Lindt is reportedly looking to acquire Russell Stover
Lindt is reportedly close to acquiring Russell Stover to increase its share of the U.S. market.
It looks like Lindt & Sprüngli is in the market for some chocolate, because the Swiss company is said to be close to a deal to purchase the Russell Stover candy business.
According to The Local, specifics of the deal have not been announced yet, but according to Reuters, Russell Stover is the third largest candy company in the U.S. and has annual revenues of about $500 million. Russell Stover is known primarily for its boxed chocolates, but it also produces chocolates under the Whitman’s brand. Russell Stover products sell in more than 70,000 stores.
"This biggest and most important strategic acquisition to date in Lindt & Sprüngli's history is a unique opportunity for us to expand our North American chocolate business," said Lindt chief executive Ernst Tanner in a statement.
Lindt already has a presence in the U.S. with its own Lindt brand chocolates, and it also owns the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.
Lindt Looks to Buy Russell Stover - Recipes
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Lindt agrees to buy Russell Stover in company’s biggest purchase
The purchase will make Lindt the third-largest chocolate producer in North America
London/Zurich: Lindt & Spruengli AG , the world’s largest producer of premium chocolate, agreed to acquire Russell Stover Candies Inc. , giving the Swiss company control of the biggest US maker of boxed chocolate.
The purchase will make Lindt the third-largest chocolate producer in North America, Kilchberg, Switzerland-based Lindt said in a statement on Monday. The price was undisclosed.
The acquisition is the biggest in the company’s history, as the maker of Lindor chocolate balls seeks to step up the pace of expansion in North America. Last year, the continent accounted for 30% of its $3.1 billion revenue, up from 17% in 2007. Russell Stover will add annual sales of about $500 million, Lindt said.
The purchase is “a unique opportunity for us to expand our North American chocolate business and will greatly enhance the group’s status in the world’s biggest overall chocolate marketplace," chief executive officer Ernst Tanner said in the statement.
Russell Stover was founded by Clara and Russell Stover from their Denver bungalow in 1923 and was acquired by Lou Ward, a box maker who had been supplying packaging to the Stovers, in 1960.
Russell Stover chocolates are a regular feature of candy stores across the US. In addition to its eponymous brand, the company makes Whitman’s and Pangburn’s candies. Its products are sold in almost 40 company-owned shops throughout US and at more than 70,000 drug-stores, card and gift shops, grocery outlets and department stores. Bloomberg
Your Russell Stover Chocolates Will Now Be Made by Lindt
Kansas just got a little more cosmopolitan. Swiss chocolate company Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli announced plans to buy Russell Stover Candies, the third-largest candy company in the U.S., and one that until now has been privately owned. Deal terms weren’t disclosed, but the Wall Street Journal estimates the value at $1.2 billion.
Lindt was founded in 1845 by a Zurich chocolatier and quickly became known for its silky, high-end confections𠅊 far cry from the 5¢ Hershey bar that charmed America in the late 19 th century. But by the 1980s, rising cocoa and sugar prices, coupled with an increase in cheaply made foreign candies, led Lindt to seek a more egalitarian customer base. With $3.2 billion in annual sales, Lindt now has a global reach and its Lindor bars and individually wrapped truffles can be found in most U.S. grocery stores, from supermarkets to corner delis.
Still, the Swiss chocolate maker has never had much of a presence around the holidays. While smaller than Lindt, Russell Stover, in Kansas City, Mo., with factories on the Kansas side of the border, is the top-selling boxed chocolate maker in the country and dominates such gift-giving holidays as Valentine’s Day and Christmas.
The Russell Stover acquisition is just the latest step in Lindt’s plan to expand its U.S. business. According to Candy Industry Magazine, the company is adding to its existing chocolate lines and has been looking for an additional 1 million square feet of production and storage space in the U.S.. Before this deal, Lindt had just two manufacturing plants in the U.S., in New Hampshire and in California. The latter makes Ghirardelli brand chocolates, which Lindt bought in 1998. It also owns Whitman’s boxed chocolates.
Russell Stover gives Lindt another four factories, 3,000 more employees, and an estimated $600 million in annual sales. With that, Lindt will become the third-biggest candy company in North America, behind only Hershey and Mars.
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Russell Stover Mint Dream
The “Mint Dream” from Russell Stover comes in a pretty, shiny foil wrapper bearing the description “fluffy mint cream covered in milk chocolate “. Unfortunately, the package may be the best thing about this particular candy.
