Confectioner Gives a ‘Thumbs Up’ to Candy Business Creativity

By Dana Cvetan and Mary Ellen Kuhn
Vision in any sphere revitalizes and inspires. For their innovative vision, Confectioner salutes the companies that conceived products and promotional/marketing strategies that show creativity is alive and well in the confectionery sphere.
Delightfully creepy licks
Cap Candy consistently brings bright ideas to the marketplace with a stream of playable edibles. One of the latest is Bug Factor Lollipop, featuring candy beetles and worms that an entomologist could mistake for the real thing. Each is encrusted in an apple-flavored green sucker.
“Creating a little harmless mischief” is the hallmark of this Napa, Calif.-based division of toymaker Hasbro, and “the No. 1 kid mischief activity is daring your friends to eat disgusting bugs,” observes Deirdre Gonzales, vice president of marketing.
Bug Factor is the first joint project between Cap and Candy and Toy Factory in Madrid, Spain, which produces the World of Magic (WOM) brand.
“When WOM came to us and said, ‘What do you think of kids eating realistic-looking bugs?’ We said, ‘Bingo—we’ll take it,’” Gonzales relates.
“We worked really closely with WOM to get a realistic-looking product. It’s a multi-step, labor-intensive process. Half of the lollipop is produced, the bug is created and placed on the pop, and then the other half is attached.”
Cap Candy’s people came up with the product name and handled promotion and marketing.
Canned fun
Squishy Fishies was an idea too good to let it fade away like yesterday’s news.
Niles, Ill.-based Flix/Imaginings 3 Inc. had a hit on its hands with a licensed product it created in 2003 for the animated movie “Finding Nemo,” the Finding Nemo Fishy Gummies Sardine Can.
The can, filled with assorted-colored, fruit-flavored gummy fish, opens with a special key like sardine cans of days’ past. The difference is, it is re-closeable, making it suitable for storing a child’s small treasures.
The licensed version sold so well at retail, the company extended its clever concept with this non-licensed version, and it’s a massive hit, says Dave Jupp, director of packaging and design.
The concept was a team effort, Jupp reports. “We thought, okay, what can we do with fish that will be clever? My concept was a sardine can that rolled back for one-time use. Then the creative director, Dave Lisowski, said, ‘Let’s make it re-usable, and he engineering the housing—that’s what made it so unique.”
Jupp came up with the new name, the graphics were re-designed, and Imaginings 3 had its successful “sequel.”
‘Lifestyle enhancement’
Inhale Solutions Inc. operates on the belief that gum and mint consumers want more, and that they can provide it, says President Matt Willer.
“We call ourselves developers and manufacturers of lifestyle enhancement products,” Willer adds.
The Las Vegas-based manufacturer of sugar-free gums and mints spent two years developing ElimiTaste Zapp! Sugarless Gum, a high-end, strongly peppermint flavored, breath-freshening chewing gum.
“This is how we differ from the mainstream—we spend about five times as much on packaging. It’s printed on holographic foil board, and it’s very eye-catching. We needed to develop packaging that was trendy and attractive, so that the product would not get lost on the shelf. Zapp! is a great product, and we move a lot of it. It’s the strongest gum on the market, with the most attractive packaging on the market, and it’s made with the healthiest sweetener on the market—Xylitol,” he adds. The gum is sold in about 15,000 mostly West Coast retail locations such as convenience, liquor and small grocery stores.  
Currently Zapp! is available in “Intense ElectraMint,” a “super-strong peppermint,” and more flavors are coming. “The Zapp! brand is going to build out, flavor-wise,” Willer says.
“Our consumer base is the teenager to mid-30s demographic. With the gum and mint category, there is a clear transition to stronger flavors and sugar-free and a shift toward packaging in a 12-piece blister card.” Zapp!’s 12-piece blister package retails for 99 cents to $1.49. “Clearer yet is that stronger and stronger flavors are demanded by this base, which is most conscious of their breath, in social settings and in the workplace. (This gum) knocks out any odors in the mouth.”
Through extensive consumer testing, Inhale Solutions was able to reformulate the product and test different names, packaging and colors. The name “Zapp!” was associated with a burst of flavor, with “zapping” away bad breath, according to Willer.
“We’re not a ‘me-too’ brand,” Willer declares. “No one in the mainstream is pushing the envelope to come out with innovative, risky products to serve this enormous market.”
Sweet bad teeth
The guys who banded together to make their mark in the confectionery business were sitting around one day when one of them strolled by wearing a set of rotted teeth, and then ate them.
“Pat Brittain is our creative genius,” says Dennis Fitzpatrick, owner, along with Brittain, Greg O’Dell and Rick Leier, of St. Paul, Minn.-based Triple Alliance.
