Candy products designed with kids in mind go beyond mere chocolate and fruit flavors to include features young consumers crave, from licensed designs and event sponsorships to interactive formats and powerfully sour concoctions.

For years, parents have been telling children not to play with their food, but that rule just doesn’t apply to candy. Colorful confections in flavorful profiles and fun bite-size pieces attract young consumers, while added-value innovations such as games, stickers, reusable containers and other functional takeaways give kids something to enjoy long after the sugar-high has dissipated.

Old-time favorites such as candy buttons and jewelry, and gummies shaped like hot dogs and hamburgers (readily available at online stores such continue to prosper with new generations, but products that light up, move or make noise take the novelty category to a whole other level.

Basically, it comes down to what the consumer wants.   

“Kids do not differ in their quest for a great-tasting, quality product that brings them good value,” says Andy Telatnik, marketing director for Impact Confections. “A great-looking package and an innovative product twist is key to gaining that first impression, but the candy needs to meet their expectation if you want to repeat.”

Mike Cavalier, vice president of sales and marketing for Flix Candy/Imaginings 3, Inc., agrees that customers want unique candy forms. “Kids are always looking for the new and unusual,” he says.   

And they have “tremendous pull on the buying decision,” Telatnik adds. “If the product is fairly priced and does not look like it could be messy, kids typically drive the decision.”

Flix Candy/Imaginings 3 appeals to both adults and children “by offering products that kids want and that parents do not have to worry” about with regards to product safety and content, Cavalier asserts.   

Demographics do make a difference, says Phillip Brilliant, vice president of Koko’s Confectionery & Novelty.

“Younger children are attracted to the product, but rely on the permission of their parents to make the sale,” he notes, adding that as kids get older, they begin to spend their own money.

“That’s when value-added aspects of the product kick in,” Brilliant says. “Gift with purchase, collectability and toyetic qualities within the product aid in the selection and sell-though of the items.”

When it comes to kids of all ages, licensed products are extremely important, he points out, but “you have to reverse the development process so that the final product is not only product appropriate, but license appropriate. That’s what ensures sell-in and sell-through.”

That said, “in the novelty candy arena, there is not a specific trend that makes the product successful,” Brilliant acknowledges. “It’s a combination of them.”

To that end, manufacturers look to creative packaging, formats and flavors for profitability.

Take Flix Candy/Imaginings 3’s newCandy Spinners, which feature different characters atop sticks that light up and spin, and contain 10 g. of tart candy pieces to boot. The spinners are available in aDisney’s Toy Story-themed set as well as an Easter-time variety. (See “Seasonal Strategies” sidebar.) The company also offersToy StoryPicture Ring Lolliopops in various fruit flavors.

“Consumers are looking for novelty items with the hot licenses such asToy Story” as well as lasting licenses such asDisney PrincessandCars, Cavalier says.

Then there’s Koko’s Confectionery & Novelty, whoseICEE brand candies include gummies (in 4-oz. peg bags and 2-oz. pouches), popping candy (0.53 oz. per pouch) and spray candy (0.85 oz. per bottle), in blue raspberry, green apple, cherry and lemonade flavors. Koko’s also offers newSnap-N-Glowlollipops with popping candy in blue raspberry, cherry and green apple varieties. Meanwhile, its top-sellingGlo Popcifier “takes advantage of the light-up and glow craze, hits the sweet spot in terms of pricing and perceived value, and attracts a large number of demographics, which popularizes itself with retailers and consumers alike,” Brilliant explains.

The ever-popularPEZ Candybrand has several new items lined up for this fall and beyond, including aStar Wars Clone Warsassortment, which ties in with Lucasfilm Animation’s first-ever television product;Clone Warswrapped its first season with record ratings, according to the company. Other new licensed items areDisney Animal Friendsand aThomas & Friendsassortment as well as new tracks (Darlington, Daytona and Talladega) in itsNASCAR collection and new teams (White Sox, Mariners and Marlins) in itsMajor LeagueBaseball offering. The licensing continues with PEZ’sMarvel Universe(to coincide with the release ofIron Man 2),Toy Story,Hello Kitty andDisney Fairieslines. Brand-new products also will includePEZ dispensers packaged in lunch box gift tins.

In addition, top-selling novelties include variousWonka brand products and Bazooka Candy Brands’Baby Bottle Pops, whose interactive Web sites ( further engage kids, and almost any innovation featuringM&M’S.

Of course, when it comes to novelty products for kids, flavor still matters, whether it’s chocolate or non-chocolate they’re choosing.

“Sour is still king,” says Telatnik, referencing Impact Confections’Warheads brand, which is known for its sour profile and comes in a new Sour Chewy Cubes format.

Warheads also is recognized for its sponsorship of the ESPN X Games, a marketing effort that elevates brand recognition for its many sour products.Warheads’ involvement in the 2009 ESPN Summer X Games included XFest, where it distributed more than 250,000 pieces of candy to fans. The brand also headlined the amateur Skate Park, where participants were rewarded for their top tricks withWarheads skateboards. Warheads hosted sour face-off video contests for the chance to win water bottles, bandanas, shirts and hats bearing its brand, too. It will continue these efforts at the 2009 ESPN Winter X Games as well as through the McDonald’s Midnight Gaming Championship Series and Gamestop video game launch parties.

Although parents may not be interested in these extreme sports or related products, it comes down to the kids - their favorite hobbies, their favorite movies, their favorite flavors … and what’s next.

“Tomorrow, who knows?” Brilliant concludes. “That’s the exciting part of our business: creating new products that will ride the trend wave and make a huge splash.”

Seasonal Strategies

Easter is all about the kids in the candy department, and confectioners are constantly coming up with new products for this springtime holiday. Hot off the press, here are two new products for 2010 that are sure to please children of all ages.

Just Born, Inc., Bethlehem, Pa.

New Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Peeps will come in milk and dark chocolate varieties, taking this iconic Eastertime candy to the next level.
S.R.P.: $0.79 per package

Flix Candy/Imaginings 3, Inc., Niles, Ill.

Flix Candy’s Easter Light Up Candy Spinner features an Easter bunny or duck character that lights up and spins at the press of a button. Each spinner also contains 10 g. of tart candy disks. Ideal for ages 2-6.
S.R.P.: $2.19-$2.49

NOT For Kids

Playboy Peppermints
Vintage Cover Collection
Big Sky Brands, Inc., Toronto

Big Sky Brands recently introduced a new novelty just for adults:Playboy Peppermints- Vintage Cover Collection. Each tin features one of six classicPlayboy Magazinecovers from the ‘60s and ‘70s for a collectible line that “has a retro-cool style and evokes a more innocent era during which thePlayboy brand was originally established,” says Luke Van Vliet, marketing manager for Big Sky Brands. The sugar-free mints are packed 50 to a tin and combine the intensity of a high-powered breath freshener with a subtly fresh finish. Each mint is embossed with the iconic Playboy Bunnylogo.
S.R.P.: $1.99 per tin