To be fair, there’s nothing to complain about in the candy’s appearance, either. It’s an attractive, smooth chocolate round approximately two inches in diameter and a bit over one inch tall. A pleasant aroma of chocolate is preceptible, but there’s not much (aside from the wrapper) to hint at mint, which is interesting, as most minty candies tend to announce their flavor with a strong scent of mint.
The chocolate coating (of a thickness sufficient to make it a noticeable flavor and not a mere protective covering for the filling) is nice enough– but the filling is odd. At first glance, it’s attractive– a creamy white (as depicted on the wrapper) with a whipped, frothy texture. A small nibble tastes almost more buttery than minty– not what you expect from something named “Mint Dream”. A larger bite (with a higher filling-to-chocolate ratio), however, reveals a slightly more bracing mintiness. It’s a “dark” mint flavor, though, if that makes any sense, not pleasantly sharp as you find in many mint candies (such as the York Peppermint Pattie).
Here’s a curious observation of the Mint Dream: The “fluffy” filling melts a little and turns a bit slick after contact with… er, mouth moisture , which creates a somewhat less appealing look in the candy, once you’ve begun to eat it. (The word “slimy” comes to mind.) On the plus side, this also means that it melts in your mouth. (I understand that a good number of people find this a selling point in foods of all kinds.)
The Mint Dream is a bit of an odd size. Rather like a Cadbury Creme Egg, it feels bigger and richer than your average fun-size candy bar, but it’s somewhat messy to save some for later. (In all honesty, if I liked this candy better, I wouldn’t even have considered saving some for later. The fact that the idea even came into my head is a sign of how little I liked it.)
Overall, this candy is nothing to write home about. It isn’t exactly awful, but I didn’t really enjoy eating it– and that’s the whole point of candy.
Note: I have read that some people prefer to eat this candy cold, and I imagine that would increase its appeal. Still, for my money, the simple York Peppermint Pattie or Junior Mint wins the day. It all comes down to texture. If you like ultra-soft, fluffy fillings , chocolate, and mint, try the Mint Dream, by all means.
Yum: Pretty package. Pleasant chocolate. Unique, extremely fluffy filling (if that’s your thing).
Yuck: Price per ounce is high. Flavor and texture not my favorite.
|Packaging:||(4 / 5)|
|Aroma:||(3 / 5)|
|Texture:||(2 / 5)|
|Appearance:||(3 / 5)|
|Flavor:||(3 / 5)|
|Value:||(2 / 5)|
|Overall:||(3 / 5)|
11 comments on &ldquo Russell Stover Mint Dream &rdquo
Mint Dream is the best candy ever created in the history of the world. I could eat a case of them in one sitting. Peppermint Patties and Junior Mints don’t even come close to the greatest of a Mint Dream. It’s almost laughable that you even compared them to each other. I’ve loved eating Mint Dreams for nearly 25 years and will be buried with them when I die.
I LOVE this candy!! The only bad part for me is that where I live I can find them only at a few Hallmark stores which are a few miles away. They are the very best. I never thought to eat a part of one of this candy and save some for later… never. I agree that who likes a strong minty flavor ….will not find that in this candy. But I like a mild minty flavor so…I am very happy with the whole taste… The chocolate cover is great also. i just hope they were easier to find at the local stores.
I completely disagree with your critique. We all have different taste buds, and you are going by yours. I am saddened that the Giant no longer carries them, so I went to the Russell Stover website to purchase them. I understand Wegman’s also carries them. The Mint Dream is dreamy!
It is obvious to me that Michael has faulty tastebuds. I have loved them for way more than 25 years (oh dear…) and concur with mintyfresh in all things, including the funereal requirement. Am please to note that they now appear to come with a dark chocolate coating too which, as everyone knows, makes them a health food. Goody.
Disappointed! I am very fond of many Russell Stovers products but this one is a let-down. The filling has a buttery flavor with only a hint of of mint which is nothing like the far-better Junior Mints or York Peppermint Patties.
