Candy Land

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About 2,500 new candy, gum, and snack products were introduced in 1997, a 2 percent gain over 1996 figures, according to New Product News. And the number of new candy introductions will continue to grow, according to Lisbeth Echeandia, publisher of Confectioner, the trade magazine for candy retailers. "There are a number of areas that will see growth," says Echeandia. "Especially strong are novelty candies, such products as Foreign Candy's candies that look like small spaceships."

The area of licensed candy products is also growing--items that are tied to movie or television characters, as well as those that trade on the success of an already-established brand. Amurol Confections has licensed Rugrats, based on the Nickelodeon cartoon, and is introducing two new novelty products based on the show's characters this spring.

Amurol currently has close to 40 products on the market, and launches between 10 and 15 new ones each year. "We develop our products in two different ways," says Bruce D. Thompson, vice president of marketing for Amurol. "In order to find children to try our products, we have a club--we interview some 3,500 children per year. We get them to look at concepts and prototypes. We also ask them to taste the products and rate them. Sometimes, we go about it another way, though. We develop unique things that taste good and convene our panel to come up with a concept or a name to suit the product."

Although Thompson says children at different ages are completely different in their preferences, sometimes targeting older children also has an effect on the younger ones. "Younger kids like to emulate up," says Thompson. "They want to be cool, just like the big kids." But tracking what's cool and what's not isn't easy. "The coolness cycle depends on the product, and on the kids," says Thompson. "Children are extremely fickle and some products are cool for only a very short time."

"Novelties can move through a popularity cycle quickly," says Echeandia. "This year, the hottest new products will involve aliens of some sort. They seem to be big with children. But there is also room for growth in some long-term products, such as marshmallow and licorice offerings in the non-chocolate arena."

Confectioner may be reached at (800) 826-8586. The telephone number for New Product News is (312) 464-8501.

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