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Pucker up! with burgeoning sales and new offerings that appeal to all ages, the sweetest things in the candy aisle are sour. (Supermarket Grocery Business).

A sour taste has developed in the once sugar-sweet candy aisle, but, as Martha Stewart would say, "That's a good thing." From jellybeans to gummy worms to Pez dispensers, candy has gone sour in a big way.

"I thought sour might be a trend or a fad the first couple of years, but I don't see it diminishing," says Rick Conway, president of New Albany, Ind.-based Squire Boone Village, a company that began making Rock Crystal Candy in the 1980s and introduced its first sour product--Formula Sour, a liquid candy in a test tube--about four years ago. Today, the company makes a host of sour brands, including Shock Your Buds, Formula Sour, and Super Sour Pops.

"The whole sour category is growing," says Scott McWhinnie, president and c.e.o. of Pez Candy, Inc. in Orange, Cons. That's why Pez started shipping its Pez Sourz dispensers and candy in mid-August. The candies, in sour green apple, sour watermelon, sour blue raspberry, and sour pineapple flavors, are popped out of fruit-head shaped dispensers bearing sour pusses. Pez's flavors aren't "the eye-watering variety" concedes McWhinnie, and that was done on purpose. "Many of the sour candies have kids' shock value, but these have a more lasting appeal and flavor," he says. "They are not so extreme that they knock your socks off."

Likewise, Jelly Belly Candy Co.'s sour flavors are on the mild end of the spectrum. The company has offered sour Jelly Belly jellybeans in orange, lemon, apple, grape, and cherry for several years, but recently the line was extended to include blueberry, peach, raspberry, strawberry, and watermelon. "We have a real nice sour; it might even be an 'adult' sour," says Bill Kelly, vice chairman of Fairfield, Calif.-based Jelly Belly and chairman of the National Confectioners Association in Vienna, Va. In addition to its Jelly Belly offerings, the company offers a host of Sour Apple Rings, Sour Trout, sour gummy bears, and sour worms through its Goelitz subsidiary.

"With sweetness, something is either sweet or not, but in the sour category there are all sorts of gradations. You can get a little bit sour, sort of sour, and Holy Moley! sour," says Kelly.

Popular with kids

The popularity of sour parallels age groups, and tapers off during the teen years. "Kids' taste buds develop slowly to adulthood, so kids don't taste as well when they are young. The sour gives them a real impact," Kelly says. "When you eat something sweet it sort of builds slowly in your mouth, but when you eat a sour thing--bam! It is right there."

Sour candies get their sour by adding citric, malic, or other acids to a sugar base. "Certain acids will work on the sugar molecule and invert it. It takes a food scientist to put together a good sour candy that will stay sour," says Kelly. Many sour candies have a white crystal coating containing the acid.

"Sours have become more commonplace now, and kids and adults aren't so shocked by it, but just accept it as a flavor they like," says Squire Boone's Conway. "In the beginning it was something kids would do as a dare--something that was cool, like putting a lemon in your mouth. But now I even have adults coming up to me at trade shows saying, 'I love sour."'

Gourmet sour

Squire Boone Village's candies are made using cane sugar in their syrup. As a result, they are priced around $1.49, which is considered high end in sour candy circles, where most single units sell for 99 cents or less. "Our strongest market is the resort market in theme parks," says Conway. "We are beginning to get into the grocery and c-store market, but it is difficult because our candy is what you would call gourmet. Some supermarket and convenience store buyers will look at quality as well as price, but it is rare that a buyer will. If it sells and is cheaper, they would rather go with that."

Sours got big national exposure at June's All Candy Expo thanks to the efforts of Atlanta-based Innovative Candy Concepts, d.b.a. Too Tarts Kidz Kandy. With Vegas-style big wheels, multimedia bells and whistles, and a visit from company mascot Too Tarts Jackson the Chimpanzee, its booth was highlighted on several newscasts. "In the sour category we're probably on the top of everybody's radar screen because we just do a lot of fun, exciting stuff," says Armand Hammer, president.

Liquids and sprays

The Too Tarts name comes from the company's initial product, a sour liquid candy. It was such a success that it was put into a spray. Today, Too Tarts' biggest seller is Xtra Sour Goo, introduced about a year ago. "It comes in a tube with a needlenose spout, similar to an oil can. It is sour with a lot of flavor that ends on a really nice note," says Hammer.

