In a deal with tony toy store FAO Schwarz, M&M/Mars started marketing 24 different varieties of custom-color M&Ms in its new FAO Schweetz candy store in Chicago's Water Tower Place.
DOZENS OF COLORS
The store, modeled after the toy store with its animated, interactive atmosphere and signature clock tower, features-among dozens and dozens of other candy brands-M&Ms in unheard-of shades such as black, aqua, peach and purple.
Marketed under gigantic spinning licorice balls and among enormous gumball machines and lollipop forests are M&Ms designed to be mixed-and-matched to coordinate with parties, wedding showers, team colors and the like.
Such color-corectness, however, comes at a price: A pound of M&Ms at FAO Schweetz costs $7, compared to $2.69 per pound in the supermarket.
A testament to the public's sweet tooth, the Water Tower Place store is in the same mall with a Sweet Factory outlet. The No. 1 mall-based candy store chain, Sweet Factory in five years has zoomed from six to 189 outlets in 33 states, opening about 50 stores per year.
Airports are its next big growth area, said VP-Marketing Fran Wolfe, who says America's appetite for candy just keeps growing, "despite all the talk about our love affair with health food."
M&M/Mars, to create what it's calling its "Color Works Program," is said to have halted factory operations for an entire day to create the new shades.
A spokesman for M&M/Mars characterized the new colors as a test and said this was the first venture into bulk candy for the company, which relies more on traditional distribution in supermarkets, newsstands, and convenience and candy stores.
MORE SCHWEETZ COMING
But it looks like privately held Mars and FAO Schwarz will be striking out together beyond this one store. Amanda Gronich, a FAO Schwarz spokeswoman, said the company was planning on opening eight new FAO Schweetz outlets this year.
Unlike the Water Tower Place store, the additions will be as Schweetz departments in existing toy stores in markets including Seattle, Dallas, Costa Mesa and Glendale, Calif., and the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn.
Las Vegas and Orlando locations are planned for 1997.
"The possibilities are endless," she said.
That's particularly true considering the unexpectedly hot reception the new shades of M&Ms have wrought. Although Mr. Gronich wouldn't comment on sales, she said the store in three days sold the amount of M&Ms it had anticipated selling in one month.
Among its deals with other candymakers, there is a section devoted to Goelitz Co.'s Jelly Bellies and an exclusive line of chocolates made by Campbell Soup Co.'s Godiva division that are encased in a chocolate vault.
And for those who want to really make sure those M&Ms melt in your mouth and not in your hands, FAO Schweetz is selling motorized M&M dispensers, to pop candies into your hands or mouth, for $6 apiece.