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Jelly Belly giddy for beer flavored jelly beans after innovation frenzy

By Oliver Nieburg+

03-Feb-2014
Last updated the 07-Feb-2014 at 09:44 GMT

Jelly Belly hyped by beer flavored jelly bean prospects
Jelly Belly hyped by beer flavored jelly bean prospects

Jelly Belly is hopeful of international growth after an innovation splurge saw it introduce 50 new products at one show, including the world’s first beer flavored jelly bean.

The US firm marked its largest ever international launch at the International Sweets and Biscuits Fair (ISM) in Cologne, Germany last week and said it was optimistic about growth in international markets, particularly in China and Saudi Arabia.

The highlight: Beer flavored jelly bean

Speaking to ConfectioneryNews at the show, Sharon Duncan, vice president, international business at Jelly Belly said:  “The highlight for this trip is our brand new draft beer flavor, which is the first beer flavored jelly bean in the world.”

“With the craft beer market and the gourmet aspects of beer we felt this was the right time to release it.”

The non-alcoholic beer flavored beans took three years to develop and are inspired by Hefeweizen ale flavor and draft beer.

“We specifically called it draft beer so it is a light, fresh flavor. We also have a new finish which adds a iridescence, so it really replicates the sparkling real beer aspects.”

Positioning a beer jelly bean

Jelly Belly is keeping the ingredient that makes the product tastes like beer a safeguarded secret, but Duncan confirmed that the flavoring was not beer as the product was non-alcoholic.

We asked Ducan if the product could give children a taste for beer. “We don’t market the draft beer in any mix or assortment. You can only buy it as an individual flavor – and it’s marketed directly at the 20 something plus,” she said.

Duncan said that she expected the beer jelly beans would sell well in the company’s  usual mass food and drug channel.

She added: “I think it will be a big novelty item in the specialty shops, particularly the one that sell bulk. It opens new retails channels for us too, like pubs or bars or co-promotions with breweries.”

No wasted opportunities: Asia ‘big on beer’

Jelly Belly highlighted Europe and Canada as strong prospects for the brand, but didn’t rule out emerging markets.

“Asia is big on beer and there are some emerging markets in Asia that I think will pick up on this right away. “

For now, Jelly Belly is offering the product internationally as a bulk item, but it is also exploring novelty packaging options to promote the product.

China and the UK

Duncan also pinpointed the key growth markets for Jelly Belly for the year ahead.

 “Right now China is growing quite rapidly. The Middle East is also growing for us. We can grow faster obviously in China because we don’t have a lot of business there, and there’s a big business to get, but our mature markets are growing as well.”

The international business chief said that the UK, one of the firm’s oldest international markets, was growing double digits every year and added that Europe accounted for around a third of international sales.

Jelly Belly first created non-alcoholic gourmet flavors with Piña Colada and Mai Tai in 1983 and has since added more cocktail flavors including Margarita (1995) and Mojito (2010). “Innovation is extremely critical, we are known for innovation and if we are not the leaders in that people start wondering what’s going on with Jelly Belly,” said Duncan. The company’s R&D team, mostly based in Fairfield, California is a fairly small outfit with only around six people.

Middle East and South America

“The Middle East is very key for us,” she continued. “We started about five years ago in Dubai in the UAE and since then we now have business in Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which is a very large growth market for us.” But Duncan was less optimistic about South America.

“It’s a difficult market – there are a lot of regulatory issues in terms of high duties and currency issues – It’s just a hard market to work in.”

The company has distribution in Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Brazil. “We’re working on getting some of the other countries. Argentina is a little bit restrictive but we would like to be in Argentina. We’ve had some customers in from Uruguay at this show who we’re talking to,” said Duncan.

75% of products for international markets are serviced out of Jelly Belly’s Thailand facility and Duncan said that she expected certain lines only manufactured in the US would soon be transitioned to Thailand.

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