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Bon Bon Buddies looks overseas to double sales in five years

By Oliver Nieburg+

22-Apr-2013

Bon Bon Buddies managing director Chris Howarth (second from right) celebrates winning the Queen’s Award for Enterprise with colleagues for the firm's strong international trading
Bon Bon Buddies managing director Chris Howarth (second from right) celebrates winning the Queen’s Award for Enterprise with colleagues for the firm's strong international trading

Wales-based character confectionery firm Bon Bon Buddies is aiming to double its sales in the next five years through growth in international markets such as the Middle East.

The firm recently bagged the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for its international trading, having substantially grown overseas earnings in the past three years.

The company’s sales have risen from £13m ($15.3) in 2003 to £39m ($45.8) in 2012 and last year it entered new markets such as Austria, Finland Hungary, Slovakia and the Middle East.

It has set a goal to reach £80m ($123m) in sales and raise the proportion of non-UK sales from 57% to over 75% in the next five years.

Growth in three business areas

Chris Howarth, managing director of Bon Bon Buddies, told ConfectioneryNews.com: “The European economy is tough, but parents still indulgence their children and buy them sweets.”

He said the company was hoping to grow in its three business areas: licensed confectionery, own-brand and third party distribution.

Bon Bon Buddies produces licensed confectionery through deals with companies such as Disney, Nintendo and Barbie makers Mattel.

Around 18 months ago, the company also launched its firm own brand ‘Bran Blasterz’ and more own-brands are in the pipeline.

Bon Bon Buddies is also the UK distributor for Ritter Sport and Pez, for whom it also handles Polish distribution. It is also the French, Polish and Benelux distributor for the Jelly Bean Factory and distributes Ziani’s Disney Surprise Eggs in France and Poland.

The company employs 155 staff and operates one UK chocolate factory. Its sales volumes are 60% chocolate and 40% sugar confectionery and some products are manufactured by third parties across Europe.

18 months ago Bon Bon Buddies introduced its first own brand 'Brain Blasterz' and it plans more own-brands in the future

Middle and Far East

“The Middle East is doing very well for us because of the nature of the economy,” said Howarth, adding that the market was not subject to the fiscal pressures of Europe.

The company is also looking further afield at the Far East, although there are no plans in place yet.

“China is the biggest potential market, but also has its own challenges,” said Howarth.

The MD said route to market was very challenging due to different payment structures and the developing retail infrastructure.

Labeling challenge

He added that in all markets there were constant labeling challenges, which will be exacerbated when minimum font sizes are introduced in the EU next year.

 EU law will require a minimum font size for mandatory information of 1.2 mm for the x-height. However, if the largest surface of a food package is less than 80 cm², the minimum font size is reduced to 0.9 mm.

Howarth said that Bon Bon Buddies products had 20 languages on the pack and while he was confident the firm could meet the new regulation without removing languages, each country will implement its own interpretation of the law, which could prove problematic.

Health debate ‘receded’

Asked if he was concerned about a crackdown on confectionery aimed at children, he said “The health debate has kind of receded.”

He said that Bon Bon Buddies products were portion controlled and seasonal eggs were smaller to help parents manage their children’s diet.

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