January - February 1999
Special Report: Kids' candy
Today's kids are smarter, quicker and often harder to impress than
kids 20 or even 10 years ago. In order to keep up with the ever
changing tastes and demands of this fickle audience, candy suppliers
are finding themselves tied closely into all of the emerging pop
culture icons, from cartoon characters to pop music stars to web
involved in kids' purchasing habits are almost limitless - television,
movies, peers, magazines, and now even the Internet. And tracking
all of these influences certainly does not guarantee success. For
instance, an anticipated smash at the box office can fail miserably,
leaving an expected trend in kids' products languishing on store
shelves nationwide. Conversely an unexpected theater success can
find suppliers and retailers scratching their heads as consumer
search in vain for product tie-ins.
Professional Candy Buyer a crystal ball might be the most reliable
source for answers when predicting future trends in the kids candy
category. "Kids are more sophisticated as consumers than ever
- that changes their perspective of what's unique and fun,"
explains Bruce Thompson, vice-president of marketing for Amurol
Confections Co. "A 12-year-old a decade ago is like a 10-year-old
today. They grow up faster, and they have and want more choices."
Sid Good is
president of Good Marketing, Inc., a marketing company that specializes
in understanding kids as consumers. Good has worked with companies
that include OddzOn/Cap Candy, Mattel, Hasbro and Playskool, and
developed the concept for the Cap Cand Fossil Pop. He says the first
rule of marketing to kids is recognizing the "wow" factor.
the ultimate consumers, and if you don't deliver on fun and on taste,
they're not going to buy it again," Good says. "Kids are
much more savvy [today]. They're watching more television, more
movies. They're much more in touch with what's going on."
considered a four-letter word among the younger set, most suppliers
are going straight to the source to find out what kids want. Joe
Milligan, marketing director for Richardson Brands, Inc., explains:
"We talked to a lot of kids and we show kids a lot of options.
We try to take what they're telling us and not water it down. They
want things that are risqué; they don't want boring. They
want their candy and packaging highly eventful."
Good says the
biggest challenge in testing and talking with kids is clearly identifying
details you need to address. "We talk directly to kids as often
as we can to try and validate assumptions we make in developing
concepts and ideas," Good emphasizes. "You need to know
the limitation of what you can gain through research and apply it
in the appropriate way."
Along with growing
up faster, kids are gaining more influence over their parents than
ever before, according to Richardson Brands' Milligan. He points
to automobile commercials airing during kids' television programming
as evidence of this trend. Advertisers are trying to encourage the
nag factor, he explains. "Kids are consistently increasing
their influence over their parents' purchase decisions, as well
as making more decisions for themselves earlier in life."
Cap Candy's senior director of field sales, agrees that the influence
of television is genuine, and confirms that children today are not
the same as 20, 10 or even five years ago. "A lot of the changes
in today's kids is generated by the technology around us. It's much
more fast-paced, and more competitive, which is ultimately better
for consumers," Evans says.
spending patterns of kids is not relational to their stature. In
fact, kids spend $50.7 billion annually, with the largest share
going to candy, according to Nickelodeon/Yankelovich Youth Monitor.
more money in their pockets now than in the past," Steve Yacht,
Concord Confections, Inc. group product manager tells Professional
Candy Buyer. "Kids today are spending quarters the way they
used to spend nickels and dimes."
kids have more money to spend, Good says quality is more consequential
than ever before. "There's a growing purchasing power, and
since kids have more money, they're spending it on higher priced
items that they feel have value," he says.
With more disposable
income than ever, and more influence than before, how are kids spending
their extra dollars? Bigger, brighter and stronger is the direction
for packages, products and flavors, according to Professional Candy
Buyer sources. Suppliers say kids are interested in tropical fruit
flavors, mouth puckering sours and outrageous shapes and themes.
now is more intense flavors, stronger flavors. Sour is very strong
right now," says Georges Firmignac, marketing director for
Trolli, Inc. Trolli's Brite Crawlers gummies feature intense sour
flavor in neon colors.
director of marketing for American Candy Co., says he's seeing color-your-mouth
items continue to do well in the kids candy category. So well, in
fact, that the company recently launched Droolers super sour fruit
flavored color-your-mouth suckers. "Kids are most interested
in things that are on the cutting edge," Wilkes says.