Michael’s and Julie’s reviews are way off the mark. ‘Junior Mints’ and ‘Peppermint Patties’ are utterly disgusting, cheap, low quality candies compared to the venerable, awesome ‘Mint Dream’! It’s like comparing a Chevy Cavalier to a BMW! I’ve been eating these things for 25 years or so, and I feel that RS’s ‘Mint Dream’ is one of the best tasting candies EVER! There is most definitely a decent hint of mint present, and that’s the idea. You don’t want it to overwhelm. The milk chocolate shell is a perfect ‘foil’ for the whipped, creamy center, and the whole thing just melts in your mouth. It is a ‘mouth-gasm’ of milk chocolate, mint flavor, and a hint of vanilla flavor. I will also be consuming ‘Mint Dreams’ until the day I say bye-bye!
Comparing Mint Dream to Junior Mints speaks for itself. This reviewer has zero taste.
I adore mint dreams…they have been my special treat for many years….I just wished they were as big and tall as they used to be……I just purchased a carton of them on-line…..Soooo Good!
Here is a “review” I just sent to Russell Stover about the decrease in quality of Mint Dreams since I first fell in love with them way back in 80s or 90s:
“I have been a fan of Dream Mints for 20 years or more, and the “experimentation” you have been doing with this confection has not gone unnoticed. As far as I am concerned, it is clear you are looking for the perfect way to decrease quality to increase profit: First, the size got smaller, then the filling had crystallization, the filling lost the crystallization, but was never the same marshmallow smooth that it was originally.
Then a dark chocolate version was created – ONE good thing. Even though the quality has been decreasing over the years, I have continued to buy Dream Mints solely on the illusion that there have been hints of the original quality, but I have finally reached the end of the “dream.”
I just visited the newly reopened outlet at Wildwood, FL, and bought 2 boxes of Dream Mints – one for me and one for my sister. I am now thoroughly disappointed and disgusted – once again the size has decreased and AGAIN the filling has crystallization in it. Worse, I now realize the silky smooth filling is gone forever. I am not stupid – just slow.” I have now finally realized that the quality of Dream Mints will never be restored.
Part 2. Based on the some of the comments above, I will concede that possibly Russell Stover has been trying to make Dream Mints appealing to a broader group of people who did not like the silky smooth and creamy, as opposed to fluffy, filling that I loved but was often messy. For me, the mess was so worth it, and I truly miss it.
Similar to Coke Classic, I wish Russell Stover would realize it’s mistake and restore the original classic and have a fluffy version if so many people prefer that.
I just purchased some Mint Dreams at an outlet in Missouri. They are no longer available anywhere in california that I can find and was told by the clerk there that they might only be available online and in the RS stores. I found it to be smaller, but the same silky, minty, whipped goodness as I have been eating for years. I also bought Pecan Rolls – still fabulous, and a new (to me) one: Pecan Pie bars. OMG. Overall, I think that for the $, RS gets a horribly bad wrap. They might not be the ultimate gourmet chocolate, but many of their offerings are top notch and unique to boot. I hope that the sale to Lindt doesn’t ruin things.
Russell Stover Candies IMC Campaign Proposal
Revitalizing Russell Stover Candies: Background
Every chocolate or brand of chocolate needs a distinct and consistent message to broadcast to target consumers who may need convincing to indulge in the luxury item. For example, Dove chocolates boast personalized inspirational messages, which make consumers feel enlightened and personally connected to the brand. Ferrero Rocher chocolates are wrapped in signature gold paper, reminding consumers that they are getting the very best quality for their money. (As a bonus, this paper is recyclable and reusable.) What’s left for Russell Stover’s in the competitive marketplace of one of America’s favorite commodities- chocolate?
Despite its lack of consistent brand image, targeted advertising or social media presence, Russell Stovers remains the third largest U.S. chocolate manufacturer behind Hershey and Mars, according to russellstover.com In fact, the brand seems to pride itself on its ability to stay out of the limelight and remain on top.
“From the beginning, advertising was limited to local newspapers during major gift-giving seasons,” according to russellstover.com. “Prime store locations and the selection of prominent merchant agents were considered the most valuable means of promotion. …”
The Russell Stover brand began as a small family business and grew to be a large enterprise, keeping a focus on quality. For example, the candy is still made in small batches and follows Clara Stover’s original recipes, according to the website. The Russell Stover mission statement is summed up simply: “The success of the Russell Stover brand builds on family tradition and maintaining a few simple principles: produce the highest-quality candy possible, sell it at an affordable price, and follow through with exceptional service. An unwavering commitment to these values is the essence of Russell Stover Candies.”
