Here in Chicago, we have our traditions. For as long as I can remember, Marshall Field’s was synonymous with Frango mints - those delicious boxed chocolates once reserved for holidays and special gift-giving occasions. Today, Frangos are enjoyed years around, and come in every flavor and variety, from crème brulee and sorbet to organic and sugar-free. (Speaking of organic and sugar-free, check out Sweet & Healthy, the new weekly e-newsletter from Confection & Snack Retailing and sister publication Candy Industry. Subscribe at www.cs-retailing.com.)
However, Frangos no longer are sold at Marshall Field’s (named after founder Marshall Field, for whom Chicago’s natural history museum also is dedicated). That’s because Marshall Field’s is no more. Macy’s purchased and renamed it just a couple years back.
Chicagoans were furious over the change. They boycotted Macy’s, especially the storefront at Marshall Field’s historic State Street location, just off the Magnificent Mile that is Michigan Avenue. I should know. I was one of them. Like my friends, I took my business elsewhere, looking to another Chicago favorite, Lord & Taylor, for my clothes, my shoes, my makeup and … my candy?
Alas, there were no Frangos to be found at L&T. What, then, were we to give friends and family for Christmas if not those tasty chocolate mints? Boycott over.
Marshall Field’s (now Macy’s) has long been a destination for confectionery delights, from the many selections at its bulk candy counter to boxed truffles and chocolate bark. But an increasing number of retailers for whom confections aren’t primary SKUs also carry sweets, merchandising them strategically throughout their stores.
Take Lord & Taylor. Frangos might not be an option at L&T, but while making some purchases recently, I encountered a rack of Godiva chocolate bars next to the cash register. Days later, at the Victoria’s Secret checkout, I noticed a box of fruit-flavored Pink Pop lollipops. While waiting for my car to be washed at the Grand Prix near my office, I always buy some Sixlets. And one of my favorite shops in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood offers such novelty confections as hot cinnamon-flavored toothpicks and bacon-flavored breath mints (great gag gifts).
When it comes to selling candy at retail, the merchandising channels and possibilities are endless. Manufacturers now look beyond mainstream venues to market their products, and retailers are happy to oblige, creating more competition than ever … as well as increased demand, as consumers have come to expect such shopping solutions at every turn. It’s a trend that’s here to stay.
Speaking of trends, plenty are launched right here in Chicago, where we have our trade shows. The lakefront venue that is McCormick Place plays host to a variety of events, including many for the food industry. In addition to the annual NRA (National Restaurant Association) Show, All Things Organic and the ALL CANDY EXPO, McCormick Place is the home of this year’s NACS (The Association for Convenience and Petroleum Retailing) Show, which takes place Oct. 4-7.
With so many trade shows taking place in spring, summer and early fall, a bix trip to Chicago wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the ballpark. For North Siders like me, that means visiting another great Chicago institution: Wrigley Field. Built in 1914, the “Friendly Confines” is named for William Wrigley Jr. of Chicago’s own Wrigley Co. Today, the gum maker no longer owns Wrigley Field. In fact, it’s currently up for sale. Chicagoans are not happy about this. (While in Wrigleyville recently, I was handed a “Save Our Name” shirt that states “It’s called Wrigley for a reason.”) Tourists: Check out Wrigley Field before it suffers the same fate other sports facilities have.
But before anyone tries to score bleacher seats, be advised that here in Chicago, we have our superstitions. Forget the Curse of the Bambino (not to be confused with the Curse of the Babe, which is when a professional athlete’s performance suffers after he starts dating a celebrity - think Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson). The Boston Red Sox broke the Babe Ruth spell with its 2004 World Series win, anyway. Meanwhile, Cubs fans continue to blame a century of missed opportunities on a goat.
The story goes that when William “Billy Goat” Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern (“Cheezborger! Cheezborger! No fries, cheeps! No Pepsi, Coke!”), brought his pet goat (Murphy) to Wrigley Field for Game Four of the 1945 Series, an usher wouldn’t allow the animal in the park. Sianis appealed to the Cubs’ then owner, P.K. Wrigley, who also said no - “Because the goat stinks.” Thus, Sianis proclaimed that the Cubs would never win a World Series. After the Cubs lost Game 4, as well as the Series, Sianis sent a telegram to Wrigley, saying “Who stinks now?” The Cubs have been a “cursed” franchise ever since.
But our luck may be changing. 2008 marks one of the best seasons on record for the Cubbies, which led the league this summer. It’s been 63 years since the Cubs played in a World Series, and this year marks the 100th anniversary of their last World Series win. Will the billy goat curse continue to be gruff, or will the Cubs finally clinch it?
Here in Chicago, we have our hopes.