Hershey innovation efforts in the spotlight

by Monica Watrous    View Me on Google+
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York Minis, which were introduced in May, claimed the Best in Show award at the Sweets & Snacks Expo.
 

CHICAGO — From line extensions to “industry-changing” innovation, the Hershey Co. showcased more than a dozen new products at the Sweets & Snacks Expo held May 20-22 in Chicago.

The year has been one of breakthrough product development for the company, beginning in January with the launches of Lancaster soft caramel crèmes, Hershey’s first new brand introduced in the United States in 30 years, and the Hershey’s Spreads platform, which marked the company’s debut in the category.

Still to come are more trend-focused products that include Reese’s Spreads, Brookside Crunchy Clusters and Ice Breakers Cool Blasts Chews.

“Historically, our focus has been on the core, with fewer, bigger, better launches,” said Anna Lingeris, senior manager, brand public relations and consumer engagement for Hershey, in an interview with Food Business News.

Consumer-centric innovation drives what the company describes as an “industry-changing pipeline” of products designed to solve unmet needs while leveraging Hershey’s popular brands. For example, Ms. Lingeris said, Hershey pioneered the explosive trend of bite-size, unwrapped candies in 2010 with Reese’s Minis and Hershey’s Drops in resealable bags. The company continues to expand the hand-to-mouth platform with new additions and varieties each year, and 2014 brings York Minis and new flavor extensions of Twizzlers Bites and Jolly Rancher Bites.

Competitors have introduced similar scaled-down versions of popular candies, including Mars with its Bites line of Milky Way, Snickers, Twix and more; Ghiradelli with a new Minis line of small wrapped squares; Just Born with new Peeps Minis marshmallow candies; and Perfetti Van Melle with miniature Mentos and Airheads Bites.

But, as Ms. Lingeris pointed out, “We did it first.”

Ice Breakers Cool Blasts chew like a gum but dissolve like a mint.
 

Ice Breakers Cool Blasts Chews

Launching in September, Ice Breakers Cool Blasts Chews are a hybrid of mint and gum. The chews are unwrapped and quick-dissolving, providing discreet freshness in “tight social situations,” Ms. Lingeris said. The products will be available in peppermint and spearmint flavors and packaged in an innovative slider pack.

The product was developed as an answer to the declining gum category. Hershey had noted consumers’ gripes with gum: It may be messy or loud, it loses flavor and requires disposal, and chewing isn’t always socially acceptable, Ms. Lingeris said. The company used proprietary technology to create a mint that dissolves after moments of chewing, freshening the full mouth with a cooling tingle.

With nearly 40% share in gum and mint, Hershey is a category leader, Ms. Lingeris said.

“We feel this is another step to show our knowledge of the space.”

Coming in December: Reese's Spreads.
 

Reese’s Spreads

On the success of Hershey’s Spreads, the company is adding Reese’s Spreads. A creamy combination of chocolate and peanut butter, the product captures the brand’s peanut butter cup flavor in spread form.

Hershey has a rich history of diversifying into other food products, from cocoa to baking to ice cream toppings, Ms. Lingeris noted.

“Spreads was a natural extension for us,” she said.

Brookside Crunchy Clusters represents the first evolution of the brand since Hershey acquired it in 2011.
 

Brookside Crunchy Clusters

Representing the first evolution of the Brookside brand since Hershey acquired it in 2011, Brookside Crunchy Clusters delivers “a multi-textural experience,” Ms. Lingeris said.

The product combines crispy multigrain and soft fruit-flavored centers with sweetened cranberry bits, all covered in dark chocolate.

Hershey is expanding its hand-to-mouth platform with new flavor varieties.

Also new from Hershey

Krackel Bar, a mainstay in Hershey’s Miniatures Assortment bags, has returned in full-size form for the first time since 1997.

“Our consumers have been asking for it,” Ms. Lingeris said.

Debuting in December from the Twizzlers brand are Pull ‘n’ Peel Fruit Punch Twists, which combine grape, cherry and orange flavors, and Strawberry Lemonade Filled Twists. Twizzlers Mixed Berry Bites rolled out in May, featuring bite-size soft licorice in cherry, black raspberry and strawberry flavors.

Hershey also has expanded its Jolly Rancher line with Awesome Reds hard candy, including cherry, watermelon, strawberry and fruit punch flavors, and Bites Filled Gummies, which are bite-size gummy candies with a liquid center in watermelon, green apple and cherry flavors.

York Minis, bite-size peppermint patties enrobed in dark chocolate, also was introduced in May. York is the No. 1 dark chocolate candy brand in the country, Ms. Lingeris said. The product claimed the Best in Show award at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, based on a combination of judging by industry experts and votes from retailers and wholesalers at the show.
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