Hershey playing it Cool

by Monica Watrous
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BOCA RATON, FLA. — Determined to lift stuck sales in the gum category, the Hershey Co. has developed a product with proprietary technology to “revolutionize breath freshening.”

Set for a September debut, Ice Breakers Cool Blasts chews like a gum but dissolves like a mint. Hershey unveiled the product at a Feb. 19 presentation at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in Boca Raton.

“Recent declines in the gum segment indicate that some consumers are looking for another breath freshening solution, one that provides some of the attributes of gum, yet with some different benefits,” said Michelle Buck, president, North America. “These consumers are looking for discreet breath cleansing without continuous chewing and without the need for disposal.”

Cool Blasts will be packaged in “an innovative slide pack” for on-the-go consumption, she said.

The product is part of a year of breakthrough innovation for the company, with launches that include Hershey’s Spreads, Lancaster caramel crèmes and York Minis bite-size peppermint patties.

“While our primary focus is against expanding our robust advantage core confection business, we are also innovating to on-trend snacking segments that leverage our strengths,” Ms. Buck said.

A particular strength in Hershey’s portfolio is the Brookside brand, which the company acquired at the end of 2011. The dark chocolate-covered fruit products netted about $200 million in 2013, up 74% from the prior year, according to the company.

“Brookside household penetration doubled in 2013, and there is only further upside ahead,” Ms. Buck said. “Perhaps what is even more encouraging is repeat rates, the true test of sustainability. Brookside repeat is among the highest we have seen for confections category innovation, 30% higher than that of other successful innovations launched in recent years.”

Plans for the brand include the introductions of on-trend pack types and a crunchy clusters variety this year, as well as robust advertising support.

“I would say supporting Brookside for 2014 is obviously a key priority, so if we look across the marketing mix, we are really leaning into advertising as we think that will be an absolutely critical lever to really grow awareness and thus trial, and we know once we get people into the franchise the repeat rate is so strong,” Ms. Buck said. “So we are really placing bets there as well as in sampling activities to let consumers try the product again because once they try the product they really become loyal users.”
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