Q&A: Mars Wrigley Confectionery’s Menyhart discusses category innovation

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Q&A: Mars Wrigley Confectionery’s Menyhart discusses category innovation

In fall 2016, Mars brought together its chocolate and Wrigley segments under Mars Wrigley Confectionery in an effort to better deliver innovative products that address consumer desires and insights. Since then, the division has been busy. In 2017 alone, Mars Wrigley Confectionery has brought beloved U.K. brand Maltesers to the United States, introduced the now-permanent M&M’s Caramel variety — as well as several new varieties and flavors of its biggest brands — and redesigned several of its brands’ packaging.

Drug Store News caught up with Mars Wrigley Confectionery VP of category leadership Tiffany Menyhart to discuss the biggest trends on which the company is looking to deliver— including efforts to literally spice up some of its top brands — and how it’s satisfying shoppers’ cravings while upping its better-for-you efforts.

DSN: A defining feature of several new launches from Mars Wrigley Confectionery this year is new filling and textures — how is this an effort to meet consumer demand and how Mars Wrigley Confectionery stay on top of constantly changing consumer trends?

Tiffany Menyhart: Mars Wrigley Confectionery focuses our innovation on bringing the new flavors and formats consumers are seeking to the iconic brands they love. We’re also able to figure out the best way to bring these new products to life through our extensive global research. This research drives our category leadership across products and how we monitor and track trending flavors outside our own category. We’ve found that consumers are excited to try new flavors from brands they already know and love and are creating surprising twists and experiences from our most popular brands.

The spicy trend is here to stay, with 80% of consumers nodding to spicy foods and treats as a flavor they enjoy. To tap into this trend and build off the momentum of Wrigley fruity confections consumption, which is outpacing the category, we will roll out Skittles Sweet Heat and Starburst Sweet Heat later this year.

Another trend we’re seeing is consumers’ desire for new textures; it’s resulted in the creation of a new ‘crispy crunchy’ segment within the chocolate category. To meet this demand, we’re introducing Maltesers candies to U.S. consumers. It’s the No. 1 bite-sized chocolate brand in the United Kingdom and has a crispy, airy center wrapped in a smooth, chocolaty covering. Last year, we launched Snickers Crisper and M&M’S Crispy Candies.

When consumers indulge, they seek a multi-texture experience that M&M’S Caramel Chocolate Candies deliver. After years of development, M&M’S Brand now has the proprietary technology to enter the soft and chewy category partition with the launch of M&M’S Caramel Chocolate Candies. Caramel is the fourth-largest flavor partition within the chocolate category. M&M’S Caramel will become a permanent item, and is a long-term strategic addition to the M&M’S brand portfolio.

DSN: Consumers have increasingly been looking for better-for-you options and transparency in ingredients. How are your new offerings looking to balance that better-for-you inclination with the desire to indulge?

Menyhart: Mars Wrigley Confectionery is committed to providing better-for-you choices for consumers that satisfy their needs. … While today all of our chocolate products are no more than 250 calories per serving, when we launch new products we are making the shift to provide more options below 200 calories per serving. Our newest iterations of the classic M&M’S and Snickers — M&M’s Crispy, M&M’S Pretzel and Snickers Crisper — are less than 200 calories per pack. Earlier this year, Mars Wrigley Confectionery, along with Nestle, Lindt, Ferrara Candy and Ferrero, announced their commitments to making half of their individually wrapped products 200 calories or less by 2022, and labeling calories on the front of packaging.

Based on the success of our 100-calorie portfolio in chocolate, we are extending those [insights] into fruity confections and launching 100-calorie packs for Starburst and Skittles, both top fruity confections brands. This is another way Mars Wrigley Confectionery is driving category growth in all channels; this was an unmet shopper need that is bringing new shoppers into the category as they seek lower-calorie options.

DSN: As we move into the second half of the year, what product campaigns, launches and efforts are Mars Wrigley Confectionery most looking forward to?

Menyhart: A big focus is helping retailers understand how consumers are feeling and behaving while shopping and translating that into effective merchandizing and sales of popular categories, [such as] confections. We’re continuing to evolve our Transaction Zone Vision program, and incorporating the latest shopping technology and platforms to create an entirely new checkout experience that helps drive incremental sales at touchpoints throughout the store.

As [we] further develop this program, we’re excited at the possibility to help retailers rethink the total store experience and stay ahead of the curve to drive sales in new ways.