Hershey ‘pieces’ together candy puzzle
NEW YORK Hershey recently revamped one of its candy formats by adding new flavors to the line.
Building off the success of the popular Reese’s Pieces candy, the new Pieces candies offer snackable, bite-sized versions of classic favorites including York, Almond Joy and Hershey’s Special Dark. The new candies debuted in late January at New York’s Times Square.
The candies debuted in a new television spot, features the tagline, “Your favorites– now in pieces.” While the new wave of candy may spell success for Hershey, which recently has made headlines for exercising options to bid on Cadbury jointly with Italian chocolate maker Ferrero (the company said it will be acquired by Kraft), some say their may be a backlash, because some of the candies do not have the same texture as its larger predecessor.
For example, “Candy Blog” writer Cybele May said the York Pieces are missing a key ingredient: the creamy peppermint center. Instead, the pieces are filled with peppermint-flavored dark chocolate. This drawback, however, may not necessarily hinder the line’s success. For those looking for a sweet and portioned snack, it may be just the ticket.
“The point is that it gives people the option to eat less and more sensibly,” Marcia Mogelonsky, a senior analyst at Mintel, told the New York Times. “Sure, half of us are going to pour the whole bag into our mouths, but some are going to exercise restraint.”
Healthier options positioned to quench more than thirst
Last year was tough for the beverage category. In a tanking economy, consumers turned to inexpensive carbonated soft drinks, reversing a move toward healthier beverages that had been the trend for several years. If the economy shows signs of life in 2010, will consumers turn back to better-for-you choices in the beverage aisle? Industry experts are betting on it.
“Assuming the economy makes a rebound and consumer confidence comes back, consumers are likely to switch back to more expensive drinks and single serves,” said Phil Gorham, an analyst for Morningstar.
Sports drinks, energy drinks, functional beverages and enhanced water all are categories Gorham thought are likely to generate category growth in 2010. Those categories suffered greatly last year as consumers watched their pocketbooks. “Premium-priced energy drinks and sports drinks were among the categories that were hit hardest,” said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest.
Gary Hemphill, SVP at Beverage Marketing’s information services division, believed that even though consumers are thinking twice before parting with their dollars, growth opportunities exist for products that offer health-and-wellness attributes and functional benefits. “Consumers will still pay a premium for the products that deliver on the benefits they want,” he said.
Lynn Dornblaser, director of CPG Trend Insight for Mintel International Group, expected to see action from new beverage products that provide a “sense of fun, whether it’s fun flavors, unique positioning or a tangible benefit.” Products touting “energy, sustained energy release, hydration, beauty and the like,” she said, will “invigorate the category.” These products are less about specific types or specific brands and more about ensuring a benefit that it promises—even if that benefit is just a sense of coolness or fun, she said.
Enhanced beverages have been showing strong growth as the products’ appeal becomes more mainstream. Owater, the brand of electrolyte-enhanced, sweetener-free waters marketed by one of the founders of Nantucket Nectars, has had strong growth since the brand was introduced in 2004. “Drug stores are looking to offer their customers healthier options as sales of CSDs and heavily sugared drinks decline. Owater offers both zero- and low-calorie options made with natural ingredients,” said Kim Stewart, a spokeswoman for the company.
Muscle Milk, a brand of protein-enhanced functional beverages from CytoSport, has brought innovation to the category with an emphasis on protein. The beverage contains protein ingredients derived from milk, such as whey, but is lactose-free and fat-free.
“Much like Vitaminwater pioneered the vitamin-enhanced water category and Red Bull pioneered the energy-enhanced category, Muscle Milk is launching and carving out the protein-enhanced category,” said Nikki Brown, a representative for Muscle Milk.
While Owater and Muscle Milk aren’t groundbreaking in terms of formulation, expanding their appeal beyond athletes and hardcore gym goers is news. “The real difference to me is that both products are positioned at mainstream consumers, which does make them stand out from others out there,” Dornblaser said. Both beverages, she said, offer much more advanced benefits than fortified beverages consumers are used to seeing, but they are more accessible to mainstream consumers than some of the more “technical” functional drinks on the market.
“They are both small brands that show promise,” Sicher said. “It’s [too] early to tell if they’ll generate much growth.”
Still, enhanced beverages are a good fit for drug stores. “The Muscle Milk protein portfolio is perfect for the drug store company,” Brown said. “We have 100-calorie options, meal-replacement options, diet options and performance proteins with emphasis on healthy, sustained energy and recovery for active lifestyle consumers.”
Iced coffee at its ‘Best’
SEATTLE —The ready-to-drink coffee segment has another player: Seattle’s Best Coffee. Starbucks and Pepsi-Cola North America Beverages’ North American Coffee Partnership introduced iced latte coffee drinks under the Seattle’s Best name in test markets in the western United States in January.
The beverages are available in iced latte, iced vanilla latte and iced mocha flavors, and retail for $1.49 for a single-serve can and $4.99 for a four-pack. The new line of drinks is being tested in such chains as Ralphs, Safeway, Target and Walgreens in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. A wider rollout is expected later this year.
Sales of ready-to-drink coffee were nearly $46 million in drug stores for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 27, 2009, according to Information Resources Inc.