Ferrara closed the Nestlé deal only weeks before the 2018 Sweets & Snacks convention, so 2019 was the first year all of these brands came together in one cohesive booth. The resulting showcase highlighted the seasonal dominance, recipe improvements and flavor innovations Ferrara has implemented across its robust portfolio.
Butterfinger needed to be nurtured
Upon acquiring Nestlé’s chocolate lineup, the new parent promised to overhaul product formulations to match contemporary consumer expectations. It also recently improved the chocolate recipe and sourcing for Brach's, transitioning to the sustainably sourced Cocoa Horizons from Barry Callebaut in April.
“They hadn’t been nurtured; they hadn’t been loved,” Kristen Mandel, senior director of marketing for Ferrara’s chocolate business told ConfectioneryNews.
The reformulated Butterfinger, launched in January, removed molasses and the preservative TBHQ, while bumping up the cocoa percentage from 20% to 25%. The packaging also changed: Ferrara swapped the brand’s longtime stylized yellow-gold wrapper to a brighter, truer yellow that helps it pop on the shelf, said Mandel.
The Ferrero-backed company also invested in marketing the product, spending three times as much money this year versus 2018, which will continue into 2020.
As a result, Butterfinger’s sales since January have grown at a 12% rate, according to IRI, compared to an overall category rate of 1.2%.
Ferrara will also revamp recipes for two other Nestlé brands, Baby Ruth and 100 Grand, both slated to debut in December. They will boast cleaner labels and more modern package designs, which will feature a product image ‘to remind fans why they love’ these classic American bars.
The new Baby Ruth will boast one major change: dry roasted peanuts, grown in the US. Nestlé was using peanuts roasted in oil, but Ferrara believes the new version offers a cleaner peanut profile that will drive impulse buys – which in turn drive growth, said Mandel.
This ‘investment in quality and messaging’ will help keep these brands at ‘top of mind,’ especially in the US.
Non-seasonal & gummy growth
Ferrara dominates seasonal confections, especially in the non-chocolate category. From Brach’s candy corn, jelly beans, conversation hearts and candy canes, Ferrara finds its way into the homes of one-in-three households.
With Nerds, Black Forest's fresh fruit-juice gummies (including the new fruit-inside product), and Trolli’s ‘weirdly awesome’ world of gummy worms, the company has watched sales for this category jump more than 10%.
Winning the NCA’s innovation award for the Trolli 'Crunchy Crawlers' was also a major victory: “To pan an oblong shape is really a novel change,” Greg Guidotti, who leads the non-chocolate division at Ferrara, told ConfectioneryNews.
SweeTARTS have also proved to be a massive success with the launch of Soft & Chewy Ropes, which have become the brand’s best-selling product.
Crunch can be a top-10 brand
Crunch, once of Nestlé’s most recognized chocolate bars, had been under-invested for a decade, according to Ferrara. It will inject more than twice the marketing spend this year versus 2018, and as with Butterfinger, will continue that push through 2020.
The campaign leans into the idea that Crunch is ‘the chocolate bar all Americans love,’ with commercial spots that celebrate diversity and common interests. Crunch has partnered with DonorsChoose.org to support public school teachers and inclusion in the classroom.
This winter, consumers will also see Crunch Jingles on the shelf, a chocolate bell filled with crushed Brach’s peppermint pieces. “Before these business came together a year ago, these were things that weren’t possible,” said Mandel.
Ferrara’s investment in the Nestlé brands has boosted net sales by 11%, including a 17% bump year-over-year for the core chocolate portfolio. Each brand is faring better than it has in 15 years: as Mandel put it, “it’s a rising tide that’s lifting all brands.”
More possibilities with Keebler
Ferrero Group's Keebler acquisition, set to close in July, will further propel Ferrara. That portfolio complements its existing brands as nine in 10 confection consumers overlap with cookie and sweet treat shoppers, noted Sarah Kittel, Ferrara’s head of corporate communication. There is plenty of opportunity for collaboration between Keebler cones and cookies with Brach’s and the former Nestlé chocolates, she added.
As the cherry on top, in September, Ferrara will move its corporate headquarters from its suburban home in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, to the Old Post Office building in downtown Chicago.