Jeff Rubin knew there was a niche in the candy consumer market just waiting to be filled, and all he had to do was find the right person to fill it.
And so, about a year and a half ago, Rubin — founder of the chain of It’Sugar stores — approached tennis star Maria Sharapova about doing what he calls, “a premium line of candies endorsed by a celebrity athlete.”
“From the moment she heard the idea, she fell in love with it,” he says. “She has got an incredible sweet tooth and her eyes lit up, like a little kid opening a Christmas present.”
While Rubin knows other athletes have endorsed candies in the past, he says this time is different.
“For me, someone who’s been going to over 20 years of shows... we see different athletes at every candy show, selling an organic version of something or a healthy version of something or a natural version of something, when we all know that they all have sweet tooths and what they really love is gummies and sour,” Rubin explains.
With Sharapova signed on to the idea of selling premium candy, the next step was coming up with a name.
“We were kind of going through names and I mentioned ‘Sugarpova,’” Rubin recalls. “The second I mentioned Sugarpova everybody looked at everybody and said, ‘That’s it! We’ve got it! We’re done!’ It was meant to be.”
A celebrity and a clever name cannot stand on their own though, and the two put a lot of work into creating a great tasting line of gummies, sours, licorice and gum. In fact, the only candy in the line that even calls back to Sharapova’s time on the court is the tennis ball-shaped gum balls.
As for the packaging, Rubin says they wanted to design something that made it clear they were selling a premium confection. Each flavor is sold in a stand-up bag, and the packages all feature lips meant to represent the different sides of Sharapova.
The candy launched Aug. 20, and as of Aug. 29, Flirty, Sporty, Quirky and Chic were all sold out on the Supgarpova website.
Rubin says the tennis star was highly involved in the creation process, from helping to choose a factory in Europe to tasting test samples and creating the packaging.
“She’s been very involved and it’s been great,” he says. “She brings an incredible outside eye to the candy. She’s obviously extremely fashion savvy and I think she brought that.”
In addition to the Sugarpova site, the line also is being sold at IT’Sugar.com, as well as the more than 40 It’Sugar stores around the world, and in the sweets department at FAO Schwartz. The prices vary depending on the flavor, but they’re all in the $5 range.
Rubin says the plan is to eventually sell the line at a variety of retailers, and that more flavors are already in development.
“It’s been a long time in the making, but it’s just so exciting to finally see it arrive,” Rubin says. “It’s gone way beyond both of our imaginations.”