorice sales up around 6 percent, it’s no surprise that Hershey has introduced Twizzlers Rainbow Twists. The classic Twizzlers have been multiplied by six distinct flavors and colors including grape, blue raspberry, watermelon, lemonade, orange and strawberry. “It combines the best of Twizzlers with flavors and colors consumers are seeking,” says Moritz.
American Licorice also wants a piece of that action, reaching out to the convenience store market with the candy straws it’s been making for over 50 years. It began supplying 7-Eleven’s Slurpees with edible cherry-flavored drinking straws, and now the company wants the straws to be rolled out into other retail environments, says Aaron Johnson, director of consumer marketing.
Caramel with a fruit twist
Fruit flavors have even entered such sub-categories as caramel as with the Strawberry Cow Tales from Goetze’s Candy Co., of Baltimore, Md. The chewy strawberry-flavored caramel with a cream center, sold in a stand-up box or tumbler, was introduced last summer, according to the company’s marketing manager, Meghan Brody. Goetze has since re-packaged the five-pack of Strawberry Cow Tales as a bagged item, adding a caricature of a cow that will soon be featured on all the Cow Tales.
The new flavor has done well, Brody says. “The taste of fresh strawberries dipped in cream — a lot of women love it.” It’s done well in the Hispanic market as well, she says.
Other new products for the company include Goetze’s Gourmet Caramels made with real dairy cream in 9-ounce, 14-ounce and 3-lb. bags, and a 10-ounce Caramel Mix, which contains Caramel Creams, Mini Cow Tales and Gourmet Caramel Squares. “A lot of our products are in other people’s mixed bags,” she says, “so [now] we’re actually doing our own.”
Also in the caramel arena, Tootsie Roll Industries has introduced Sugar Mama, a twist-wrapped nugget of soft and chewy caramel.
But the fruit doesn’t stop there. Starburst and Skittles have changed their Tropical flavor variant for a limited time to coincide with Disney’s release of “Pirates of the Caribbean II: Dead Man’s Chest,” according to Tim LeBel, vice president of customer development, Masterfoods USA, a division of Mars Inc.
In Starburst Tropical, strawberry kiwi and tropical punch are replaced with pina colada and royal berry punch. The line also includes mango melon and strawberry banana. In Skittles Tropical, pineapple passion fruit, mango tangelo and strawberry starfruit are replacing plum passion fruit, mango peach and strawberry watermelon, while the line will continue to have banana berry and kiwi lime. All everyday pack types will have on-pack graphics promoting the movie.
Masterfoods will continue to revisit product mixes, LeBel says, and make changes based on customer desires. “Movie themes are a great opportunity to drive incremental sales up,” he says.
Other limited editions include Starburst Icy Bursts, which are similar to traditional Starbursts, yet enhanced with an icy burst of flavor, appealing to teenagers and adults.
Skittles Ice Cream, a build off of your favorite ice cream flavors in a candy shell, also is available in limited edition in chocolate, vanilla, caramel ripple, orange-vanilla swirl and strawberry flavors.
Limited edition products appeal to new consumers because they offer them new choices, says LeBel. “It’s a great way to test products while jumping on consumer trends.” Sometimes the success of limited edition products makes way for a permanent line as did the Ogre-sized M&Ms launched a few years ago in connection with “Shrek 2.”
Starburst is doing some “very trendy things,” says LeBel. Besides creating intense commercials for MTV and other television and radio outlets, Starburst also has an integrated program that includes radio and online components.
Other companies are coming out with some interesting arrangements as well. Tootsie Roll, for example, is combining chocolate and non-chocolate candies in a 23.8-ounce bag of assorted movie candy favorites. Packaged as Movie Time Mini Boxes, moviegoers will be able to get mini boxes of Junior Caramels, chocolate-covered Tootsie Roll Mini Chews, Mini Charleston Chews, Dots and Junior Mints all in one bag.
New offerings such as Tangerine Mango Madness Blow Pops by Charms and limited edition Caramel Tootsie Roll Pops are providing Tootsie Roll Industries with a well-balanced portfolio when combined with the company’s classics, says President Ellen Gordon. “We think our new products fit into the strategy of what people are looking for in confectionery treats,” she says. n
When Change Isn’t Such a Good Thing
Despite the importance of keeping things current and fresh, some confectioners feel that change isn’t always what the consumer is looking for. “Candy is iconic, so many brands are iconic,” says Aaron Johnson of American Licorice. “Consumers are looking for what is familiar because everything else in life is so chaotic.” It’s nice to have something that reminds them of their childhood, he says. “It’s what takes them back. Those foundational, emotional experiences are the hallmark of the confectionery category as a whole.”
Children are more receptive to newness, he notes. But for many adults, “they want the candy brands they had for a long time. They’re not looking for us to change them.”
Yet change is what some retailers are finding with companies that have moved operations overseas. “I think that a lot of the products coming in from overseas … have a little different taste, a little different texture … and obviously a cheaper price,” says Amy Atkinson Voltz, vice president of Judson-Atkinson Candies Inc. in San Antonio.
|Dollar Sales (in millions)||% Change vs. Year Ago||Unit Sales (in millions)||% Change vs. Year Ago|
|Source: Information Resources Inc.|
The taste difference is due to the difference in processes, she says. For instance, some overseas manufacturers use whiteners in their Starlite Mints. Judson-Atkinson doesn’t need to add whiteners since it uses a more natural aeration process. With the addition of these whiteners, consumers can feel it on their tongue. “It’s not as pleasing,” she notes.
But, she continues, “It doesn’t make sense to make hard candy in the United States any more because of the sugar pricing. You can not compete.”
With sugar prices so high, Judson-Atkinson hasn’t come up with any new products. “We’re just trying to hold our own,” she says. Still, the company is keeping things fresh by extending its sours line with the addition of tropical and chili flavors.