Jelly Belly has added protein recovery malt balls to its Sports Beans range as the functional confectionery brand gains distribution in mainstream retail.
The company first launched its vitamin and electrolyte-enriched Sports Beans brand in 2005 for athletes seeking an energy boost. It later added Extreme Sports Beans with added 50 mg of caffeine.
Its latest addition Protein Recovery Crisps is targeted at athletes after exercise.
Protein Recovery Crisps
“This is not a jelly bean,” Robert Swaigen, vice president of marketing at Jelly Belly told ConfectioneryNews.
“It’s built almost like a chocolate-covered malt ball and it’s got a pea protein center. Pea protein is becoming well understood by athletes as ideal in terms of how its metabolized and how dense the protein is. Then we’ve got a whey protein coating mixed in with the chocolate on the outside.”
A 12-ball pack contains 10 g of protein per package – just a little more than a glass of milk.
“About the time we launched this, a lot of athletes were attracted to chocolate milk for all of its benefits, so we were leveraging that a little bit,” said Swaigen.
The company launched the product in October last year in the US, but it is not yet selling in Europe.
Swaigen said the Sports Beans brand had made significant gains since its launch almost ten years ago.
“We were initially concerned that we wouldn’t be taken seriously because we are a candy company getting into this very niche world.”
But Swaigen said that the brand had met expectations and Jelly Belly had begun to move the range into mainstream retail.
“The category has grown up and you’ll find some traditional drug and grocery accounts with these products. They’re creating energy sets and they are looking for something more interesting than just power bars.”
The company now selling in Walgreens and Safeway as well as sports chain Dicks Sporting Goods.
New channels: But not as easier as it looks
He added that the brand had given Jelly Belly a presence in new channels.
“It’s very established in the sports community now. With our distribution, we’ve got into places we hadn’t been before - we got in cycling stores and sports stores. It’s really been incremental business for us.”
According to Swaigen, consumers had been attracted to the portability and uniqueness of its functional energy product in a market that was largely dominated by power bars.
“We’re seeing more competition but we haven’t seen anyone be quite successful. It’s easy to underestimate what it takes, not just in terms of the formulation but the whole infrastructure to support sports nutrition products,” he said.
“If you’re a candy company you probably don’t have the broker networks and the buyer relationships.”
Credibility through peer-reviewed research
In 2006, Jelly Belly funded peer-reviewed research published in International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism to boost the credibility of its original Sports beans.
The research found that 16 healthy cyclists taking Sports Beans during a 10 kilometer cycle had increased power output and quicker finish times versus drinking water only.