CHICAGO — The insight to expand Peeps year-round came from observing consumer behavior. Brand loyalists demonstrated demand beyond the candy’s seasonal availability.
“People hoard their Peeps after Easter,” Matthew Pye, vice-president of trade relations and corporate affairs at Bethlehem, Pa.-based Just Born Quality Confections, told Food Business News during the Sweets & Snacks Expo, held May 20-22 in Chicago.
The iconic marshmallow chick, which debuted 61 years ago, has benefited from steady innovation in recent years.
“We’ve been able to quietly go outside the Easter season,” he said. New shapes and colors have stretched the brand beyond the spring season, with candy cane Peeps at Christmas, bubblegum and lemonade flavors in the summer, and pink hearts for Valentine’s Day. Just Born also added chocolate-dipped Peeps, bringing new users to the franchise.
But would making Peeps a mainstay steal from holiday sales? By steering clear of the chick’s traditional flavor and size for the perennial product, Mr. Pye said the company may still capitalize on the seasonal excitement. The Minis, which launched in May, are available in three flavors: chocolate, strawberry, and sour watermelon, a hit with younger consumers in product tests.
The line’s scaled-down size also may appeal to calorie-conscious consumers, he added. With 14 calories a Peep, the products are positioned as a lighter treat.
“It’s better on the waistline from a diet standpoint,” Mr. Pye said. “You could eat four or five as a nice light snack.”
The resealable bag also allows Peeps users to customize their consumption. He said some prefer to eat the product slightly stale and may keep the bag open to achieve the hardened texture.
As for the brand’s next innovation, Mr. Pye said “heat is probably on the horizon.” While sriracha Peeps may never exist, the company has seen success from hot and bold flavors among Hispanic and younger consumers. To that end, Just Born is introducing Hot Tamales Tropical Heat, the brand’s first-ever non-cinnamon variety, which includes three fruit flavors with a spicy kick: Mango Tango, Pineapple Picante, and Limon Fever.“Fruit and heat is a good combination,” he said.