Halloween has become the biggest candy-selling season, followed by Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, according to candy industry figures.
Walk the rows and rows of Halloween candy at your local store, and see the old side-by-side with the new: The Hershey Kiss, around since 1907, sits packaged next to Trix fruit snacks, new this year (which manufacturer General Mills prefers not to call candy at all).
The M&M;, dating from 1941, nestles near the Mega Warheads, one of the newest and hottest candies going.
This Halloween, as 93 percent of American children 6 to 11 troop door-to-door, according to the National Confectioners Association, you have to wonder why it is some stuff sells.
Why do some candies last through the decades, and some appeal to only the latest generation?
“M&Ms; are a product people grew up with,” says Marlene Machut, a spokeswoman for Mars Inc., maker of M&Ms.; “We hear stories that people potty train their kids with M&Ms.;”
Keeping products the same and advertising them often help keep certain brands popular. The animated M&M; characters, which baby boomers identify with, recently returned to commercials.
For the Hershey Foods Corp., a key to the success of the basic Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar has been little change. Only the price and size have gone up and down, respectively, since it debuted in 1900.
“The one thing the consumer looks for is a consistent flavor and quality,” Hershey spokesman Mike Kinney said. “Quality and consistency - that’s a secret to longevity.”
Hitting on the right flavor combination, too, seems to help ensure a candy’s success. The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, one of the nation’s top-selling candies, unites two flavors that do well together - peanut butter and chocolate. “Chocolate is America’s No. 1 flavor … and of course peanut butter is a favorite of kids growing up for decades. They’re just popular together,” Kinney said.
Longstanding candies hold onto their popularity, too, by reinventing themselves. Mini M&Ms;, one-third smaller than the already small round candies and sold in collectible tubes, have become so popular that Mars Inc. can hardly keep up with the demand.
Hershey’s Kisses get different dabs of color for each holiday season. And most manufacturers have begun packaging candy for specific holidays. Amazin’ Fruit Gummy Bears & Scares by Hershey Chocolate U.S.A. are fruit-flavored gummy snacks in the shapes of witches and pumpkins.
“Shock” candy is especially popular this time of year. Shock Tarts by Concorde Brands, with a sour “supercharged candy shell,” are among the sour candies that make eyeballs roll and mouths pucker.
Others include Sour Patch Kids from Canada-based M&A;, sugar-coated gummies; Cry Baby extra-sour bubble gum, from the Philadelphia Chewing Gum Corp.; and Mega Warheads from The Foreign Candy Co. Inc. in Iowa, a very sour hard candy that turns sweet. “Caution,” warns the Warheads package, “first 50 seconds are extremely intense!”
“A lot of those candies are targeted to 7- to 10-year-old boys who enjoy shocking. The fun of the candy is more about grossing people out - like having foam come out of your mouth, an ugly color on your tongue,” says food technologist Carol Lloyd of Austin Food Tech in Anaheim, Calif.
Austin developed a candy called Snot a few years ago. “That was a gooey thing that kids could kind of play with - it was a gag,” Lloyd said.
The whole trend in sour candies, too, represents something different.
“Kids are always seeking new experiences, so they are particularly drawn to the category of ‘novelty candy,”’ said Wendi Wagner, a candy developer who created a low-calorie jelly bean called the Lean Bean.
“Sour seems to be such a hit because it is such an unforgettable experience.”
Some candy appeals to the healthful side in consumers. Hi-C gummy fruits candy are made with real fruit juice, and offer 100 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C per serving, according to the package. Though the first two ingredients are corn syrup and sugar, fruit juice from concentrate is the third ingredient.
General Mills prefers to call its Trix gummies a snack, not a candy.
“They’re a good alternative for kids - they’re low in fat, as opposed to some of the higher-fat snacks,” says Pam Becker, a General Mills spokeswoman. “And these are fortified with vitamin C. Parents are always looking for that. It’s a dual thing. Parents can be comfortable with something kids want.”
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