CHICAGO — The 99-year-old Baby Ruth brand is due for a redo.
Next year, the chocolate bar will feature an updated recipe, including a switch from oil-roasted medium runner peanuts to dry-roasted whole jumbo peanuts, and new packaging that preserves the product’s freshness.
It’s one of several product renovations underway at Ferrara Candy Co. that may soon include the likes of Keebler and Famous Amos.
Ferrara Candy Co., a subsidiary of Luxembourg-based The Ferrero Group, manufactures Brach’s, RedHots, Trolli, Black Forest and Sathers candy brands. Last year Ferrero acquired Nestle USA’s confectionery business for approximately $2.8 billion. The transaction added more than 20 brands, including Butterfinger, Baby Ruth, Crunch, SweeTarts, LaffyTaffy and Nerds, to Ferrara’s portfolio.
In April, Ferrero agreed to acquire selected cookie, fruit snack, pie crust and ice cream cone businesses from Kellogg Co. in a transaction valued at $1.3 billion. When the deal closes in July, Ferrara will manage the acquired brand portfolio, which includes Keebler, Famous Amos, Mother’s and Murray cookies, as well as Little Brownie Bakers, supplier of cookies to the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. Brands in the transaction also include Stretch Island and Fruit Snacks fruit-flavored snacks and Keebler’s ice cream cones and pie crust products.
With the addition of Kellogg’s “cookies, cones and crusts” business, Ferrara will become a $3 billion company with more than 40 brands.
“About 90% of consumers that are eating candy are consumers that are eating cookies ... and for a category in snacks that’s growing about 4%, we’re able to bring a lot of opportunity and growth potential to our customers and cross-collaboration within our business,” Sarah Kittel, head of corporate communications at Ferrara Candy Co., told Food Business News. “We’re very excited about what the future holds.”
Earlier this year, Ferrara launched a revamped Butterfinger candy bar, the first of the former Nestle brands to receive a makeover.
“We invested in quality ingredients and quality packaging, and we also invested in advertising; we tripled the marketing spend that previously was behind Butterfinger, and our results honestly have blown us and the category away,” said Kristen Mandel, senior director of marketing at Ferrara Candy Co. “In the latest four weeks, the Butterfinger core bar is up 17.7%. That’s 10 times the category.
“We really touched everything about this bar. We cleaned up the label, we removed T.B.H.Q., which was a preservative previously used on the peanuts. We dialed up the quality of the coating. We really worked on the integrity of our processes, the integrity of our packaging machines, invested in double-layer packaging really to seal in flavor and freshness.
“It really started with the R.&D. team saying, ‘How can we truly deliver a better Butterfinger?’ and all of our in-market results have shown that we achieved what we set out to do.”
Ferrara’s investments behind the former Nestle brands over the past year have produced “tremendous gains,” Ms. Kittel added.
“On the whole, we’re seeing about an 11% year-on-year increase in legacy non-chocolate brands, including Laffy Taffy, SweeTarts and Nerds … and on average about a 17% year-on-year growth in the core chocolate business for the brands we are actively supporting in market, which for us, really having worked on and focused on this business for about 12 months is massive improvement,” Ms. Kittel said. “We’re very proud of the growth we’ve achieved not only on that business but ... in our company and organization on the whole we continue to trend above category. We have many of our sugar brands and products that trend in some instances four to six times the category in that particular segment which for us is a very powerful story to tell.”
At the Sweets & Snacks Expo, held May 21-23 in Chicago, Ferrara Candy Co. showcased improvements to the legacy Nestle brands as well as new innovations across the portfolio. Two products launching next year under the Trolli brand won innovation awards at the show. The seasonal category winner, Trolli Sour Brite Candy Corn features the brand’s dual-flavored, dual-colored twist on the traditional candy corn shape and texture.
The “best in show” award winning item, Trolli Sour Brite Crunchy Crawlers, is a fruity, sour gummy worm coated in a thin, crunchy shell.
“Trolli is on a roll,” Ms. Mandel said. “The base business CAGR is 14%; year to date the base business is up 7.5%. Trolli is really our core gummy business that we are getting behind ... and leveraging some of the core technology of Ferrara’s history to bring true innovation to the category.”
To create the Trolli Sour Brite Crunchy Crawlers, Ferrara leveraged its historic panning capability to add the candy shell, she said.
“It’s easy to pan something small and round, very difficult to pan something that’s pliable and misshapen,” Ms. Mandel said. “It’s an oblong worm shape. We have some amazing R.&D. folks who really brought this idea to life ... to bring something really on-trend to consumers in market. Consumers are wanting this multi-sensorial multi-texture, multi-flavor experience and we’re the first ones to bring it in this kind of format.”
Also launching next year, from Ferrara’s Black Forest gummy brand, is a line of fruit juice-filled gummies. Juicy Bears, Juicy Bunnies and Juicy Paws contain a burst of classic, berry and tropical fruit flavors.
“We have a juicy bouncy gummy that’s true to us and really differentiates us versus some of the other gummy competitors in the market,” Ms. Mandel said.
Coming later this year for the holiday season is Crunch Jingles, which combines the milk chocolate and crisped rice of a Crunch bar in a bite-size bell shape with Brach’s peppermint candy pieces.
“When these businesses came together we said how do we make our sum greater than our two parts?” Ms. Mandel said. “That’s where the Crunch Jingles with peppermints comes along — we were able to mash up Brach’s peppermint canes, a seasonal icon, with Crunch Jingles, another seasonal icon....
“We’re so excited to be able to do that collaboration within our own company.”
Looking ahead, Ferrara will pursue similar opportunities within its expanding portfolio.
“We know where we make the right infusions and pull the right levers we’ll continue to realize growth across not only our respective categories but across the business as well,” Ms. Kittel said. “The non-chocolate segment is growing about 1.2%, 1.3%. Our business is growing at 1.4%, 1.5%, so we’re slightly above the category.
“In the past three years, our non-chocolate portfolio has contributed 18% growth to the overall category, which is a lot. And we expect to continue to see that number grow. We expect to see the chocolate number to grow.”
To accommodate the additional businesses, Ferrara plans to relocate its corporate headquarters from Oakbrook Terrace to Chicago in September and expects to expand its workforce of approximately 4,500 employees.
“We’re looking at all opportunities that exist in our business today to see what makes sense for the future,” Ms. Kittel said.
Of the Kellogg businesses, she added, “Each of those brands come with their own inherent equity, and Keebler in particular ... higher awareness than some of your more prominent players and competitors...
“There’s a lot of nostalgic pull for that brand.”