St. Paul, MN — It has been almost six years since Pearson’s Candy Co.’s acquisition by Brynwood Partners VI L.P. In those years the company has undergone tremendous changes, updating the packaging on its iconic Salted Nut Roll, Bun Bar, Mint Patties, and Nut Goodies brands, and expanding them into the seasonal arena.
In 2013, it stepped up its game again, adding another iconic brand to its arsenal with the purchase of Bit-O-Honey from Nestlé USA, Inc. Pearson’s quickly infused new life into the brand with new packs, a design refresh and later the debut of a chocolate flavor extension.
With each step forward, CEO Michael Keller, who took the helm following the Brynwood acquisition, has promised even more growth was on the horizon and the company’s recent brand debut and product launches are proving him right.
“With Brynwood, it has been about investment and growth. Investment in the form of equipment in our plant and acquisitions like Bit-O-Honey and growth in the form of sales, capabilities and improvements over time,” Keller tells CST.
Brynwood’s investments in bite-size production equipment and wrapping machines helped open the Halloween business for Pearson’s, he cites as one example. Other investments in a cartoner, scales and baggers have enabled other important pack extensions. “It is exciting that we have been able to chase down so many opportunities and we are looking forward to continuing our momentum,” Keller says.
Earlier this year Pearson’s jumped into the growing chocolate thins segment with the launch of the 7th Street Confections brand. “The brand is a way for us to look forward and create items that don’t necessarily fit in our current portfolio of five heritage brands,” Keller explains. “This allows us to explore and introduce innovations that tie to trends in the market that classic, iconic brands cannot always access.”
The point of differentiation for the new products, Keller explains, is the unconventional flavor profiles and inclusions. Each of the four everyday items pairs dark chocolate containing 54% cacao with freeze-dried fruit and other inclusions. Not only does the fruit add color, but it also gives the product a unique flavor punch and crunchy mouthfeel, he points out.
“It is surprising that way, each bite has a good snap to it,” Keller says in describing the eating experience. “Every piece is a different shape or size. Some are thin, some are a little thicker. Each piece has a slightly different mix of ingredients.”
Flavors in the line are: raspberry and quinoa; strawberry; blueberry and almond; and pineapple and toasted coconut. “You do not see a lot of freeze dried fruit in confections,” Keller says. “We have done a good job of blending these fruits with other ingredients to create cool flavor and texture combinations.”
Keller notes the product aligns with current trends: Dark chocolate is known for its antioxidants, lower sugar and calories, while the fruits, nuts and grains provide their own nutritional benefits — plus, the products are non-GMO.
The initial launch of 7th Street Confections also includes a range of three seasonal flavors for the holidays — dark chocolate with pretzel and peppermint, white chocolate with raspberry and dark chocolate chips, and milk chocolate with bits of sugar cookie and red and green sprinkles.
Both the everyday and seasonal items pack in 4.7-ounce standup reclosable peggable bags with an SRP of $4.49. They ship in six-count display-ready cases and 36-ct, assorted-flavor shippers.
Keller admits producing chocolate thins is nothing new for Pearson’s, which had been co-manufacturing Ripple Brand Collective’s barkTHINS line for four years until last October.
The company also collaborates with national and regional retailers to produce private label chocolate thins. “It is a smart way to use our manufacturing capabilities and leverage our capacity to help some of our trade partners,” Keller says.
Ultimately, he says the 7th Street Confections brand provides a platform for the company to leverage its more than 100 years of candymaking experience, with other products to follow, Keller tells CST.
The brand is built on the company’s history, with the 7th Street Confections marque inspired by its St. Paul, MN, manufacturing facility, which has been located on West 7th Street since the 1950s.
“We have been making candy here for a very long time and the 7th Street Confections brand is a nod to our history,” he says.
The company’s Nut Goodie bar dates back to 1912, Bit-O-Honey to 1924 and Salted Nut Roll to 1933. Nostalgic brands are doing well and Pearson’s needs to take advantage of that, Keller explains, but adds the company’s flagship products might not address current trends in non-GMO, dark chocolate, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, and other emerging ingredients.
He says retailers looking to offer unique products and interesting flavor profiles should check out the 7th Street Confections brand. Keller states: “If we live up to the promise of 7th Street Confections — always coming out with products that are new, fresh and different — it will give retailers the opportunity to share that with their customers and, in turn, grow category sales and margins.” CST