The company flourished under the longtime leadership of Louis Ward, who expanded the brand to a national scale. In 1993, Russell Stover Candies purchased Whitman’s Candies, and the Whitman Sampler remains the best-selling single assortment product that the company offers. Significant national television and print advertising also began in 1993, but a “prominent fixture program remains at the heart of the company’s promotional activities,” according to http://www.russellstover.com. Today, more than 40,000 permanent fixtures display Russell Stover candies at America’s leading retailers. “The strongest retailers in the country, both big and small, rely on the everyday fixture program to give them a prestigious anchor to their card, floral, and candy departments…” the website explains.
However, despite a long-lasting commitment to traditional values, high quality and exceptional customer service, the brand seems to be faltering in the face of up-and-coming competitors such as Ghiradelli, Lindt and of course, the various Hershey’s and Mars bars.
(Christopher, 2013) published an article in the KC Confidential (ie Kansas City, home of Russell Stover Candies’ headquarters) explaining that Russell Stover’s ratings have been low in consumer tasting reports as far back as 1996.
“KC-based Stover placed ninth in a field of 11 candies, garnering a lackluster ‘fair’ rating,” Christopher wrote in 1996. In comparison, in 2013, the Consumer Reports rating said this about Russell Stover chocolates: “Russell Stover Assorted Fine Chocolates’ sweet fillings had mostly artificial flavors… The quality of Whitman’s Sampler varied, and some nuts were stale” (Christopher, 2013).
Instead, the magazine reports favored Christopher Elbow, a new “up-and-coming” Kansas City chocolatier. “Artistic looking, ultrasmooth chocolate around bold, unusual combinations such as buttery caramels with a taste of chili-mango or balsamic vinegar. Not for the faint of heart” (Christopher, 2013).
Incidentally, the article ends with the mention of another age-old chocolate company, Price Candy Co., which went bankrupt in 2000. The chocolate industry is changing quickly, and with more and more competitors, the message to Russell Stover’s is clear: “Step it up, or get out of the kitchen.”
One reader wrote this feedback below Christopher’s article:
“Stover is a company I do believe is dying. It’s going to be a slow death but a death nonetheless unless they change their marketing tactics. They are still popular but I think only to a crowd who time and time goes back to them buying candy only because it’s who they have trusted for many years. Stover was a very strong company years ago but as people who I have known who worked there as well say they are not keeping up with modern changes or tastes and losing market share each year.”
In 2007, it appeared for a moment that Russell Stover’s Candies was attempting to rebrand its stale image. “Recognizing that the familiar white boxes on supermarket and drugstore shelves are most appealing to nannies and grannies, Russell Stover is trying to up its sex appeal. The plan: more-sophisticated lines (Urban, Private Reserve), upscale flavors (vanillabean brulee), trendy packaging (red, alligator-skin-clad hearts) and a new marketing push. The company is even dabbling in viral marketing…” (Thompson, 2007).
Company representatives admitted to being stuck in a box- literally- with unwillingness to expand beyond the traditional candies. “Although the marketer — which also owns the Whitman’s brand — dominates the box-chocolate category, Russell Stover sales fell 4 percent in 2007 to $93 million and Whitman’s sales dropped 12 percent to $41 million. Meanwhile, Lindt and Ghirardelli — each with less than $5 million in sales in the segment — skyrocketed 87 percent and 244 percent respectively, according to Information Resources Inc.”
However, elaborate plans for rebranding cannot be found online. What can be found is a couple of Youtube videos that were scripted for TV commercials (short consumer testimonials), an interactive website link where consumers can build their own boxes of chocolate, and a few goodwill and public relations efforts, which are featured on the Russell Stover’s website. The company has virtually zero social media or advertising presence, and the heart-shaped boxes marked with the trademark bows just aren’t as popular on consumers’ radars. The company did not appear anywhere on the list of America’s Most and Least Favorite Chocolates, published before Valentine’s Day of 2013 in the Huffington Post. (Tepper, 2013) explains in this article that research firm NetBase delved into the popularity of chocolate in its most recent analysis of online consumer conversations. The firm analyzed “big brands” including: Hershey’s, Godiva, Ghiradelli, Ferrero Rocher, Neuhaus, Cadbury, Lindt and Dove. Russell Stover’s should find it disturbing that the company did not even make the list of “big brands.”