Inc. is also taking advantage of the color-your-mouth trend, reports
Joe McEnerney, national sales director. He says the resurgence of
the trend has lead to the introduction of Paint Shop, paint brush-shaped
lollipops that pack with a miniature paint can of sour powdered
Inc. is adding a sour kick to its newest oversized gummi line with
a giant sour gummi tongue. Director of Sales and Marketing, David
Skinner, says kids' candy manufacturers are continuing to take traditional
flavors and make them sour.
Beacon Sweets is developing interactive candy products, including
Color-an-Egg, which features candy eggs kids can color using food
grade "paint' and then eat. "We're looking for unique
novelty ideas, things that capture the kids' imaginations,"
Co. Marketing Manager Jim Knight points out variety is also important
to young consumers. "Trends we are currently exploring are
novelty products and extreme flavors," he says, adding: "Mixed
bags, filled with a variety of kid-targeted products, are pervading
He also puts
a lot of stock in the importance of packaging as a way to reach
kids. Spangler is currently in the middle of a three-year program
to update all of its packaging. "[Packaging] has to be consistent,
colorful, fun, modern and explain to the kids what the product is,"
Knight says. "On the retail side, it also has to protect the
product, keep it fresh and reach the store in a configuration that
will attract consumer attention and sell."
But Knight goes
on to explain that more than just the bag or box, packaging also
includes the stick, the wrapper, the coupon or premium, the shipping
case or display graphics and layout, and the pallet configuration.
"Some of the display options to attract parents and kids include
power panels, display shippers and counter display boxes, and all
of it has to work together to give a product the extra push to get
it out the door."
are usually the ones consuming the array of super sour, gross, mouth-coloring
products out on the market, they aren't always the ones making the
initial purchase. When it comes to who's buying kids' candy, suppliers
say the answer depends on the type of retail outlet where the candy
is purchased, as well as the store's location and the product's
location within the store.
are buying the products by the bag in the grocery, drug and mass
market retailers," points out Knight. But, he adds: "Unless
it's near the checkout or in a counter display vehicle where kids
can grab one or two, kids [who] are buying by the piece, migrate
to the convenience store.
in the retail market is affecting all categories, and has impacted
the traditional purchasing habits of kids, according to Amurol's
Thompson. He explains that consolidation has resulted in fewer retail
store locations for both large retailers and smaller mom-n-pop varieties.
Kids are not able to walk or ride their bikes to corner stores as
often as in the past, he points out.
the time kids are accompanied by a parent because they need to be
driven to the store by car," Thompson explains, adding that
the parent is more likely to make the purchase in the larger retail
store or supermarket.
Boxes of individual
candies go to c-stores where the child is the consumer and bags
ship to the supermarket chains where the consumer is usually mom,
explains Eric Ostrow, vice-president of marketing for Ce De Candy,
Inc. Despite the fact that the sale of the bagged candy in the supermarket
is aimed at parents, the location of the bags tends to be at the
eye level of children, reinforcing the belief that children are
the true decision makers, Ostrow tells Professional Candy Buyer.
While the traditional
kids' candy sector was in place long before suppliers first envisioned
the impact of pairing candy with toys, today's kids' candy market
cannot be examined without looking at the influence of interactive
candy. Most suppliers agree the interactive candy category has had
an impact on all types of kids' candy. Some say it's good advertising,
others say price points for traditional products have risen as a
result of interactive activity.
says the emergence of interactive candy was inevitable. "It's
linking two things that have always been together: toys and candy."
