CHICAGO — Millennials are buying less chocolate candy, and the company behind the category’s leading brand is intent on fixing that. Mars Chocolate North America, a division of Mars, Inc., launched the M&M’s Flavor Vote promotion in March to engage 15- to 35-year-olds, a consumer segment the company found has declined in penetration and buy rate in the chocolate category over the last four years.
The promotion pits the Original Peanut M&M’s candies against three new limited-edition varieties: Chili Nut, Honey Nut and Coffee Nut. Through June 17, consumers may purchase the products in stores and vote on-line at peanutflavor.mms.com or by texting the word “vote” to 87654. The winning variety will be announced in August and remain on shelves nationwide.
The three flavors were on display at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, held May 24-26 in Chicago.
|Tim Quinn, vice-president of trade relations at Mars Chocolate North America|
“We know when we do anything with the M&M’s chocolate candies in a voting, whether it’s vote for your favorite color or flavor, it just gets tremendous amount of votes,” said Tim Quinn, vice-president of trade relations at Mars Chocolate North America, in an interview with Food Business News. “The last time it happened during a presidential election year, it was ‘vote for your favorite color’ and it got significantly more votes than the actual presidential election itself did.”
The promotion is expected to garner nearly 1 million votes and already ranks in the top third of items at major retailers, according to the company. Mars said consumer engagement with M&M’s Flavor Vote social media content is nearly four times higher than usual.
The three new flavors were chosen based on trends and consumer research. With “sweet heat” named a top-five flavor trend in 2015, chili was a leading flavor concept in focus groups, and honey was the most frequently requested flavor, according to Mars. Coffee had the overall highest purchase intent in quantitative testing.
The promotion was designed specifically for millennials, who seek to collaborate with brand manufacturers on new products and are four times more likely than other consumer demographics to share opinions on social media, according to Mars.
“It’s just a fun thing to do and a good way to get consumers to interact with your brand in fun, new ways and get them engaged,” Mr. Quinn said.
M&M’s is the leading candy brand in the United States, with sales of $616.5 million in the past year, according to Information Resources, Inc. This year, the brand celebrates its 75th anniversary, having started in 1941 as a wartime treat for U.S. soldiers. The hard candy shell was devised to prevent the chocolate from melting during transport.“When the soldiers came home, they were looking for M&M’s in the United States, and that business just took off,” Mr. Quinn said. “And after 75 years, it’s absolutely the largest candy brand in the world by a long shot. We’re really proud of that.”