“Russell Stover is in a spot where their greatest asset can be their greatest liability,” said Scott Lucas, Interbrand’s VP-packaging for North America. “The brand has such authentic heritage it’s almost iconic in its category, which makes it harder for them to stretch to new products and new markets…Developing sub-brands that help modify the traditional brand can be a way to ‘strike the right balance of the Russell Stover heritage and relevance to the new audience” (Thompson, 2007). The company should target a younger consumer and develop a brand rapport with the new generation before it is too late.
While Russell Stover Candies currently possesses strong brand recognition and customer loyalty, the brand is quickly falling on all of the trending lists for best candy of the year. Consumers report that flavor is off, quality is down and the candies just aren’t the same. Hallmark faced a similar dilemma recently when it attempted to break away from its image as the stereotypical holiday greeting card store for grannies and papas. Senior VP of Marketing, Lisa MacPherson explained a major reason for this switch:
“We’re a brand that’s traditionally been known for having just the right expression, and for having the way to say it most appropriately. Well, consumers don’t need that anymore. They’re using emoticons and abbreviations and a very casual, continuous kind of streaming way of communicating, and we needed to find ways to put our brand in those spaces as well” (Zmuda, 2011). MacPherson describes the casual conversations of the younger generation, which obviously occur daily. People in the 30- and-under set are constantly connected to technology, via smart phones, iPads, laptops and especially social media and Youtube. Without a strong presence in any of these arenas, it is safe to say Russell Stover Candies is out of sight, out of mind, for most in this age group. As a candy company, Russell Stover also has to fight against the “special occasion-only” mentality that Hallmark experiences with greeting card sales.“Since we still get a lot of our sales during seasonal peaks, we will probably always need the immediacy of mass media, including television, in order to successfully drive our customers during the season,” MacPherson said (Zmuda, 2011).
Russell Stover’s Candies needs updated means of communication in both digital and traditional arenas. Rebranding needs to start with a willingness to get the word out about this age-old American chocolatier, which has been on the back burner for too long. R Maybe Russell Stover Candies should not attempt to compete in the gourmet chocolate market. Foreign brands like Lindt, Godiva, Ghiradelli and Ferrero Rocher have that pretty well covered. This is good, old-fashioned American chocolate. On the other hand, while Lindt, Godiva and Ferrero Rocher are focusing on top-tier quality, Hershey and Mars (two radically different competitors) are focusing on convenience above all else. The chocolate giants dominate the market by churning out thousands of tiny candy bars each day. However, some would argue they are sacrificing quality for the convenience of mass production. Russell Stover Candies could easily carve out a niche as a mid-level chocolatier, catering to a combination of quality and convenience. It needs to send the message that the brand is as American as apple pie, convenient, affordable and innovative. An example would be creating original products to follow the seasons such as the Pumpkin Pie and Caramel Apple Big Bites, created exclusively for Fall 2013 (http://www.candyblog.net/blog/category/russellstover/).
Creative Strategy and Support Statements
This advertising campaign will convince millennials that Russell Stover’s Candies provides delicious, quality chocolates, in an unbeatable combination of traditional American values and old-fashioned recipes and innovation, including infusions of flavor through new product introductions, and a health-conscious focus that will be necessary in the future.
The support will be the introduction of healthier dark chocolate products as an alternative to the high-calorie Sampler, sleek modern packaging with bright colors, smaller portion sizes and convenient sales locations beyond drug and grocery stores.
The tone will be positive and enthusiastic, as a longtime choclatier navigates the 21 st century Company-consumer interaction will increase at all levels, especially on social media, and modern day advertisements will bridge the generational gap between current Stover fans and millenials, encouraging these consumers to buy both the “value convenience chocolates” chocolates on a daily basis as well of the “gourmet luxury chocolates” on special holidays.
Russell Stover Candies is currently associated with the Baby Boomer + generation. But, the company must strive to reach a younger generation of consumers in order to develop lifelong connections and to thrive in the future. This younger demographic includes “millenials,” ie persons born after 1980, and should especially focus sales on middle class American consumers who live in the more conservative states within the United States. A resident of these states is more likely to identify with the strong, conservative, patriotism and old-fashioned family values, which make up the foundation of this company.
But, they must take this a step further. The younger generation currently sees Russell Stover’s as a company that sells products for their parents and grandparents. However, Russell Stover Candies must show them that this chocolate company is the only one that they can trust for years to come (much as their ancestors did) in terms of both convenience- through “everyday health-conscious treats” as well as sophistication- through “luxury holiday indulgences.”
