CHICAGO — Mars, Inc. is balancing the new with the familiar to keep its legacy brands relevant and bring in new users. New products on display at the 2022 NACS Show, presented by the National Association of Convenience Stores, draw inspiration from Gen Z flavor preferences and nostalgic childhood memories.

The latest innovation from the company is M&M’s Caramel Cold Brew. Launching in February, the treat delivers a combination of smooth, robust coffee flavor with chewy caramel, covered in milk chocolate and wrapped in a colorful candy shell.

Following the launch of M&M's limited-edition holiday espresso flavor scheduled to hit shelves this fall, M&M’s Caramel Cold Brew is the brand’s second coffee-flavored product announced this year, but its first permanent coffee-flavored offering.

Cold brew ranks as one of Gen Z’s most purchased drinks, said Mike Gilroy, vice president of trade development and sponsorships at Mars, during an interview with Food Business News at the 2022 NACS Show, held Oct. 2-4 in Las Vegas.

“Gen Z is an incredibly important generation as they gain buying power,” he said. “We’re taking a look at generational trends to make sure we’re staying relevant with them and bringing in new users, while also satisfying existing users. M&M’s is a power brand, but it’s important to keep consumers engaged and coming back.”

The company is bringing a nostalgic twist to two confectionery brands in December with the launch of Milky Way Cookie Dough and Twix Cookie Dough.

“Cookie dough is a flavor profile that bridges generations,” Mr. Gilroy said. “There’s a certain nostalgia for many people in terms of making cookies with your mother or your grandma and taking a scoop of the dough. We know that it appeals to younger generations, too.”

The new additions to Twix and Milky Way are another example of consumer-led insights shaping the company’s innovation pipeline.

“We’re consumer obsessed in terms of how we’re thinking about innovation and coming to market,” Mr. Gilroy said. “It’s about making sure that as retailers — and c-stores in this case — bring in new users, we’re having relevant product offerings that people are intrigued by.”

Aligning legacy brands with current trends is key to winning in convenience stores, where shoppers don’t spend much time browsing and considering all of the options available, he added.

Data from Mars show consumers spend an average of 2 minutes and 40 seconds inside the store when they’re shopping in the convenience channel.

“What we know about consumers is that they’re time-starved,” Mr. Gilroy said. “When they’re going into c-stores, they’re spending a lot of that time navigating and very little time shopping. That’s because they already have a repertoire of their favorite products that they just want to find, grab and go.”