The $221m company told ConfectioneryNews during the NACS show in Atlanta, Georgia it hopes to outgrow the US candy market by 3-5% next year.
Just Born established a sales partnership with the French premium chocolate firm Cemoi earlier this summer to target the growing indulgent chocolate market in the US.
Currently, Just Born’s chocolate products, including Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews and chocolate-dipped Peeps, only make up 5% to 7% of the company’s overall business.
Just Born’s vice president of trade relations and corporate affairs, Matt Pye, said during the show that the company will continue growing its chocolate side of business next year by launching seasonal SKUs of Cemoi chocolate during Easter 2017, and eventually rolling out every day SKUs for other seasons.
Pye said the US candy category generally grows 1% to 2% per year on average. But according to IRI’s latest data, which includes the total US multi-outlets sales for the past 52 weeks ending Oct 2nd, 2016, Just Born recorded a slower growth rate than the category with a 0.92% dollar sales increase compared to last year.
“We are trying to beat the [candy] category by growing at a 3% to 5% rate next year,” Pye said.
Portion control, low-calorie sour candies
While chocolate dollar sales are twice the size of non-chocolate in the overall candy category, Pye said Just Born’s strategic priority in the coming year will still be on chewy candies, such as its Mike and Ike and Hot Tamales power brands.
“We are launching three SKUs under Mike and Ike’s Sour-Licious brand. The three flavors include intense fruit, sour apple and sour fruit punch.” he said.
“Sour flavor is a huge trend, and it really has been growing double digits under a lot of candy brands.”
“They are nothing more than small piece sizes [of candies] with four calories each,” Pye added. “We’re trying to be a responsible marketer by doing in-front-of-pack labeling in terms of labeling calories. We’re also trying to be more transparent by listing all the major ingredients on our website. Again, candy only represents 2% of calories most people consume in their daily diet.”
Boosting chewy candy sales through new video game partnership
Just Born is also teaming up with one of the 2K Sports Games franchises, NBA 2K17, for three new product launches, including Mike and Ike original fruit, Hot Tamales fierce cinnamon, Mike and Ike 3-point mix.
All these products are free from fat and gluten, and each five-ounce box will retail for $1 once they hit US convenience stores in April 2017.
“The new video game came out in September 2016, and our products will be supported with a lot of digital and Billboard advertising and promotion,” Pye said.
Currently, Just Born’s Mike and Ike brand is valued at around $61m and its dollar sales grow by 6.7% year-on-year, according to IRI data. Meanwhile, Hot Tamales is worth around $48m and it posts a 2.03% dollar sales increase per year.
The total non-chocolate chewy candy category is worth $3bn, and has grown 4.77% year-over-year, according to IRI, with Wrigley's Skittles brand dominating the category with a sales value of $325m.