“Marketers are always trying to woo younger consumers. They may not have as much money as older folks, but they bring a sense of hipness and desirability to anything they buy. Youths are also sought after as customers because consumption habits are often ingrained at a young age — and because they will be money-spending consumers for many, many years to come” (Tuttle, 2013).
Russell Stover Candies very much subscribes to the “market of one” concept, recognizing that gaining the lifetime loyalty of a consumer is much more valuable that the fickle consumer who may change brands at the drop of a hat.
The brand must adapt certain changes suggested in the KPMG article, “The chocolate of tomorrow” to draw in millenials. In line with a push back against childhood obesity, especially in the United States, such changes must include innovative product lines or “sub brands,” that center on health-focused, original dark chocolate recipes, and smaller portions of individual candy bars that are sold in every venue from gas stations to grocery stores to (a special line) in health food stores. Convenience will be key for consumers. Meanwhile, the brand must demonstrate innovation and personalization along with an appeal to luxury, allowing customers to put together their own Holiday Samplers or to mesh the flavors that best please their palettes within the higher end lines. This careful attention to detail –down to the customized gift box wrapping paper- will keep Russell Stover Candies squarely in the gourmet holiday gift box arena for such peak times as Valentine’s Day and Easter. Shipping perks or a Russell Stover’s Membership Card should be considered in a careful cost-benefit analysis to draw in even more consumers.
The company should tout the “Made in America” slogan, as KPMG points out that the consumers of today are even more conscious of where products come from and even more skeptical of foreign food products. Russell Stover’s must always show pride in its heritage along with the willingness to innovate beyond the white ribbon-tied boxes to have a successful future.
“Millennials are known to be active consumers of multiple types of media, so luxury brands need to use a variety of tactics to get their message to this audience…Millennials’ information-gathering method is very diverse, so if brands want to capture that audience, they need to play along in all those media. You are bound to reach them a bit randomly,” (Shea, 2013).
Key marketing elements of an IMC campaign that will reach this target audience will include viral Youtube videos, mobile marketing, high social media engagement and interactive website elements. However, traditional marketing tactics should not be abandoned. Russell Stover’s Candies should also create a series of TV commercials and magazine articles regarding a new, innovative health focus to draw in health-conscious consumers. All advertising should be light-hearted, upbeat and persuasive, describing just how the “Chocolate of Yesterday” will transform into the “Chocolate of Tomorrow.” Radio and TV commercials will focus on bridging the generation gap and the evolution of a “dated” product into something modern and desirable for younger people. In other words, out with the dated Stover’s sampler box, in with the small, bite-sized candies in shiny, metallic wrappers.
The least modern chocolate brand is Russell Stover’s. This company should think bright colors, sleek packaging and smaller, individually wrapped candies.
Magazine Ad A Visual
Picture a granddad and grandson (around 80, and 15). The granddad is helping his grandson with a bowtie before the grandson goes to pick up his date for the junior prom.
On the dresser behind them sits a wilting corsage next to a small bag of Russell Stover candies, with modern designs similar to the Ghiradelli bag, but with the signature Russell Stover’s bow stretched across the middle.
Magazine Ad A Copy:
When a candy bar just won’t cut it, and a large box of chocolates looks better on Granny’s bedside table, you can’t go wrong with Russell Stover’s Modern Delights. Our original recipe has withstood the test of time, and now features new flavors. Heart-healthy dark chocolates are hand-made in small batches with smooth cream centers mixed with nutty nougats. From one generation to another- Skip the corsage and save your money. Russell Stover’s Candies is less expensive and better than ever. Russell Stover’s – enhancing your special occasions since 1923.
Magazine Ad B Visual:
A young American soldier in uniform is excitedly opening a care package in Afghanistan and tossing aside Dove, Lindt, Ghiradelli and Godiva. He pulls out a tiny box of Russell Stover’s candies.
Magazine Ad B Copy:
“They fight for our freedom on foreign soil Russell Stover’s Candies brings them a luxurious taste of home. As American as apple pie, Russell Stover’s has been around since 1923. These candies are still handmade in small batches from our own original recipe, right here in the USA. But, with new heart-healthy dark chocolate creams, soldiers get a needed energy boost and fewer calories than ever before. It’s an unrivaled chocolate in a complimentary ready-to-ship box for those frequent care packages. And, our military families enjoy a military discount everyday. Russell Stover’s- the only American luxury chocolate designed to satisfy.”