He has even higher expectations for his latest product, UFOs. "It has beautiful space age packaging," he says, adding that it retails for $1.59. "It is sour when you bite into it, but it has a whole rainbow of flavor profiles going from sour to sweet. UFOs appeal to both kids and adults. "The whole sour category is going to continue to blossom, but the companies that will benefit are those making a high-quality, good grade product," Hammer says. "The shock value of saying, 'Oh, this is sour!' is passe today. Many companies make sour products, and kids are even more discerning than adults when it comes to quality."

Too Tarts is aligning with several major supermarket chains, which should make sours even more mainstream, and make more kids want to go to the supermarket with mom and dad. "The children's market is becoming a bonanza. Kids realize they can buy the kinds of candy they want. They are no longer forced to go into a store and buy adult candy, and those that don't carry a nice line of kids' candy lose a customer," Hammer says.

Theater boxes

Kids are increasingly looking to the theater box section of the candy aisle for sours. That's where Just Born Zours are frequently merchandised. Introduced in 1999, Zours has just been expanded to include a Punch Fruitz flavor, which will have a national rollout in January. "It's time to launch this extension because we have a lot of customers who really love the brand," says Matt Pye, group product manager for Bethlehem, Pa.-based Just Born. Zours are similar to a jellybean, but are not "panned" so they end up being softer. "Zours have a dusty coating which people associate with being sour, and it allows for a much softer chew and you can taste the flavors and acid right away, which makes it longer lasting," he says.

Original Fruitz Zours are an assorted mix of sour apple, sour blue raspberry, sour watermelon, and sour tangerine. "Our new mix is more traditional flavors--sour cherry, sour grape, sour lemon-lime, and sour fruit punch," Pye says. Zours are targeted to kids from age six to their teens, and are being advertised on Radio Disney, as well as in Sports Illustrated Kids, Nickelodeon Magazine, and Disney Adventures.

In an ideal world, Pye would love to see Zours merchandised from the checkout impulse rack, but that fixture is dominated by Wrigley, M&M/Mars, Hershey, and Nestle. "A company our size tends to target the aisle. We have a strong presence, and most stores have a theater box section where they will put us. We have a peg bag that goes on peg racks and we can go in the novelty section," Pye says. "We try to target those and pick our battles, particularly in the grocery trade. The theater box section has really taken off, and for us to have a sour product in that section is really helping the category."

RELATED ARTICLE: Spearmint smiles

This January, more people will have teeth as white as the driven snow outside thanks to Adams Trident White, the sugarless gum that whitens teeth. That's when Adams will launch a massive Trident White Mystery Smiles Sweepstakes to support the line's new spearmint flavor, which begins shipping in December.

The sweepstakes will be prominently featured on free-standing shippers in food, drug, and mass retailers. The shipper shows three celebrity smiles, and consumers have to identify one of them to win. The grand prize includes a vacation package and a chance to meet the celebrity; 10 first prize winners will receive digital video cameras.

While other teeth-whitening chewing gums are merchandised in the oral care/toothpaste aisle, Trident White, which was introduced last December, is sold side-by-side with conventional chewing gums.

"We use a surfactant technology, which is tasteless, rather than a baking soda technology," says Meghan Marschall, director, marketing communications, for Pfizer Consumer Group in Morris Plains, N.J. "We were able to introduce the whitening benefit in a gum while maintaining the great taste that people expect from Trident." Marschall adds that the surfactant prevents stains from adhering. "Through the chewing mechanism it will break down current stains and new ones.

Another benefit is that Trident White is priced on par with regular chewing gum. "We are able to deliver a premium benefit at a regular cost," Marschall says.

Pfizer recommends that people chew two pieces of Trident White gum for 20 minutes, four times a day, after meals and before they brush their teeth at bedtime. Whitening is said to become noticeable in about four weeks. "It tastes just like any other gum you would be chewing, but it is nice to get the added benefit," Marschall says.
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Comment:Pucker up! with burgeoning sales and new offerings that appeal to all ages, the sweetest things in the candy aisle are sour. (Supermarket Grocery Business).
Author:Turcsik, Richard
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 15, 2002
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