New inclusions, formulations help consumers maintain interest in toffee
Toffee sales decline, but confectioners hope traditional products, new twists will keep consumers coming back.
It doesn’t get more traditional than toffee.
Made by caramelizing sugar or molasses with butter and allowing it to cool into slabs, toffee has provided decades of decadence to candy connoisseurs. Adding almonds or other nuts offers an additional layer of flavor and crunch, a long-standing process that, for some, makes toffee difficult to resist.
With sales totaling $736.4 million last year, toffee, along with caramel and nougat, commands a sizeable share of the confectionery industry, according to data from Euromonitor. However, that slice is shrinking.
Euromonitor reported that toffee, caramel and nougat sales reached $751.6 million in 2014, meaning sales slumped 2 percent between 2014 and 2015. The research firm predicts 2016 sales at $715.8 million, representing a possible 3 percent decrease.
Toffee manufacturers, then, must find ways to maintain the appeal of the classic confection.
One method is through enhanced presentation. Enstrom Candies, a Grand Junction, Colo., company that produces buttercrunch, a softer, less sticky toffee, rebranded in 2015 in hopes of refreshing its look and expanding from the mail-order market into retail.
“We wanted to analyze who we are, our history, where we belong in the category,” co-owner Doug Simons told Candy Industry in 2015. “We have a great history, a great product, a great following. We needed to focus on our premium quality.”
After weighing 40 different options, Enstrom settled on orange-gold — “Enstrom gold” — packaging with a typeface that suggested “timeless elegance,” a phrase that could also describe toffee itself.
Jim Simons, fourth-generation co-owner and Doug’s son, said Enstrom hopes the new color and design will catch the eyes of consumers browsing in candy aisles.
“You have to be able to see it before you try it,” he says. “We want people to see it on the shelves and actually pick it up and look at it.”
Brown & Haley, the long-time manufacturer of ROCA Buttercrunch toffee, also revamped its packaging in 2012 in conjunction with the Tacoma, Wash.-based company’s 100th anniversary.
Brown & Haley kept its signature pink color and gold foil but created new logo designs that present a “more luxurious and unified” presence, according to information on Brown & Haley’s website. Each ROCA foil is now printed with specific flavors, and key flavor ingredients were added to product shots for more continuity.
Unique flavors and formulations can also bring new interest to toffee. Jim Simons said new inclusions, such as bacon and different varieties of nuts, have made their way into toffee products, but Enstrom tends to stick to the classics.
“ We want to stay to that five-ingredient toffee — make it with the best ingredients possible,” he says. “We’re just hoping that once people try it that they’ll fall in love with it and keep eating it.”
Nonetheless, Enstrom produces items with a toffee twist. In addition to its Milk and Dark Chocolate Almond Toffees, Enstrom creates the aptly named Toffee Popcorn, or popcorn coated in toffee and combined with almonds, pecans and cashews.
“It’s kind of an extra-rich caramel corn,” Jim Simons says.
And to make sure none of its product goes to waste, Enstrom offers Almond Toffee Crumbs, or pieces left over after production that can’t go into standard packaging or gift tins. The buttercrunch bits can be sprinkled over ice cream, mixed into cookies or even eaten by the fistful.
In March 2015, Brown & Haley released ROCA Thins with the goal of providing big chocolate flavor and toffee taste and texture for anytime snacking. Brown & Haley’s signature blends of milk or dark chocolate are poured thin, filled with chunks of toffee and then broken into bite-sized pieces.
“We’ve been intrigued by growing consumption of premium chocolate in small portions as an everyday luxury,” Brown & Haley President John Melin said in a January 2015 news release. “ROCA Thins are a perfect product to meet everyday cravings, while staying true to our tradition of high quality ingredients and the ROCA brand.”
Brown & Haley launched ROCA Thins Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark in August 2015. Peppermint candy and toffee are blended into 55-percent cacao dark chocolate, which is then spread into thin, bite-size pieces. The treat earned the 2015 Most Innovative New Product in the seasonal category at the National Confectioners Association’s Sweet & Snack Expo in Chicago.
“Consumer response to the entire new line of ROCA THINS has been tremendous,” CEO and Vice Chairman Pierson Clair said in a June 2015 news release. “These products really address the consumer’s desire for high quality chocolate snacks that can be enjoyed every day.”