Smarties Candy Co. has named Liz Dee, sibling Jessica Dee Sawyer and their cousin Sarah Dee as co-presidents of the family-owned company and says it's planning its biggest Halloween push ever, with potentially further increased marketing spending to come.
Halloween is a big season for the $40 million-plus brand and for the industry in general: Americans are expected to spend $2.7 billion on Halloween candy this year, according to the National Retail Federation.
The marketing push from Smarties, which makes its 15-piece rolls of colored candy tablets in New Jersey and Canada, focuses on DIY Halloween costumes from eight women (mostly moms) who blog about food, fashion, crafts, kids and more. They created costumes based on "smarties" from history and the posts, collected on a Smarties microsite, include instructions on how to make them and text about their appreciation of the candy.
Costumes include Jane Goodall, Sally Ride, Neil Armstrong, Frida Kahlo, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe.
Over the past few years, Smarties has promoted its products as Halloween treats that meet a variety of dietary restrictions, in that they are nut-, dairy- and gluten-free, and contain just 25 calories for a regular pack.
The new campaign, says Dee, who oversees areas including marketing (actually, she says, she is the marketing team; Small Girls PR did the new campaign's outreach and Rivers Agency assisted on the microsite) is meant to inspire "intellectual curiosity." She adds that while it's a clear tie-in, it also "honors the roots of the founding of our company."
Edward Dee, 92, the three new co-presidents' grandfather—who still comes to the office every day, Liz Dee says—launched Ce De Candy Inc. in 1949. Sarah, Jessica and Liz led the renaming of the company in 2011.
Smarties says it sells more than 2 billion rolls of candy a year. Dee says sales are set to rise this year and have risen in recent years, but didn't provide figures. According to market research firm Euromonitor International, sales are expected to jump from $40.9 million in 2016 to $47 million in 2017 following three years of declines.
Smarties holds a 0.4 percent share of the U.S. sugar confectionery market, which includes more than $11 billion in annual sales of everything from mints, toffees and caramels, to chews, lollipops and licorice, according to Euromonitor.
The three women were most recently executive vice presidents at the private company. Jessica Dee Sawyer oversaw sales, logistics, packaging design, human resources and office management; Liz Dee, in addition to marketing and communications, headed up food quality and safety, and digital media; and Sarah Dee led operations including production and purchasing. They're keeping these roles and sharing added responsibilities including budgeting, overall vision and strategy, Liz Dee says.
As for concerns about the three-headed approach, Dee says "in a way it's time-tested in that we've worked together for so long and it has worked."
Jonathan Dee, Liz and Jessica's uncle and Sarah's father, was president for 40 years and is moving to an executive VP role; he won't be involved in day-to-day management.