Hershey has launched Lancaster Soft Caramel Cremes in the US, six months after the company initially introduced the product in China.
The company said: “The US version is a caramel developed for the US palette and taps into the growing caramel flavor trend.”
The three flavors, including 'caramel', 'vanilla and caramel' and 'vanilla and raspberry' will be available in 8oz (227g) bags at a retail price of $3.99 and $2.49 for 4oz (113g) bags and after an official US launch in January next year. The US bags are far bigger and more expensive than the packs for the Lancaster milk candy brand in China , announced in May.
The company says that the US launch will be supported by a “robust integrated marketing campaign” beginning in the first quarter of 2014.
Different versions: A question of local tastes
According to Hershey, ‘milk candy’ in China is a $1.2bn segment that accounts for a quarter of the total candy market.
The flavors available in China -Original Pure Nai Bei, Pure Nai Bei filled with Rich Nai Bei, and Pure Nai Bei filled with Strawberry - are markedly different to the new American version.
Nai Bei is a candy-making process used by a local firm in Zhongyi that uses high-quality imported milk and slow cooking to create a rich, creamy flavor.
The Chinese version comes in three different sizes: 40g bags with a suggested retail price of 6 RMB ($0,98), 108g bags at 12.9 RMB ($2.10) and 228g bags costing 24.9 RMB ($4.06). This makes the smallest option in the US more than double the size of the smallest in China.
“The candies are different and have different shapes. The Chinese version is a longer shape. The US version is round and thicker. They are made with different technologies. Both products are tailored for the palettes of consumers in each region,” Jeff Beckman, head of corporate communications at Hershey, told ConfectioneryNews.
“The Chinese version is a traditional milk candy and meets China’s standard of identity for a milk candy, which requires certain amounts of milk and milk fats. It has overtones of milk when eating. The US version is a caramel, with a creamier, more buttery flavor with deeper caramel notes when eating,” Beckman explained.
China as a key confectionery market
The Lancaster brand was first launched in China back in May in select cities including Wuhan, Hangzhou and Chengdu. At the time the company said it had plans for wider distribution in China in 2014.
In this latest release Hershey said the move in May reflected the company's deep commitment to China, as well as the importance of the market in Hershey's global growth plans.
“The launch of Lancaster brand in China marked the first time a brand launch originated outside of the United States,” said the company.
With revenues of more than $6.6 billion, the company said it is focused on growing its presence in key international markets such as China, Mexico and Brazil while continuing to build in the United States and Canada.
Hershey recently announced plans to construct its third Asia plant in Malaysia for $250m. The plant in Johor will be operational by 2015.
The company has said that the new brand is inspired by Milton Hershey's original confectionery business, The Lancaster Caramel Company.