Snacks and candy blur: ‘Competition makes us better,’ says SFA

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Candy companies can definitely develop competitive snack brands, says the CEO of the Snack Food Association (SFA)
Candy companies can definitely develop competitive snack brands, says the CEO of the Snack Food Association (SFA)

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A raft of candy makers are moving into snacks and this influx of innovation will serve the category and consumers well, says the CEO of the Snack Food Association (SFA).

Hershey took a jump into meat snacking earlier this year with its acquisition of KRAVE Jerky​ and Mars Chocolate North America launched its goodnessknows cereal bar range​ this month.

But as more candy and chocolate players side-step into the snacking world, what impact will this have on the traditional category?

“Any new innovation or any new player with new ideas, whether that’s on product or distribution, makes all of us better. Competition makes us better,”​ said Tom Dempsey, CEO of the SFA.

“The lines are certainly blurred, and they’re blurring because Americans are snacking more often. So, the traditional snacks that you might have had late at night or mid-afternoon are now being eaten from time-of-wakening to time-of-bedtime. So, you’re going to have all different manufacturers making all different types of products to satisfy those consumers,”​ he told at Sweets & Snacks Expo 2015 in Chicago. 

Can candy makers cut it?

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Asked if candy companies were able to develop competitive snack brands, he said: “Yes. Quite frankly, I don’t know if there’s any reason to think there has to be an incubator or innovative start-up company to do it. There is no reason why our large multi-category, multinational companies who have vast resources for R&D can’t come up with products that satisfy those needs.

“…Regardless of how that [snack] category is defined – if it’s our traditional potato chip/pretzels or health bars or new-age beef jerky – there’s room for everyone under the tent.”

In addition, Dempsey said candy companies faced exactly the same issues as traditional snack makers, from retail and governmental matters to commodity and supply challenges.

“There’s a lot of similarity between our industries, regardless of whether it’s sweet or savory.”

Genius of marketing

On the topic of whether consumers could be ‘put off’ by candy firms making snack products, Dempsey said it was unlikely they would even know.


“It depends on the genius of marketing. I know many of our members who have launched what we would call better-for-you or healthier, enriched snacks don’t necessarily use the same brand name as their core portfolio.”

With candy firms making snack products, he said there would likely be some stratification of brand names to better reflect the product, rather than represent the master company.

Hershey’s use of the KRAVE brand was one example, he said, and Kellogg with Kashi was another.

“You’ve got fairly smart people who understand perception is reality when that consumer is in the aisle.”

Co-branding potential


Dempsey said co-branding was another opportunity for candy and snack makers, adding it had already proved successful with the likes of Snyder’s-Lance and Hershey’s chocolate-covered pretzels.

“I think as the lines continue to blur, bringing two powerful consumer brands together makes it all that much more appealing to the consumer,”​ he said.

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