Milligan points out the boost to traditional kids' candy is closely
tied to the growth of interactive items. "The candy used to
make interactive items edible is traditional candy, and any recognition
given to a specific sector is good for the candy category as a whole,"
The use of branded
candy in interactive products also leads to increased awareness,
Milligan adds. He also says the high price points in the interactive
markets are allowing traditional candy suppliers to bump up the
price of kids' items without much fear of consumer backlash. "The
five-cent items can be bumped up to 10 cents and the 10-cent items
to 15 cents, and with consumers paying 99 cents to $4.99 for interactive
items they barely notice a five cent increase."
candy has also opened the door for candy to be sold in outlets that
have typically been unreceptive to candy. Yale Gordon, managing
partner of Heisler Gordon & Associates, a marketing company
that specializes in reaching young candy consumers, says novelty
products have opened non-traditional avenues of distribution, such
as craft stores and specialty education stores. "It's allowing
the candy business to open up new channels," Gordon says.
agrees, pointing out that the interactive market has helped bring
attention to the kids' candy category and has expanded the available
options. "It also brings the category to channels it might
not have the opportunity to otherwise participate in," he says.
However Gordon cautions that interactive candy items often have
short life spans. "Kids don't generally go out and buy [the
toy] again. Once you have the product, you're just refilling it,"
When it comes
to tying kids' candy to other successful properties, most sources
agree that licensing is a high-risk, high-reward marketing strategy.
For smaller companies, that's especially true.
is a little too risky for us. There are up-front fees and royalties,"
explains Beacon's Skinner. He adds that the window of opportunity
is shorter, and it can put a strain on production as suppliers work
to meet tight distribution schedules.
says licensing is beneficial if the circumstances are right. "Licensing
can be a good opportunity if it is a good match between two reputable
companies and promotes the product or its attributes in the proper
He adds, however,
that licensing is not always necessary when you have a strong brand
name with consumer recognition. According to kids marketing author
Dr. James U. McNeal, kids begin developing brand loyalty at an early
age with brand recognition beginning by the age of three.
tell Professional Candy Buyer that when considering a licensing
proposal, they look for these and concepts that aren't too closely
tied to an obviously short-lived fad.
our evaluation based on something that's not going to be popular
for a few weeks. We look for staying power," says Impact's
McEnerney. "We knew dinosaurs were popular and we tried to
tap into that."
says one of the benefits of the licensing route is that it delivers
instant recognition. "Licensing gives you value and added opportunity
for traditional and non-traditional products. We're having tremendous
success with the Disney items."
a product to a popular character or film can be profitable, Amurol's
Thompson says the license has to make sense of the product and the
product make sense for the license in order to even hope for success.
Kids Will be
is no question kids' purchasing habits and interests today are different
than in the past, some constants remain. Kids are always interested
in fun, wackiness and things they think their parents don't approve
still a rebellion factor," says Beacon Sweets' Skinner. "You
see things that have shock value. If you can shock the parents,
then the kids are going to love it."
& Associates' Gordon adds that kids are "discerning, aware
and want products designed for them, rather than min-versions of
Instead of reinventing
the wheel, suppliers might choose to take a well-established product
and add a new dimension or gimmick. "A lollipop might not look
exactly like it did 40 years ago, but a lollipop is a lollipop.
All these categories have been around. There's a different twist,
but nothing has really changed," says Richardson's Milligan.
director of marketing for Mayfair Candy Co., says exciting packaging,
trendy products and unique gimmicks are no substitute for the most
important factor in kids' candy - taste.
marketing more toward a parent than a kid; however, we look at what
we put in the bag to satisfy that kid. We're looking to put in name
brands, quality candy and good tasting candy designed for children,"
Kids know and
recognize quality candy, agrees Amurol's Thompson. "Whatever
you're selling has to taste good, regardless of whether it's an
inexpensive piece of candy or an interactive toy that costs $10."
Vice-President Bruce Good says it's also important to the parent
that it be a quality product before they will buy or approve it
for their kids. "You have to deliver the quality to the kid
and the parent." Overall, the kids' candy sector is filled
with exciting new products, merchandised alongside the traditional
favorites. As for the next trend, if you believe Cap's Evans, expect
to see continued attention paid to "delivery systems"
or dispensers. "There was a lot of innovation in gum. That's
waned, and now the innovation is in dispenser. That's an area that
will continue to grow."