ATLANTA — Considered the biggest launch in brand history, M&M’s Caramel chocolate candies are slated to hit shelves next spring. The candies, which feature a creamy caramel center covered in milk chocolate and a candy shell, were unveiled at the NACS Show, hosted by the National Association of Convenience Stores and held Oct. 18-21 in Atlanta.
Traditional yet trendy caramel is the fastest growing flavor segment in food, rising 15% last year, according to Nielsen. Moreover, Mars Chocolate North America found in consumer research that M&M’s Caramel had the highest purchase intent of any M&M’s brand variant ever.
So, what took so long for this 75-year-old brand to add a caramel variety?
Developing the proprietary technology to produce the candies was a multi-year effort. Mars recently expanded its manufacturing plant in Topeka, Kas., which has enabled production of M&M’s Caramel candies, said Tim Quinn, vice-president of trade relations at Mars Chocolate North America, in an interview with Food Business News.
|Tim Quinn, vice-president of trade relations at Mars Chocolate North America|
“We built a plant in Kansas, initially for production shortfall, but we also built the plant to do innovative things (with M&M’s fillings),” he said.
The $270 million, 500,000-square-foot facility, which opened in early 2014, was the company’s first new plant to be built in North America in 35 years. Less than a year and a half later, the company invested an additional $100 million to add a 90,000 square-foot facility to the site, creating 70 new full-time jobs.
Mr. Quinn said the new plant will allow the company to develop more exciting new innovations like M&M’s Caramel in the future.
Among chocolate brands in the United States, M&M’s has the highest household penetration and the highest rate of loyalty, according to Nielsen data. The new caramel variety is expected to drive total category incremental sales by “bringing a new reason to shop chocolate,” Mars said.
Other new Mars Chocolate products premiering at the NACS Show include Snickers & Hazelnut Bar, Twix White Chocolate Cookie Bars and Maltesers Candies, the top selling bite-size chocolate brand in the United Kingdom, which feature a crispy, airy center coated in chocolate. Until recently, Mars was unable to sell Maltesers in the United States due to a trademark dispute with the Hershey Co., Mr. Quinn said.