NACS 2019

'Meet consumers where they play': Led by Trolli, Ferrara focuses on new-school updates of classic sugar treats

By Kristine Sherred

- Last updated on GMT

From updating the recipes for Crunch bar and Butterfinger, to innovating the go-to gummy worm, Ferrara is investing heavily in its old-school brands to bring them into a new candy era.
From updating the recipes for Crunch bar and Butterfinger, to innovating the go-to gummy worm, Ferrara is investing heavily in its old-school brands to bring them into a new candy era.

Related tags Ferrara Ferrara candy Ferrero Gummy Sugar confectionery New product development Innovation New product launches Marketing Millennials

The confectioner anchored its showcase at the National Association of Confectioners (NACS) show with Trolli Crunchy Crawlers, complemented by innovations for SweeTarts, Laffy Taffy, Now and Later, and Fun Dip.

We caught up with Greg Guidotti, who oversees the category-dominating sugar portfolio for Ferrara, to understand the company’s approach to innovation as the gummy game continues to tighten​.

From updating the recipes for Crunch bar and Butterfinger, to innovating on the go-to gummy worm, Ferrara is investing heavily in its old-school brands to bring them into a new candy era.

“We’re doing this by building powerful brand equities with significant, meaningful investments in our brands and business; through consumer-led breakthrough innovations; a deliberate channel growth and distribution strategy; and, finally, meeting our consumers where they play,”​ explained Guidotti.

This investment has paved the way for Ferrara’s non-chocolate business to grow at 10 times the rate of the overall confection and fruit snack sector, he said. While the category overall has enjoyed a 1% to 2% bump, Ferrara – buoyed by strong seasonal performance at essential candy holidays like Easter and Halloween – says it has accounted for 15% of category growth since 2016.

 “Our approach is really two-fold when it comes to propelling an established, nostalgic candy brand like Now and Later forward: first, harnessing and building off of the power equities of the brand, and second, growing through innovation ​ both product innovation and innovative marketing moves to reintroduce consumers to these beloved, iconic brands." - Ferrara's Greg Guidotti on innovating classics

Trolli goes for weird and weirder

In the past few years, Trolli has doubled down on its ‘weird’ side, evidenced by investment in a promotional campaign with reputed animators​ and the creative agency behind Bud Light’s ‘Dilly Dilly’ ads. According to Ferrara, Trolli’s sales have doubled in the past seven years.

Its newest product, a candy-coated gummy worm called Crunchy Crawlers, snagged the best-in-show award at Sweets & Snacks’ innovation competition​ in May. (They will hit shelves in December in three sizes, 3.8oz to 6.3oz for an RRP of $1.00-$2.29.) The crunchy worm offers sensory excitement that consumers reportedly crave in non-chocolate confections, as well as dual flavor combinations in every bite.

“The gummy worm can be the gummy worm, but when you’re Trolli, the consumer expects a weirdly awesome twist,”​ Guidotti told ConfectioneryNews.

Crunchy Crawlers benefit from the established foundation of the brand’s notorious Sour Brite Crawlers (allegedly the first-ever gummy worm). The innovation comes into play through the “textural, sensorial experience that’s a mashup of two technologies Ferrara is known for,”​ said Guidotti: panning and starch deposits for gummy processing.

“The magic in creating a product that delivers a thin, crunchy shell and a chewy, fruity center is our ability to pan an irregular shape like a ‘curvy’ gummy worm. This brand is breaking through with a winning proposition in a unique way. Consumers are connecting and responding to how we show up – both as a product and creatively.”

SweeTarts deliver in the gummy category

SweeTart Twisted Ropes Bites

The original hard candies seem to have taken a back seat to SweeTart’s push into the gummy market with Ropes, though Guidotti insisted that the original candy “absolutely has a place in the hearts and minds of our consumers…hard candy has always been and remains a fan-favorite.”

Importantly, he added, the petite candies “served as a springboard for the myriad innovations that helped propel the growth and relevance of this brand.” ​As a whole, the brand has enjoyed a 13% boost, thanks in part to marketing investment.

That ‘Be Both’ campaign champions individuals’ ability to make their own choices and be themselves. For Guidotti, it’s that “inspiring, playful, energetic and multidimensional”​ sentiment that has “struck a chord with our consumer who expects modern brands to understand and reflect their identities.”

SweeTarts’ Ropes – gummy tubes served in a variety of colors and flavors – exemplify that integral brand element. At NACS, Ferrara shared twisted versions (RRP $1.99-$3.49) in a ‘rainbow’ flavor and mixed berry, capitalizing on what Guidotti described as “some of the hottest candy trends.”

These twists are also available as bite-sized pieces in three flavors: Strawberry, Cherry and Blue Punch. The Bites will also hit retail in December in four sizes, 3oz to 8oz for an RRP of $1.99-$3.99.

Overall, the Ropes platform has been able to achieve 94% brand awareness, according to a Kantar brand health report.

Chewy, sugary fun from the ‘60s and ‘70s

Now and Later Morphs

Trolli and SweeTarts have no doubt been a focal point for Ferrara in 2019, but at NACS the confectioner also drew eyes to some of its other nostalgic non-chocolate brands.

Laffy Taffy originated in the 1970s as a chewy fruit-flavored strip with jokes, usually submitted by kids, typed on the inside wrapper. Ferrara picked up the brand with the rest of Nestle’s candy portfolio.

To bring the brand to modern consumers, Ferrara added Laff Bites, which satiate demand for ‘popability and stimulating senses,’ the company said. Bright colors and fun flavors – Cherry, Strawberry, Green Apple, Blue Rapsberry – get an extra boost of ‘flavor drop’ in the center of each candy (RRP $1.00-1.30).

Now and Later – the 60s-era chewy fruit squares – got a similar makeover with the addition of Morphs (RRP $1.00 for a 3.5oz bag, $1.10 for a 2.44oz bar), which offer the brand’s signature long-lasting flavor that ‘morphs as you go.’ Cherry gives way to Mango, Lemon-Lime to Strawberry, Grape to Watermelon, and Blue Raspberry to Lemon.

Fun Dip-ping into sour

Fun Dip sour

Not to be left out, Ferrara has also invested in the Fun Dip brand, under the Lik-m-aid name popularized in the 1940s. According to IRI, it has been one of the best-selling non-chocolate brands at Valentine’s Day and has gained 40% in ‘everyday sales.’

As with so many non-chocolate confections today, Fun Dip now has a sour version, too (RRP $1.00 for a 1.4oz, three-chamber pack). Flavor names – Strawberry Suckeroo, Watermelon Wammo, Tartastic Mystery – play on the product’s unique experience-driven characteristics.

Guidotti told us this brand surprises with its appeal to more than just kids: two-thirds of ‘powder’ candy buyers are millennials or Gen Z, he said. The dipping ritual inherent to this brand has allowed it to stay relevant with a wide range of consumers looking for that unique eating experience, especially when it comes to candy.

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