Ferrara Candy Co. had a lot of innovations to showcase at its National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) Expo booth Oct. 8-10 in Las Vegas, as both the chocolate and non-chocolate divisions are planning huge advertising campaigns for several well-known brands.
The company got its start in 1908, as Ferrara Pan Candy Co., when Salvatore Ferrara began the company in the Little Italy neighborhood of Chicago. Over time, the company has continued to grow through other mergers and acquisitions.
“Our biggest evolution came at the end of last year, when we were acquired by Ferrero Group, so we are an affiliate of Ferrero Group out of Italy,” said Sarah Kittel, head of corporate communications for Ferrara Candy.
Ferrero also had purchased Nestle U.S. Confections and brought the two companies together.
“When it comes to nostalgic brands that have an enormous amount of inherent equity like the Butterfinger brand and the Crunch brand; you talk about your Laffy Taffy, your Sweet Tarts, Nerds, those are all Nestle U.S. Confections or Nestle legacy brands that we have brought into the fold in our company,” Kittel said. “And for brands that have been largely ignored for the last two to three years, they sit now within a company that is solely focused on candy–unapologetically focused on candy and confections. So what we have the ability to do is to reinvigorate, to re-energize, to really double down on marketing investments to really bring these brands back to prominence and to ensure not only do we deliver for our customer–obviously c-store being really one of our key, key focus customers–but to deliver to our consumer. There’s an enormous amount of potential that we see not only in our legacy brands but obviously in the Nestle portfolio, too.”
Chocolate division making changes
Natalie Hagstrom, general manager of Ferrara’s chocolate division, said the company is increasing its investment in quality, product and advertising, starting with Butterfinger.
“We’re very excited about the new, better Butterfinger,” she said. “What you’ll see coming into marketplace in early 2019 are better ingredients, better packaging, a better overall taste profile with a significant media investment, two-and-a-half times where it’s been in the past, so we’re very excited.”
The quality of the candy bar will improve with a rich, more chocolaty coating and improved peanut flavoring, but also by removing the TBHQ preservative and hydrogenated oils, Hagstrom said. Packaging also will improve, providing a better seal against air and moisture.
Butterfinger is not the only brand to undergo innovation. A new advertising campaign for Crunch was to begin Oct. 15, with a broad media reach, including primetime TV and digital aspects, Hagstrom said. Improvements to the packaging and formula are also planned for Crunch.
“And you’re going to see that same recipe across the franchise,” she said. “We’ll start with the product, make sure we have the best quality ingredients, the best packaging and then we’ll heavy up the media investment across all of them.”
Non-chocolate products see growth
Ferrara is the second largest non-chocolate player in the market–the first from a seasonal perspective–and third from a chocolate perspective, according to Jill Manchester, SVP of marketing services.
“We’re really excited about the growth opportunities we have in front of us,” she said as she began sharing innovations on the non-chocolate front, beginning with Trolli.
“It’s one of our leadership brands,” she said. “A fun fact, it has been showing share growth the last 30 months. From an innovation perspective, for the last three years we’ve delivered $38 million in new innovation and products. And the next one is a consumer insight–47 percent of consumers want to try a new flavor or a new variety. So the consumers are out seeking something new and we continue to deliver on that.”
A new product, Trolli All-Star Mix, is a combination of its best original five types of products: crawlers, octopus, sloths, llamas and “tiny hands” from the Dead Pool movie.
“We have been very fortunate to work with 7-Eleven on tie-ins and they really worked with us on Dead Pool, where they had an exclusive to have ‘tiny hands’ and in-store marketing to support that launch last year,” Manchester said. “So we’ve done a great job with them.”
The Trolli All-Star Mix, in various sizes, also will be available in supermarkets.
Sweet Tarts is another leadership brand in the non-chocolate division and has been growing for the past five years, Manchester said, talking specifically about Sweet Tart Ropes.
“It really has been fueled by the growth of the ropes,” she said. “People like chewy, something different. We’re reinventing what Sweet Tarts means to people. They love the flavor. We now want to put it in a format that is smaller, snackable and introduce more flavors. So in our traditional ropes you’ll have your strawberry and your cherry. It is a chewy fruit on the outside with a flavored fondant inside, so you’ll get a dual-textured experience when you eat it.”
Other flavors include apple, blueberry and orange. Sweet Tart Ropes are found in convenience stores, in small share packs, and in the stand-up bag for other classes of trade.
“But we’re not stopping there,” Manchester said. “We also have Sweet Tarts Chewy and these are small, round disks that are crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside.” These come in original flavors, in addition to black raspberry, dark cherry, blueberry punch and mixed berry.
“If you like cherries or berries, this is the one for you,” she said. “You can get them in a theater pack and a share pack and for other classes of trade, a stand up bag. There is nothing like having candy while you’re watching a movie. And you will see, with Sweet Tarts we are tying in with Wonder Woman 2, which is coming out in November. So you’ll see us doing more from a movie perspective, specifically with Ropes.”
Manchester said Ferrara is the only candy company reaching out to the movie industry.
“We understand what the strategy is, do our advertising and bring it all the way in-store and even to the product form,” she said. “So if you think of our ‘tiny hands,’ there isn’t anyone I can think of that creates a product then ties it back to the show, and the movie studios really love that–that we can be so true to what we do.”
Sour is hot
Nerds also is getting a new look, with the introduction of Big Chewy Nerds.
“In May, at the Sweet and Snack Show, we launched Big Chewy Nerds and it won the most innovative product award,” Manchester said. “We know that people want the chewy; that is where the growth of the category is going. We know that Big Chewy Nerds has done well from winning the award at Sweet and Snack, so now we’re coming up with the sour alternative. And you can tell we’re really doubling down on the characters and bringing them to life. And you’ll be seeing us do a lot in-store with that.”
Manchester said consumers’ taste for sour is growing at 18 percent more than a non-sour alternative. “It’s important for us to be chewy, but it’s very important for us to be in a sour, chewy category,” she said.
Ferrara’s Black Forest brand is “a disruptor in the category,” Manchester said. “We came out with our organic line and it’s the No. 1 organic candy now that’s available. It continues to grow at 14 percent. So there is a market for organic and we’re very, very proud of that.”
Looking at non-organic offerings, Manchester said Black Forest stands for “juicy,” which is its point of difference.
“There is not a better tasting gummy bear out there. And there’s not a juicier gummy bear than ours,” she said. “And now we’re taking it to the next limit by putting actual juice inside of our gummies. So think of putting a liquid inside a liquid. Not everyone can do that, but our technologists at Ferrara have found a way to be able to do that so when you bite into it, you get real fruit juice and get the juiciest gummy bear that you can have. They’re cute little bears, they have little tummies that are full of the juice and in some very great combinations, whether it’s strawberry lemon or lime cherry that really give you a different sour experience.”
Ferrara products can be found in both convenience stores and supermarkets.