When they were kids, Greg Guidotti and his brother would time each other to see who could get from their Stamford, Connecticut, house to the Happy House variety store in the shortest amount of time to get candy. Guidotti fondly recalls his record-setting 93-second sprint and his treat of choice, Atomic Fireballs.
“it was running, and it was impressive,” says Guidotti.
His passion for Atomic Fireballs ran so deep that it was even the name of the band he played in as a kid. People showed up for concerts, perhaps less for the music than for the candy that Guidotti and his pals threw out into the crowd. Now, it’s his job to get other people to buy Fireballs and other candies. In March, Guidotti joined Ferrara Candy Company as general manager of its non-chocolate business.
On the latest episode of Ad Age’s Marketer’s Brief, Guidotti discusses Ferrara’s product lineup, from Atomic Fireballs to Fun Dip. New products, including Black Forest gummy bears with juicy centers and Trolli gummy worms with a crunchy coating, are being unveiled this week at Sweets & Snacks, the National Confectioners Association’s annual trade show.
Guidotti has spent the bulk of his career at consumer packaged goods companies, first at Kraft, then managing Duracell batteries globally. He returned to Kraft in 2012, where he worked on beverages, then on meals and most recently ran marketing for the Oscar Mayer meat portfolio before leaving Kraft Heinz earlier this year.
At Ferrara, he’s finding quicker timelines for product development, as the company is busy bringing out new flavors, shapes or other elements in its expanded portfolio.
Ferrara is now the third-largest U.S. confectionery company, behind Hershey Co. and Mars Wrigley, thanks in large part to acquisitions. Chicago-based Ferrara is owned by Luxembourg-based Ferrero Group, the company behind brands such as Tic Tac and Nutella. The April 2018 purchase of Nestlé’s U.S. confectionery business boosted the company’s presence. Ferrara says that it is on track for 11 percent sales growth in the former Nestlé non-chocolate business, which includes Sweetarts, Nerds and Laffy Taffy (It’s predicting 17 percent growth on the chocolate side, where brands include Butterfinger and Crunch.) A deal to buy brands such as Keebler cookies from Kellogg Co. is set to close at the end of July. Once complete, Ferrara’s annual sales will be about $3 billion, up from $1 billion about two years ago.
Ferrara’s data shows the overall non-chocolate category is up about 1.3 percent in the last 52 weeks, and up 5.6 percent in the last four weeks, while its own brands are up 1.4 percent and 9.8 percent over the same periods.