The teeth were made of chewy candy, held in place by a wad of chewing gum. Bubbagum Candy Teeth, with a suggested retail price of $1.99, was born.
Appropriately, the product made its debut this past Halloween in a regional marketing test and sold out in 22 Philadelphia-area Party City stores in just two weeks. Triple Alliance is set to roll out the teeth—in five varieties with a tattoo and chewing gum included in each package—nationally. Holiday versions for Easter and Halloween are on the horizon as well.
Eyeing the holidays
Pop Eyes Candy, which employs a clever use of product shape and packaging, is a triple threat for Plainview, N.Y.-based Color-a-Cookie Inc.
In Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter versions, Pop Eyes incorporates two watermelon-flavored, spherical lollipop “eyeballs” inside a pop-out paper face mask.
Masks include a pumpkin, monster, Santa, snowman, kissing face, heart, Easter Bunny and chick.
“It combines three things—a play activity where kids can swizzle the pops in the sphere-shaped blister, they can eat the lollipops, and the card pops off to become a mask,” explains Color-a-Cookie President David Wild.
Pop Eyes is headed for mass and specialty stores in spring 2005, and has a suggested retail price of $1.99.
Making chocolate fun, feminine and fashionable
Seattle Chocolate Co. has a long history of product concept creativity, and never more so than with its latest venture—Chick Chocolates.
Under the leadership of CEO Jean Thompson, the Seattle-based company unveiled this line of single-serving, premium chocolate targeted to women earlier this year. With its tongue-in-cheek brand name and bold packaging, Chick makes chocolate an irresistible impulse purchase for female chocoholics.
The company wisely taps into a couple of important concepts—the importance of portion control, consumers’ growing fondness for premium chocolate and the need for sweets targeted specifically to women.
Chick Chocolates come either in a two-piece flow-wrapped changemaker pack or in a compact three-piece box. The fashion-forward packages, shaped to resemble lipstick, work perfectly for this smart, sassy and oh-so-sweet new line.
A sweetheart of a line extension
We’ve all seen too many examples of line extensions that have no real reason for being, but you’ve got to love Sweethearts Gum from NECCO.
The popular candy Conversation Hearts move smoothly and logically into a chewy new medium with this 2004 rollout.  
In fact, in the tradition of the classic Valentine’s Day item, sweet sentiments are printed on the heart-shaped gum, which comes in blister packs.
The Splenda-sweetened gum is sugar-free. Flavors include Fruit Blast, Bloomin’ Berry, Juicy Orange, Green Apple and Luscious Lemonade.
‘Cow Power’
Thirty-six percent of shoppers seek out calcium supplementation in the fortified food products they purchase, making it the No. 1 supplement choice. The growing popularity of calcium supplements led to the creation of Cow Power Calcium Rich Chewing Gum.
Laurie Lichko, director of marketing for Akron, N.Y.-based Ford Gum and Machine Co. Inc., says the sugar-free, peppermint-flavored, Vitamin D-added pellet gum is aimed particularly at women 35 and older who are concerned about preventing osteoporosis. Not only is chewing gum more pleasurable than swallowing pills, calcium pills tend to be large and difficult to swallow, she adds. Four pieces of Cow Power provide 100 percent of the recommended daily value of calcium. A 10-piece blister pack sells for 99 cents.
Gum is an excellent delivery system for calcium and other health supplements, both because chewing helps the body absorb the ingredients and because flavorings make supplements palatable, Lichko points out.
Scrumptiously snackable
The nation’s No. 1 candy maker rolled out so many new items in 2004, that it was hard to keep track of all of them—particularly if you count all of the limited edition offerings. And most of the new entries were well conceived.
Confectioner opted to single out the new SnackBarz for a couple of reasons, however. No. 1, they moved the company into a new market segment—the snack aisle. They also taste yummy, and boast a nutritional profile that allows mom to feel great about putting them into a lunch box. The nutrition facts panel for Reese’s SnackBarz shows that a bar contains a respectable 120 calories, 5 grams of fat and no trans fats. The crispy rice and marshmallow bars also are fortified with calcium, iron and vitamins, making the packaging claim that, “Kids love the taste and parents love the nutrition,” a realistic statement.
SnackBarz, which come eight 25-gram bars per package, also are available in Hershey’s Chocolate and Hershey’s S’mores varieties.  
Hershey Foods Chairman, President and CEO Rick Lenny has been talking about the importance of developing products to capitalize on a variety of snacking occasion opportunities since coming on board nearly four years ago. Hershey’s SnackBarz fit the bill admirably!
One final note: Hershey’s TakeFive candy bars, currently making their way onto retail shelves, also are deliciously noteworthy.