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Mars releases laundry list of candy, salty snacks, chocolate bar launches

BY Jenna Duncan

CHICAGO Mars Snackfood this week at the National Association of Convenience Stores Show at McCormick Place has announced a lineup of snack products to be launched this fall and winter.

Mars has announced the upcoming launches of spicy jalapeno cheddar tortilla-flavored Combos.  For the candy category, Mars will be releasing Dove Promises Changemakers bite-sized milk chocolate and rich dark chocolate candies. Dove is also extending its line with Dove Chocolate Large Bars in flavors creamy cappuccino and mandarin orange. New Snickers Fun-Size Changemakers, with caramel, milk chocolate nougat and nougat will also hit shelves by the winter season.

In the sugar-candy category, Mars adds Skittles Crazy Cores, Starburst FaveReds flavored like cherry, fruit punch, strawberry and watermelon and Starburst Sour Gummibursts with flavors green apple, watermelon, strawberry and orange tangerine.

To boost sales of its wide variety of chocolates and snack products, Mars has a number of promotions lined up for fall and winter. M&M’s will get special packaging featuring Ms. Green, the alluring, romantic, female M&M character, in time for Valentine’s Day.And for the Super Bowl, Snickers will get special packaging treatment, along with tie-ins to a fantasy sweepstakes game which will award 17 trips to the Super Bowl, as well as chances for several secondary prizes. Mars has also announced that 3 Musketeers candy bars will be the official candy bars of the Times Square New Year’s Eve 2008 celebration and will get special treatment on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve celebration show.

Though times are tough in the current cash-poor consumer economy, items such as candy are still seeing strong sales, Mars said. For example, data released by market research firm Information Resources Inc. showed that chocolate sales in convenience sales were up 4.1 percent for the 52-week period ended Aug. 10. Mars Snackfood said that sales of its chocolate candies increased 9.1 percent for the same time in that channel.

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Brookshire Grocery announces launch of Fresh store

BY Michael Johnsen

TYLER, Texas Brookshire Grocery on Thursday announced it will break ground in January on a new concept store called Fresh, according to a local daily.

The new store concept, which will anchor a strip center at the Ridge at Oak Hills, is expected to be open by the end of next year. Details as to what services would be available at the new store concept were not available.

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Craft beers hit it big as seasonal favorites

BY Barbara White-Sax

Seasonal craft beers are a bright spot in the otherwise flat beer category. While the in-and-out nature of a category based on limited-time, limited-edition brews can pose a merchandising and inventory headache for retailers, experts said the segment’s profitability is worth the effort.

In a recent Information Resources Inc. report on the beer category, Dan Wandel, senior vice president for beverage alcohol client solutions said, “the craft segment is still managing to grow double digits in dollar sales versus one year ago despite tough economic conditions.”

IRI data for the 52 weeks ended July 13, showed that seasonal craft beers jumped ahead 22.9 percent in dollar sales.

“Seasonal craft beers are the No. 1 selling beers in the craft category and have surpassed pale ale in sales,” said Julie Herz, craft beer program director at the Brewers Association. “There’s tremendous interest in the marketplace for seasonal beers. Consumers are interested in flavor and diversity and are interested in experimenting with different brews. They want different beers for different occasions.”

“The segment is very consumer-driven,” said Peter Reid, publisher of Modern Brewery Age. “Consumers want to change their beer with the seasons, so the light, refreshing summer wheat beers do well in that season. Then consumers want something new in the fall and winter.”

Fall and winter provide ample opportunities to tempt consumers with seasonal beer choices. Oktoberfest beers, brews brewed in the spring, aged then tapped in the fall, are gaining popularity, according to Herz. Hailing traditionally from Germany, these beers are increasingly being made by U.S. brewers. In fact, Samuel Adams OctoberFest has become the largest-selling Oktoberfest beer in the world.

Harvest ales, featuring local ingredients or ingredients of the season, usually are stronger in alcohol. They can be made with “wet hops” right from the field or can contain freshly malted grain.

Pumpkin beers—which come in all styles, flavors and strengths, and can be ales or lagers—are a great in-and-out for Halloween and Thanksgiving. “Pumpkin beers are a really fun category and an interesting beer,” Reid said.

Colder weather gives retailers a reason to bring in darker brews that are higher in alcohol content and flavor quotients.

Seasonals provide retailers with nice merchandising opportunities. “The themes are obvious for tieins with Halloween and Thanksgiving,” Herz said. “We offer graphics that can help retailers dress up their endcaps to create good displays with local seasonal beers.”

Retailers who balk at the idea of juggling so many local craft beers may want to rethink their position. “Seasonal craft beers represent an opportunity in the category for growth with very attractive margins. These limited-edition, limited-time beers are not as price-sensitive, and consumers often experiment with more than one,” Reid said.

“The problem for retailers is it’s only worth doing if it can be easily managed, and the key for drug stores is finding a way to bring seasonal beers in simply,” said Jim Koch, founder and brewmaster of Samuel Adams. “That’s something we spent 20 years perfecting.”

Koch said Samuel Adams’ four seasonal beers—Samuel Adams Summer Ale, Samuel Adams OctoberFest, Samuel Adams Winter Lager and Samuel Adams White Ale—offer retailers a seamless transition from season to season requiring only one facing that can be rotated as the seasons change.

“Our wholesalers know how to handle the transitions to OctoberFest in the store before Summer Ale runs out,” he said. “Retailers don’t want to be selling a summer seasonal in October. Seasonals are high-profit, high-ring incremental purchases, so having the right product in the store is important.”

Adding at least one facing should give retailers an opportunity to grab additional category sales while keeping the management of the category at a minimum. Those who do are likely to find the effort provides category pay off. “At the end of the day, an expanded portfolio of specialty products with higher price points will bring more money to the category than sales of traditional mass-produced light lagers,” Herz said.

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