Candy, beverage companies aim to appeal to health-conscious parents

In the old days, many parents would simply throw a toy or snack into their shopping cart, hoping that would be enough to placate their pleading children. Today, much the same thing happens, except the parents more likely are to scrutinize the packaging and labeling for key information.

Millennial parents, who matured as the self-care movement gathered momentum, are eating healthier and exercising more than their baby boomer parents. In this increasingly health-conscious world, it is no wonder parents are more particular about the candy, food, toys and healthcare products they choose for their children.   

This means that manufacturers of children’s products have a two-fold job — attracting and delighting young consumers while offering parents peace of mind.

This is especially true in the candy category, which the Chicago-based research company IRI pegged annual sales to be around $24.5 billion between candy, gum and chocolate in U.S. multi-outlets for the 52 weeks ended last December.

The big numbers have many manufacturers paying attention to how they market products directed at children. For example, Zolli Candy, based in Commerce Township, Mich., is betting that by providing candies that are sourced from natural ingredients, it can win over both children and parents.    

Tom Morse, Zolli Candy’s manager, pointed out that his daughter Alina, who is now the company’s CEO, was only 7 years old when she came up with the idea of developing a healthy candy that would not be harmful to children’s teeth.

The idea came to fruition with the creation of Zolli Pops and Zolli Drops, which the company touts as “The After You Eat Treat for a Healthy Smile.” Ingredients include stevia, xylitol and erythritol, which is a plant-derived ingredient that works naturally with our bodies to help reduce the acidity and balance the pH in our mouths, Morse said.

Available in peppermint, strawberry, grape, orange, cherry, raspberry and pineapple flavors, Zolli Pops and Zolli Drops are sugar-free, non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free, vegan and kosher. They contain beetroot juice, stevia, turmeric, and grape and annatto extract, and all colors are derived from natural plant-based sources.

Zolli Candy isn’t the only company capitalizing on a trend, and for many food and beverage companies, a key part of the strategy is knowing what your consumers wants for their children. “If you want to get more people to come into your store to buy your product, you have to understand that the key thing people are thinking about is healthier options for themselves and their family,” said Kara Goldin, CEO and founder of hint.

Hint recently introduced hint kids, a line of flavored water that does not contain sugar or artificial sweeteners. Available in watermelon, cherry, apple and blackberry, the flavors are derived from the skins and oils of fruit.

Louisville, Ky.-based CandyRific also is raising the bar when it comes to amusing kids, while ensuring parents’ satisfaction. The company has spent almost two decades marketing such interactive, battery run novelty toys as fans that have dispensers filled with small amounts of candy. The toys tie in with licensing from Nickelodeon, Disney and DreamWorks’ productions.   

Clark Taylor, CandyRific’s vice president of sales and marketing, said the candies contain dextrose, natural flavors and such colors as turmeric, beta carotene and beet powder, and each serving is 50 calories, which is designed to please parents.

Merchandising matters
Manufacturers are quick to point out that retailers can increase sales of children’s products by being creative with product placement. Zolli Candy’s Morse suggested more than one place to showcase products like the ones his company makes.

“If it is going into an oral health set, it’s an incremental sale because there’s nothing like it on the shelf,” he said. “It’s a consumable item, so it has a high repurchase rate if it is placed in the natural candy set or sugar-free set.”

CandyRific supplies retailers with 12-unit counter trays, featuring attractive graphics that correspond to the blockbuster movies the company ties into. “The retail store or pharmacy wants to make sure that they put the units in the tray because the graphics bring the eye of the consumer to the section and the item,” Taylor said.

CandyRific’s trays are about 9 inches wide and 9 inches deep. The toy fans are roughly 9 inches tall, so retailers can put $36 worth of merchandise in a small footprint and sell them for $60, Taylor said. The 12-count tray can be placed in the candy section or at the front of the store.

Another strategy manufacturers are betting on to increase sales of their products to children and parents is to expand product offerings on a regular basis.

The trend in chewy candy was the impetus behind Zolli Candy’s introduction of Zaffi Taffy. “Kids like chewy candies, and that’s been where most of the growth in nonchocolate candy has happened over the last three years, Morse said. The company also is rolling out large-size Zolli Ballpops.

Taylor believes that evergreen properties are critical in boosting retailers’ sales. “We take a look at what Disney, Nickelodeon and DreamWorks are doing, and work very closely with licensing groups to tie into their opportunities because they will have a much longer life at retail than the hottest trends or hottest licenses,” he said, citing such movies as “Star Wars,” “Frozen 2,” “Toy Story 4,” and Marvel movies as evergreen properties.

CandyRific also continues to deliver such new novelty items as Lick Pop, which has powdered candy in the bottom and a pop on the top, and features a character from Nickelodeon’s “Paw Patrol” movie.

Looking the part
Manufacturers realize that it’s also critical to invest in packaging to boost product sales. Ferrara Candy has said in recent advertising that it has “cleaned up its label and sealed the better bar in a new, double-layer wrapper to lock in flavor and help keep it tasting great.” The company also is focusing on better ingredients and an improved recipe, as evidenced by a full-page color ad that ran in The New York Times to introduce consumers to “A Better Butterfinger.”

Zolli Candy, which uses kid-friendly, fun and vibrant colors, as well as characters that children identify with on its packages, is continually refreshing its packaging throughout the year. Hermey, the Elf dentist from the “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” movie, will be featured on the company’s Christmas 2019 packaging.

Manufacturers committed to planning a year or two in advance of new product launches are instrumental in helping retailers boost sales of children’s products. “You have to plan pretty far out. We had a conference call with Nickelodeon, which has SpongeBob, PAW Patrol and [Teenage Mutant] Ninja Turtles, to talk about movi