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PEZ returns to roots with adult proposition

By Oliver Nieburg+

05-Feb-2014
Last updated on 05-Feb-2014 at 12:37 GMT

Retro tins aimed at nostalgic adults. PEZ broadens its target group
Retro tins aimed at nostalgic adults. PEZ broadens its target group

Austrian confectioner PEZ International is hoping to take advantage of the vogue retro trend by re-launching peppermint candies for adults that were previously ditched in favor of child-friendly products in the sixties.

The company expanded its latest PEZ Peppermint sugar-free candies range at the International Sweets and Biscuits Fair (ISM) in Cologne, Germany last week.

From adults to kids and back again

“We have the peppermint candies again,” Karin Leonhartsberger, product manager at PEZ told ConfectioneryNews.

“This is the candy that was the first candy for PEZ. Eduard Haas III started in 1927 with the peppermint candies and actually the name PEZ is from the German word for peppermints: PfeffErminZ.”

“He invented the product because he wanted people to stop smoking. The first claim was ‘smoking prohibited - PEZing allowed’.”

PEZ began the shift towards the children's market in the early Sixties through a licensing agreement with Disney. First kids PEZ dispenser pictured.

PEZ sold peppermint candies along with cigarette-shaped lighter dispensers from the late twenties until the early sixties.

“Then we went to the US market and there the peppermint candy doesn’t work that well. It then became an idea to put comic hats on the PEZ dispenser and that’s how the product is known nowadays,” said Leonhartsberger.

PEZ signed a licensing deal with Disney in 1962 for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck dispensers and introduced fruit candies after peppermint candies in a lighter dispenser were deemed inappropriate for children. PEZ was then firmly positioned as a children’s product.

New target groups

The company first broadened its three- to eight-year-old target group in 2011 when it introduced PEZ soft action dispensers designed for children approaching their teens who no longer thought it cool to carry around a Mickey Mouse dispenser.

“We also wanted to offer adults a perfect product and that’s why we came back to our roots and the retro trend is very popular,” said Leonhartsberger.

“It’s for a confident target group and for 20-70 year olds who liked the original and are style-addicted.”

“The high society mint”: Artwork from Gerhard Baruse has enjoyed cult status.

PEZ reintroduces the lighter dispenser

PEZ launched the first blister packs for the adult brand last year and at ISM this year it introduced pre-filled tins and re-fill packs featuring PEZ ladies. The sugar-free products are sweetened with sucralose and sorbitol and are manufactured in Hungary.

 “The first plans are to make more tins, more designs and afterwards there will be lots of new inventions,” continued Leonhartsberger. “If the peppermint product works out we will surely invent new flavors – we have something but it is still top secret.”

Growth markets

“We are hoping to grow internationally as with all PEZ products, but the main market now is Austria, where we come from. Of course we want to go to Germany – the product is already listed in France and in Switzerland. We want to conquer the UK and the whole European market, but for now it’s step-by-step.”

PEZ first hopes to secure distribution in Europe and then to branch out internationally with the adult brand.

“We are distributing our other products in 80 countries and this should work out for the adult range too,” said the product manager.

PEZ's global footprint (In green).

She said that the US was a possibility as the company had a subsidiary in Orange, Connecticut, while Asia was also a prospect. “But it is always very difficult to go into Asia markets because they have special requirements for the packaging.”

PEZ expects the product to sell in general trade channels, particularly in gas stations and at point of sale. The company has also created counter displays that distributors can order and refill.

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