Okay, as if my mere mention of the dreaded Chick-O-Stick was not enough, look at this great review from my friend Jonny of Candy Gurus:
He's in Hawaii right now on vacation, lounging around and blogging about candy. The Recession isn't raining on his parade either! Go Jonny!!
It makes me want to actually eat one of Dem Chicken Bones.
So, what do we learn by this trip to Mast General Store?
Candy is the drug of choice during the recession. Hey, you don't have to believe me! In Tuesday's edition of USA TODAY, the Sr. VP of Marketing at Ghirardelli said, "In hard times, chocolate is comforting and affordable." Uh - actually chocolate is always comforting and affordable. That's the best he's got?
Ghirardelli's 2009 sales are projected to surpass those of 2008. Hershey's also reported strong sales. (Clearly this is a direct result of this blog. And of all the chocolate I give out in my seminars. See, I TOLD you I was bailing out the chocolate makers!!! Who else would buy a $50 5 lb. Hershey bar?)
But I digress.
The bottom line is that we love our candy. It makes us feel better, it's fun, and it's relatively inexpensive. Candy is great.
Another possible lesson is that we might actually return to some simpler pleasures. I don't know about this for sure - we've gone pretty far down the path away from this. Just today I saw people out walking their dogs and all of them were on their cell phones. The dogs interacted way more than the humans did.
But nostalgic candy does remind us of our childhoods - of Halloween, of family holidays, of summer fun. I remember my Dad coming home from work and bringing me Now and Laters. I loved them because I loved my Dad. Well, maybe I loved my Dad because I loved Now and Laters.....but you get the point. Love was involved...in some way. Life was simpler and not so scary then - or so we like to remember.
I just know that candy makes me happy - it did then and it does now. And I am clearly not alone.
Some of these crazy candies show us that if something is really good to four or five people, chances are it's good to many others. You don't have to sell as many Cherry Mash bars (are they really bars? More like Cherry Mash balls) as Snickers bars to still turn a profit. And with the Internet, small candy companies can get the word out and reach a larger market. They have a much tougher time getting into the grocery stores where Hershey and Mars have distribution locked up.
Some of them, however, might want to consider upgrading. I don't have access to their sales figures, but Kits are really sub par. And the process to make all those crappy little squares and wrap them all individually surely can't be completely cheap. Unless they are making a fortune, maybe they could try to get better?
I overheard a teenager in Mast commenting "These are all the candies that have gone out of business!" Obviously this teen was not the sharpest tool in the shed. After all, if the companies had gone out of business who did she think was making the candy? And I don't think that candies go out of business, the companies that make the candies go out of business, but you can appreciate what she was thinking. Maybe if she had texted her thought it would have been more literate.
Just because something has been around a long time doesn't mean it's good. But just because something is new doesn't mean it's good either. If the only competitive advantage you have is that you've been around a long time, you better reconsider. For example - Squirrel Nut Zippers are bad - they look greasy and creepy in their wrappers and don't taste much better. But that's a kicking name and I bet they could do some research, improve the product, and laugh all the way to the bank! That French Taffy was awesome!! But the packaging needs a serious redo. If it looked better and more people tried it, I swear they'd be hooked. The stuff is good! Work what you've got!!
These candies are all a lot like us - not everyone of us can be a Snickers (a Brad Pitt if you will), hogging all the shelf space, making millions, getting all the press. But we can all be great enough to have good friends and a great life. We can still draw a crowd at Mast General Store! Make the most of what makes you unique and special and keep developing those traits or growing in new directions. You'll have your fans - even if you are a Chicken Bone.