Digital Media Marketing Components for Russell Stover’s Candies
When it comes to social media, Russell Stover’s Candies could benefit from creating an interactive Facebook page with an active following. Facebook still remains far in the lead as the No. 1 social networking site by a large margin, according t o (Vaughan-Nichols, 2013). Russell Stover’s Candies could capitalize on the high volume of active users by creating and maintaining an active Facebook presence. Based on a search on Dec. 23, 2013, Russell Stover’s Candies, the only “presence” that the company currently has is an organization page. An organization page has Wikipedia information at the top (a brief history) and suggested related pages. However, this informational page has 6,334 people who “Like” this topic. This is encouraging, because a company Facebook page could target this audience of fans, which already exists to build a following.
(Wasserman, 2012) explains that changing media affects the way that people view brands. The article shows this “traditional purchase funnel” first:
“In the pre-social media days, you’d see a TV ad and become aware of a brand. Then, after you got familiar with the name, you might consider if you wanted to buy it. Next, you bought it. Then, you might decide you liked it. Finally, you identified yourself with the brand.” (Wasserman, 2012.) Conversely, Facebook and Forrester propose this circular model for the social media age:
“In this schematic, social media influences every stage of the process. They hear about new brands and investigate said brands via social media. When it comes time to buy something, consumers increasingly consult their friends via social media. Then, they expect to be able to interact with the brands through social media after they buy a product” (Wasserman, 2012). Russell Stover’s Candies could capitalize on this new model. First, the company can advertise to gain followers who have heard or may want to hear about the brand. Then, they can offer Facebook incentives, such as this (copied from a holiday email campaign):
Finally, they can encourage direct calls to action via the Web or other cell phone apps, and then ask for customer reviews once a product is purchased. The brand should aim to interact with fans on many levels, from surveys about creating a new flavor of chocolate to getting feedback on current products to discussing how Russell Stover’s can apply to consumers’ daily lives. A good example of this would be the Dove chocolate Facebook page, which currently has 1.2 million likes. Their Christmas Eve post for example, got 360 “Likes” and several shares and comments.
We love all the pretty colors this time of year.
Fans develop loyalty to a chocolate brand through everyday posts that relate to things that they care about – the holidays. The candies strung up like colored lights may logically appeal to many consumers the day before Christmas Eve. On Dec. 23rd, the company posted several Dove chocolates “stocking stuffer” ideas, strategically when parents –and Santa Claus — may be doing last minute Christmas shopping. These are ways that the Dove brand is interactive with fans. Russell Stover’s Candies is missing a big opportunity with its absence from the largest social media network. Each day Dove and other competitors have the chance to interact with and potentially convert and gain the loyalty of previous Stover’s fans. The company must develop an active Facebook following to compete on this critical level in today’s social media-dominated society.
Youtube is another interactive, non-traditional media outlet where Russell Stover’s needs to develop an active presence. A Youtube search on Dec. 23, 2013 revealed several Russell Stover’s product reviews from various individuals. However, aside from the odd (and old) commercial, the company has virtually no Youtube videos. By referencing the graphic above, Youtube is the No. 3 most active social media network among active users. The company should cross promote Youtube content on Facebook and vice versa to rise in SEO ratings when potential consumers are searching for chocolate brands. By following a marketing model similar to Philadelphia cream cheese’s “Real Women of Philadelphia” campaign, outlined in (Kessler, 2010), Russell Stover’s Candies could encourage more user-generated content on a centralized company Youtube channel.
“Asking kitchen-savvy women to not only invent their own dishes, but also shoot, edit and upload videos to a contest website seems like a recipe for disaster. But when Kraft invited women to do just that in its latest online promotional campaign for Philadelphia Cream Cheese, it got about 5,600 more responses than the 400 it set as its goal” (Kessler, 2010).
Likewise, Russell Stover’s could create a contest for customers to upload the most heartwarming Youtube video about the New Year. Parameters could be that the video must be one minute or less and include a box of Russell Stover’s chocolates. The theme could be “New Year: Same Chocolate, but with a Better Taste.” Users would be encouraged to submit videos throughout the month of January showing how Russell Stover’s is critical to their lives and to their New Year’s resolutions. Similar to the cream cheese contest, the top three winners would win prize money equal to $10,000 or more. The large prize money would encourage more consumers to enter the contest. Another idea would be to target the video campaign to Valentine’s Day, and have the winning selections launched on Feb. 14 th . The winners could win dream vacations with their significant others (or best girl friends for single ladies) with all of the chocolate that they could hope for. Actively reaching out to potential consumers via Youtube will develop and maintain brand loyalty.
