Monday, May 5, 2014
In the battle for marketshare in the confectionery sector, it seems that some candy companies are more interested in getting our business by eliminating competition than gaining brand loyalty with exemplary products.
The latest battle involves old rivals Hershey and Mars, this time over malted milk balls. Mars makes Maltesers and Hershey’s makes Whoppers. But Hershey’s is also trying to assert the exclusive right to also make something called Malteser in the United States.
I don’t have the figures, but I’m going to guess that Hershey’s holds more than 70% of the market in malted milk balls with their Whoppers brand, but not necessarily because they’re the best but because they’re ubiquitous. Though I don’t have current figures, I’d estimate the brand is worth about $40 to $50 million in sales a year.
Here’s a little history. Mars Maltesers were first sold in the United Kingdom in 1937. They were created as a diet candy; a chocolate candy with less chocolate and therefore less fat and calories. They’re also sold in Canada, New Zealand and Australia and exported to many other European countries. They can be purchased in shops that specialize in UK imports. Based on the number of brand extensions I’ve seen for Maltesers on my recent trip to London, I’d say that the candy is a much more important brand to Mars than Whoppers are to Hershey’s. Which may make them appear a threat.
In 1939 an American candy company called Overland, introduced a malted milk ball candy sold under the name Giants, as they were larger than earlier versions called Malt-ettes. In 1949, two years after the company was sold to Leaf Inc, they were renamed Whoppers. There were many other companies that came and went that sold malted milk balls, but Whoppers have been made continuously ever since, even if their corporate overlords have changed.
Leaf Inc was once a formidable sugar candy company, the fourth largest in the US. They acquired many favorite American candy brands, including Jolly Rancher, Hollywood Brands (maker of Payday bars), Heath Bar, and Now and Later. Sometime in the 1960s Leaf started making something called Malteser and even registered a trademark for the name in 1962. I doubt they were widely distributed or advertised, as I can’t find any record of them . In 1983 Leaf was bought out by Huhtamäki Oyj, a Finnish company, which maintained the trademark registration. Mars sued Leaf over this trademark in 1993 and later settled out of court (so we don’t know the details) but Leaf retained the trademark.
For reasons I don’t quite understand, Leaf Inc divested and sold off many of its best brands, most to Hershey’s: Whoppers, Payday, Jolly Rancher and Heath Bar.
Fast forward and lately Hershey’s has been releasing a product called Matleser: a malted milk ball that in all ways except packaging is identical to Whoppers. Though it’s a singular in the name, not Maltesers as the Mars product is, it’s also packaged in red.
The way trademarks work, not only do you need to register the trademark in all territories you plan to exercise it, you also need to use it. So if Hershey’s wanted to keep Mars from using Malteser in the US, by claiming it was an abandoned trademark, they had to demonstrate that Hershey’s wasn’t using it. I was able to find Hershey’s Malteser for sale on both the Hershey’s site and Amazon. I bought a box to confirm that they are just Whoppers in a different package. (They are.)
Mars contends that not only is Hershey’s squatting on the trademark in the United States, but that their packaging is intentionally confusing consumers to think that they’re purchasing the Mars version. I admit, they do look similar and even though I’m the candy blogger, I couldn’t remember of the top of my head if the Mars version was plural or singular until I started this research.
American trademark law is governed for the most part under the Lanham Act which covers trademark infringement and false advertising. The act was also revised in 1999 to encompass cybersquatting, the practice of registering domain names and then sitting on them or directing them to a competitor.
While Hershey’s practices up to the point where they created similar packaging were probably within the letter, though not the spirit of the law, my opinion after looking at the history, reading Mars’ brief on the case leads me to conclude that Hershey’s is just acting scummy. Whoppers are known by 300 million people in this country ... and if it’s not a favorable brand then Hershey’s should improve their quality, price point or packaging to the point where people are loyal to them.
I tried both again, just to check. Neither is great, but the do differ. Both have a mockolate coating, though the Mars version does have some cocoa butter in there. The centers, though both malty, have different textures. The Mars version is more honeycombed and has a easier crunch. The Hershey’s version is more milky tasting with a firm crunch that dissolves nicely. Both are excellent centers ... both have disappointing coatings. I prefer the Mars Maltesers.
