Candy makers and retailers work to show reporters that the growing number of confections on shelves make for great stories all year, not just on holidays.
America's sweet tooth for everything from Kit Kats to Godiva truffles adds up to a big business. Confections generate $25 billion in retail sales annually in the US, and media coverage of both the industry and its products is as diverse as the candy itself.
"The weekly food columns are usually where we see coverage," explains Chris Volk, VP with LA-based Murphy O'Brien, which represents See's Candies.
"But with candy, you can really hit all media facets. We've pitched everyone from in-flight publications all the way to bridal magazines with the idea of candy as a great gift for wedding attendees."
Candy is never going to be a huge media topic, but most general-interest outlets will take the time to cover the latest in sweets, especially around key holidays, such as Valentine's Day, Halloween, and Christmas.
"A lot of people will include candy in gift guide roundups," says Godiva Chocolatier spokeswoman Erica Lapidus. "There are also stories on Easter for adults or Halloween for adults."
Norm Shea, marketing coordinator for Berkeley, CA-based Scharffen Berger, explains that many candy makers are benefiting from the growth in media coverage of the "Slow Food" movement, which focuses on small producers that produce small batches.
"We had the Style section of The New York Times pick us up for one of our bars, and Vanity Fair had a small item on us, so sometimes we can get those lifestyle pages," he says.
Gaining more coverage
What is surprising is that though there are literally hundreds of new candy products introduced each year, most new items don't get reviewed in any traditional sense outside of trade outlets such as Candy Business, Candy Industry, and Confectioner. "We do a lot of reviews of new candy, but primarily in terms of their market potential," says Mary Ellen Kuhn, editor of Confectioner, which is aimed at candy retailers.
But both Lapidus and Volk say premium candies are now getting reviewed in high-end food publications, such as Gourmet, Bon Appetit, and Food & Wine. "You're seeing more of that coverage now, especially with the arrival of new lines such as Marie Bell's and Godiva's limited edition G Collection," says Lapidus.
Kuhn says one issue the entire confection business is keeping an eye on is the spate of stories about obesity across the country.
"It's such a major lifestyle trend and a public health issue, so, yes, the candy industry is thinking about it," she says.
But Susan Smith, SVP of public affairs for the National Confectioners Association, says that, to date, health writers have not cited sweets as a major reason behind America's weight gain.
"Candy is mentioned in some articles about nutrition, but most writers understand that it's a pretty small part of most people's overall diet," she says. "Recently, there's even been some additional coverage about the benefits of antioxidants in chocolate."
Showing the possibilities
Most candy coverage tends to be in newspapers and magazines, but the candy and sweets industry has gotten a major boost from The Food Network, especially the program Unwrapped. Each week, Unwrapped goes on location to take a behind-the-scenes look at how many popular treats, including candy, are made.
"With candy companies, the one thing you really can't beat is a factory tour, where you can see the candy being made from start to finish," points out Volk. "With See's, that's great because it showcases their premium ingredients, plus you get great visuals like chocolate waterfalls coating the ingredients."
Lapidus says Godiva also has had great success pitching reporters on its "Passion Academy," where Godiva boutiques offer free classes on the history of chocolate and how to taste it. They get into specifics like the meaning of blooming and the difference between white and dark chocolate. "We get a lot of local coverage that way," she says.
Volk also notes that there are opportunities to promote individuals within the candy-making process - such as candy makers or tasters - who have been at their jobs or with a particular company for decades. "It really is an evergreen media category, but what makes it different is the need to make sure you have a good flow of innovative angles," Volk says. "If you don't have new products, innovative angles, or a good twist, you're going to have a hard time getting placement."
PITCHING ... CONFECTIONS
- While candy is consumed year-round, most media attention is focused on four holidays - Halloween, Valentine's Day, Easter, and Christmas. Time your pitch accordingly.
- Reporters always love samples, but a tour of a candy factory is a childhood fantasy, so try to get the media out to see how your client's products are made.
- Look beyond the food pages and into lifestyle sections for coverage, especially for premium candy lines.