Makulaku first introduced organic black licorice in 1997 and says that in 2011 it was the first company to launch filled natural licorice.
The firm showcased its renovated licorice under new brand Happy Reindeer at ISM in Cologne this month after working on improving the flavor over the past few years.
White space for organic licorice in the US
"We are still the only one having organic filled licorice," Jorma Alanen, executive vice president of parent company Makua Foods, told ConfectioneryNews at the trade fair.
Happy Reindeer is expected to enter export markets in Spring with a focus on the US and Canada.
They are the biggest markets," said Alanen. "Licorice is also well-known in those countries - there are all these natural licorices but not really any good organic licorices before Happy Reindeer,” he claimed.
Around 40% of the Makulaku’s sales are from export markets, but mainly Nordic countries.
Private branded business
Makulaku is already strong in pick & mix confectionery, but the Happy Reindeer launch will help it grow its private branded business.
"The key brand of Makulaku is our house brand. Before the product was being sold very much in pick & mix, but now we are building the Makulaku brand,” said Alanen.
Premium price point
Happy Reindeer will have a suggested retail price of $3.29 per pack in the US.
Allen Schnapp of Specialty Food Management Group (SFMG), the US distributor of Happy Reindeer, said: "It's in the same price range as premium licorice... we're roughly 15% higher [than regular licorice]."
But he added: "The US market is more receptive to paying for a premium item"
Happy Reindeer is non-GMO and contains no artificial colors and flavors
"It's got very few ingredients,” said Schanpp. “If you look at some of the domestic ingredients, you can have 20 to 25 items and ours is basically five or six."