I’m a extremely curious if Mars were to introduced Maltesers in the United States if they would change the coating to real chocolate, as they do not make any mockolate products for the American market. However, Mars does not have a good track record for introducing the European candies to the US when there is another similar candy already on the market. They tried this with the Bounty bars, which are similar to Mounds and Almond Joy and they never took hold. Twix was a European launch that was then introduced in the US, but is a unique candy construction, which is how it established itself in its niche.
This is not an isolated issue in the candy business. Many candy companies go head to head in the courts instead of on the store shelves.
- The UK the courts have been deciding whether Cadbury should have exclusive rights to their shade of purple. Currently, the answer is no.
For more reading on the issue, here are some other trade articles on the case:
Monday, April 28, 2014
Here’s something new I picked up in London that I’ll do a review of shortly: Cadbury Dairy Milk Pebbles.
If you tried to flatten out your Cadbury Mini Eggs, they’d be crushed. Somehow Cadbury has magically made them into little skipping stones.
Monday, March 17, 2014
There are always flavor trends. Tropical fruits, pumpkin pie spice, hot pepper ... much of it is a pendulum that swings from novelty to the familiar in unfamiliar settings. One of the new flavor trends that has been pointed out by food industry writers is cake.
Cake itself isn’t a flavor, it’s just an item you can make with some batter and an oven. There are a few different versions of the cake as candy flavors. The popular varieties are Red Velvet Cake, Birthday Cake and Carrot Cake. I gathered together a few that I’ve picked up in the past few weeks out of curiosity, then I thought maybe I should go through my archives and see how far back this goes and how successful this is as a flavor.
Red Velvet Cake has never been one of my favorites, so making a successful candy adaptation will probably always be lost on me.
Birthday Cake, White Cake or Party Cake is another subset of the flavor, it’s usually yellow cake with some sort of vanilla frosting.
Carrot Cake and Spice Cake are by far the most interesting of the lot, because they combine a series of flavors, both the lightly spiced cake with carrot added for texture and moistness then add in the tang of a cream cheese frosting. Mars has reissued their Carrot Cake M&Ms at Walmart again this year.
So this week I’ll review: Peeps Party Cake, Brach’s Carrot Cake Candy Corn, Russell Stover’s Carrot Cake, Wedding Cake and Birthday Cake Eggs. If there are others you’ve seen in stores, let me know so I can track them down Stay tuned.
Monday, March 3, 2014
I’m traveling this week, picking up new colourful and flavourful things to review in the coming weeks.
Do you have a British favorite that I haven’t reviewed yet?
UPDATE: Thanks to everyone for your suggestions! I was able to find a lot of the items, plus a few more I’m looking forward to trying. I have to photograph everything, but they’ll be reviewed in the coming months.
Friday, February 14, 2014
What’s in your candy bowl this year?
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
I should be back on the show to talk about Easter candy sometime later this spring.
Thursday, January 16, 2014
If you’re on Tumblr, you might want to pop Candy Blog on your follow list. It’s just candy photos, posted a couple times a day. Think of it like a visual reminder of new reviews and a few revisits to the archive.
You can also browse the archives for some tasty views:
Friday, December 6, 2013
I’ve been pretty excited so see so many old favorites returning plus a few new additions. The flavor combinations of pumpkin spice, peppermint bark and gingerbread continue strong showings with a few egg nog and chili pepper items out there, too.
This is by no means a definitive list, but I’ve tried to actually find the announced products in stores before adding them to my list.
• Twizzlers Tree Shaped Cherry Candy (new)
• Peeps Chocolate Covered Peppermint Trees (Milk & Dark Chocolate)
• Wonka Gobstoppers Snowballs
Mars & Wrigley’s
• Life Savers Tin - holds 7 rolls of three different varieties - comes in Butter Rum, Cherry or 5 Flavor package design
Ferrara Candy (Ferrara Pan, Farley’s & Sathers + Brach’s)
• Brach’s Christmas Nougats in Peppermint & Wintergreen and Cinnamon (review)
• Tootsie Roll Candy Cane Pop Drops (review)
• Ribbon Candy (I suspect this is just a repackage of Sevigny’s)
• Swedish Fish (red & green) in bags or theater boxes
• Ghirardelli Hollow Chocolate Nutcracker
Other Items of Interest
• Giant Toblerone Bars
What are you looking forward to most? And what are you having trouble finding this year? What did I leave out?
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.