The Connecticut-based startup entered the hard candy market in 2012 and last month expanded its offering by launching 'Chewie Fruities' soft chews at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago.
"We're aware of the growth in the chewy candy category so we wanted to join in and take advantage of those sales - we know they turn five to eight times faster than hard candy,” Torie Burke, company co-founder, told ConfectioneryNews at the Expo.
The firm has created soft chew versions of its top three bestselling flavors in hard candy - pomegranate & nectarine, blood orange & honey and lemon & raspberry using naturally-derived ingredients.
"It's made with very clean ingredients. The colors are from beetroot juice and turmeric and the flavors are extracts and concentrates of the fruits themselves,” said Burke.
Natural colors debate
Torie & Howard’s soft chews are USDA organic and Kosher certified and the product contains no artificial colors & flavors.
Major companies such as Nestlé USA have pledged to use only natural colors & flavors, but smaller companies like jelly bean maker Gimbal’s and Mike & Ike owner Just Born say it is difficult to achieve the same brightness with all natural ingredients.
Burke said: "You are limited when you use a natural color like vegetable based colors and with a chewy candy because the taffy base itself has opaque look to it, it's a little bit more difficult, but we feel like we've done pretty well with the colors.”
“I know today's consumer would be much happier without the blue dyed tongue,” she continued. “We all know what that really means today - there's enough information out about the harmful effects of the artificial colors.”
A 2013 study in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology urged hard candy makers to stop using Brilliant Blue (E133) and Patent Blue (E131) because the colors had potential to disrupt cell metabolism in children, but its findings that were disputed by The International Association of Color Manufacturers.
Torie & Howard’s chews are packaged in 4 oz resealable peg bags, which are gusseted for stand up display. The firm has added a new contract manufacturer based in the U.S to produce the product, which carries a suggested retail price of $3.99 per pack.
“Mom's - they're our biggest customer,” said Burke. “They're the ones that not only like to have a sweet indulgent moment themselves that's cleaner, they also want to share it with their children and not have to worry about it."
Larger grocery stores
Torie & Howard has distribution in over 5,000 retail stores for its hard candies and is eyeing similar channels for the soft chews.
"We really run the gambit again because we sell from gas stations to book stores to casinos to grocery and just going into club now. We are really fitting so many channels, which is exciting,” said Burke.
The company recently signed a deal to enter CVS in California and in Washington at Bartell Drugs.
"We're getting into more larger grocery stores - then we're going into having very serious conversations with the club channel. Both of those are big steps for us,” said Burke.
Around 10% of the company’s sales come in international markets such as Australia, Canada and the UK and the firm intends to add more export markets to grow international sales to around 30% of the business.
We asked Burke if Torie & Howard would remain an independent company or if it needed a larger partner to accelerate international growth.
"Time will tell at that one,” she said. “We're open, but we still need to do some growing, we're young and we're really gaining some great traction this year - our third year - we're starting to pick up a bit which is exciting for us."