CHICAGO — The global pandemic has not halted new product development at the Ferrara Candy Co. The Chicago-based confectionery company is set to launch a number of products across its portfolio, which includes brands such as Nerds, Laffy Taffy, Trolli, Brach’s and SweeTarts, as well as the recently acquired Keebler cookie business.
A related company of The Ferrero Group, Ferrara is the leading manufacturer of seasonal non-chocolate confections, a position it intends to defend even as Halloween and the holidays are expected to be altered by social distancing. New this year, and already generating plenty of buzz online, is Brach’s Turkey Dinner Candy Corn, an assortment that includes such flavors as green beans, roasted turkey, cranberry sauce, ginger glazed carrot, sweet potato pie and stuffing.
“When it comes to a seasonal staple like candy corn, Ferrara is No.1, and Brach’s has been selling our classic candy corn since the 1950s,” said Mariah Havens, senior brand manager of seasonal marketing for Ferrara. “We’re always innovating with trends and fun flavors, and we know this year is different than anything we’ve ever seen — much like our new Brach’s Turkey Dinner candy corn, which includes a full-course meal of traditional Thanksgiving favorites.”
Ferrara is combining its cookie and candy brands in seasonal offerings, including a Crawlers & Cookies mixed bag that includes Trolli Sour Brite Crunchy Crawlers and Keebler Fudge Stripe Cookies for Halloween. A Keebler Make-A-Wreath Cookie Kit features shortbread cookies, green frosting and an assortment of Nerds, Chewy Lemonhead and Spree candies.
Beyond seasonal innovation, Ferrara is continuing in its efforts to reinvigorate the brands acquired from Nestle USA and Kellogg Co. Earlier this year, the company introduced Laffy Taffy Laff Bites, which are unwrapped, candy-coated taffy bites in cherry, strawberry, green apple and blue raspberry flavors. The company is adding Laff Bites Gone Bananas, which will contain only banana-flavored bites, one of the brand’s most popular, yet polarizing, flavors, said Greg Guidotti, general manager of the sugar confectionery portfolio at Ferrara Candy Co.
“People love taffy, but they haven’t been able to have it be portable and poppable, and that’s what Laff Bites is, but what was missing from the equation was the banana flavor,” he said. “Those who love banana Laffy Taffy will love it, and those who hate it will never buy it.”
Rolling out nationwide in October, Nerds Gummy Clusters combine flavors and textures in a poppable format, with a sweet, gummy center coated in tangy, crunchy miniature Nerds candies. Another new product is Trolli Gummi Creations, which are buildable sour gummies in alien-themed shapes, offering a customizable experience with more than 200 different flavor and shape combinations.
Additionally, Ferrara is revamping the SweeTarts line with flavor, color and texture enhancements, as well as a new package design.
“We are igniting the growth engine across our Ferrara portfolio,” Mr. Guidotti said. “We’re doing this by building powerful brand equities with significant, meaningful investments in our brands and business; through consumer-led breakthrough innovations; a deliberate channel growth and distribution strategy and, finally, meeting our consumers where they play.
“Because of this commitment to category growth, Ferrara’s business is growing 1.6x the confection and fruit snack industry, which has seen 4.4% growth in the last three months. In fact, Ferrara’s sugar confection portfolio, including seasonal confections, has driven 14% of the sugar confection category growth in the past three years.”
Within the cookies portfolio, new limited-time products include Keebler Chips Deluxe Birthday Cake cookies, with milk and white chocolate chips and colorful sprinkles, and Keebler Fudge Stripes Cinnamon Fudge Swirl cookies, which are inspired by cinnamon rolls and pair white cinnamon fudge with shortbread cookies. Both products were developed based on the insight dessert-flavored limited-edition cookies have the highest level of repeat purchases in the category, said Natalie Hagstrom, general manager of the cookies, crusts and cones portfolio at Ferrara Candy Co.
Another former Kellogg cookie brand due for an update is Mother’s. Ferrara is bringing new flavors, shapes and colors to the brand’s classic frosted circus animal cookies. New seasonal offerings include Mother’s Halloween Circus Animal Cookies, which are orange and white frosted bat- and cat-shaped sugar cookies, and Mother’s Reindeer Games Circus Animal Cookies, featuring vanilla-flavored shortbread cookies shaped as reindeer with green and white icing and sprinkles. Early next year, the company is debuting Mother’s Mythical Creature Cookies, which will include cookies shaped like mermaids, unicorns, loch ness monsters and dragons in white or lavender icing and sparkly silver sanding sugar.
“Mother’s Circus Animals is an amazing brand for us that really has caught fire in the social and digital world,” Ms. Hagstrom said. “It is one of the most organic content brands we have and it’s growing for us at 7.5x the category through nothing we are doing intentionally, and we are just about to add a ton of marketing support behind it…
“We also wanted to capitalize on innovation. What we learned with the Mother’s consumers of Circus Animals is kids are playing with the crackers themselves, with the animal shapes… so we’re using that as our jumping off point for inspiration.”