ECRM Buyers Roundtable

Lee Garro, Jack’s World; Tom Montgomery, Mapco; Bear Silber, Powell’s Sweet Shoppe; Chris Lanoue, Shaw’s Star Market; and Nancy Smith, Sweet Factory.

What happens when you put a bunch of confectionery buyers in a small back room and ask them about the candy industry?

Well, it turns out they tell you what they really think about organic candy, bad packaging and novelty candy. 

Crystal Lindell
Crystal Lindell

Candy Industry recently hosted a Buyer’s Roundtable discussion at the ECRM show in New Orleans. Five buyers from five different candy companies gathered in a small conference room and once they started talking, they didn’t stop.

The buyers included:

  • Bear Silber, Powell’s Sweet Shoppe
  • Chris Lanoue, Shaw’s Star Market
  • Lee Garro, Jack’s World
  • Nancy Smith, Sweet Factory
  • Tom Montgomery, Mapco

While we will have an edited transcript of the conversation in the November issue, I couldn’t resist sharing some of their insights with you now.

The conversation got off to a strong start, as they shared their thoughts about organic chocolate. The consensus seemed to be that consumers aren’t always willing to pay extra for it. Add to that the fact that organic chocolate companies aren’t making organic chocolate that tastes very good, and you have a product that just doesn’t sell very well.  

However, the buyers did sing praises for Hershey’s Brookside chocolate, a premium candy. Lanoue, from Shaw’s, Star Market, said the chocolate-covered fruit has brought customers down the candy aisle who normally wouldn’t give the section a second look. And, it had even outsold Twizzlers, typically his best seller,in recent quarters.  

Next up was a conversation about packaging. Garro, from Jack’s World, said the manufacturers need to use more color, especially the chocolate makers. She sang praises for Nutffles Red Velvet candy, which has a bright red package and stands out on the shelf.

I asked everyone in the room the question that everyone really wants to know: If a candy is delicious and priced exactly right, but it has horrible packaging, would that deter you from stocking it in your store?

The answer from everyone in the room? A resounding “YES!”

Garro said that if she doesn’t understand the packaging, there’s no way her customers will. And the buyer’s all seemed to agree that the candy has to sell itself on the shelf.

However, they also said that if it was just the packaging holding something back, they wouldn’t hesitate to tell the manufacturer.

We also chatted about novelty candy. Smith, from Sweet Factory, and Silber, from Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, both stock a lot of novelty candy in their stores. Smith said she’s had a lot of success with the Monster’s University products, which were timed just right with the summer movie.

However, a lot of the other buyers said that while licensing is great, they struggle with timing. And, if a movie is a bust, that can mean getting stuck with a lot of products that didn’t sell.  

They also said there are just not enough boy novelty items on the market. And, as a former youth leader who was always trying to find gifts for the group, I can testify that this is completely true. While there seems to be thousands of little pink and purple candy hearts, it’s extremely hard to find fun candy treats that appeals to boys. So, note to candy companies: Create some novelty items that appeal to boys — the buyers are looking for them.

 While that’s all I can share for now, the buyers were nowhere near finished with the conversation. So, be sure to check out the full coverage of the roundtable in our November issue, which, like I said earlier, will also include an edited transcript of the conversation.