It's all in the packaging and marketing, says Joe DiLeonardo, Leaf North America's marketing director of non-chocolate business.
Jolly Rancher fruit-flavored, hard-candy sticks have long been a favorite of kids, while mothers and grandmothers preferred the bags of individually wrapped bite-size pieces for candy bowls and purses. But that left out a key market: teens and young adults.
Although Mr. DiLeonardo saw teens as an untapped market, Jolly Rancher didn't fit their life-style and consumption habits.
So Leaf molded its product into 3/4-inch squares and packaged them into assorted-flavor roll packs. Hip new TV commercials, themed "The great taste of fruit squared," broke from N W Ayer, Chicago.
By last year, sales of Jolly Rancher package and roll candies in supermarkets, drugstores and mass merchandiserswere up 24% to $60.1 million over the year before, according to Information Resources Inc.
Jolly Rancher gets top ad spending at Leaf-an estimated $8.6 million in 1993, up 36% from the previous year, says Competitive Media Reporting. TV and magazine ads aimed at teens and young adults feature in-line skating, mountain biking and virtual reality technology.
Signage also plays a big role.
Just as the Jolly Rancher brand has taken off, so has Mr. DiLeonardo's career at Leaf.
After a year as product manager, the executive became a group manager in 1992 and was named to his current position in 1993.
"The candy industry is one of the most challenging industries to be in-there are thousands of products in the marketplace," he says. "With kids and teens, you have to be cutting edge."