III. Advergaming through Candy Crush Saga
Candy Crush Saga game is very popular with the younger generation. (Website: http://about.king.com/games/candy-crush-saga) Russell Stover’s should pay to advertise within this game during the breaks between levels, or when players have “lost lives” and have to wait several moments for those lives to be reinstated. Russell Stover’s could even create special levels of the game, which should be harder than all of the other levels. Russell Stover’s would pay King for the levels to be added to the game, and advertise that any player who beats the special level will automatically win a small box of chocolates and be entered into a contest for a free vacation. Even by just advertising on the game’s breaks, Russell Stover’s could reach a huge, captive audience. (Somoset, 2013) explains why Candy Crush is so addicting, citing that 30 percent of players claim to be addicted to the game for various reasons.
“One thing is the candy thing worked really well,” Tommy Palm, King’s game guru, said in the article. “People love candy all ages. It works, and fits the game. It’s a really great theme for a game like this.”
The target audience is women ages 22-55, and the game had more than 600 million plays as of August. By creating some key advertising within Candy Crush, Russell Stover’s Candies could potentially turn players’ thoughts to Russell Stover’s as the candy of choice, since the other colored candy pieces in the game are not branded. By participating in an innovative, non-traditional marketing opportunity, the company will appeal to milennials and potentially sell more candy to this target audience. With a direct and immediate call to action, consumers will be able to act on their candy addiction quickly. A special code should be created, such as “STOVERCRUSH,” so that customers automatically get free, expedited shipping after ordering from a Candy Crush ad. This promotion will also encourage more candy sales.
IV. Mobile Coupons and Real-Time Buying App
Kirkland’s Home Store’s “Spin to Win” app allows customers the chance to “win” a free coupon each and every day. Coupons range from 10 percent to 60+ percent off of a purchase. One can spin only once per day, but the app refreshes every 24 hours. (http://www.kirklands.com/content.jsp?pageName=SpinToWin)
Russell Stover’s Candies could develop a similar app, where smart phone users not only get a coupon every day, but a coupon that directs them straight to a website to make an online purchase. App users will win a free sample-sized box of chocolate on special days, such as birthdays, only if they remember to go into the app and “opt in.” This will encourage consumers to remember and go back to the app on ordinary days with the goal of driving mobile sales up further. According to (McCutchin, 2013), mobile advertising is really taking off and will evolve into an even more exciting form of advertising in coming years. Thus, Russell Stover’s should capitalize on key audience- smart phone users. By providing incentives and discounts, the company will hopefully see a higher ROI on online purchases through mobile devices. The company should also continue its effective email campaigns, since many people now receive email on mobile devices. The emails, however, should direct consumers to the Real-Time Buying App as well.
V. “Build Your Own Sampler” Website
Russell Stover’s Candies “must demonstrate innovation and personalization along with an appeal to luxury, allowing customers to put together their own Holiday Samplers or to mesh the flavors that best please their palettes within the higher end lines.”
The best way to execute this “Create Your Own Sampler” idea would be through a separate website. An inspiration is Calphalon’s popular “Your Set” website, which allowed consumers to put together their dream set of cookware. Each participant was automatically entered into a contest to win the set that he/she created.
Another good example would be the Domino’s pizza online ordering function, which allows customers to build their own pizza and add on sides and drinks on an interactive website, complete with illustrations of the various topics. (https://order.dominos.com/en/pages/order/#/section/Food/category/AllEntrees/)
In the same way, Russell Stover’s should create a website, which could play on Forrest Gump’s famous line “Life is like a box of chocolates…But with Russell Stover’s, you know what you’re gonna get!”
Once customers enter the website, they will have options to build various size boxes (or bags, or cans) of chocolate. The chocolates can be individually wrapped in the consumer’s favorite color (or not wrapped at all.) Standard options might be available such as a milk chocolate sampler, heart-healthy dark chocolate sampler, or the famous cream-center sampler. But, other custom options will also exist.
Customers can literally go through and pick out each individual chocolate, from the gel or cream inside to the covering, to the nuts (or lack thereof.) Boxes of chocolate should have the option of being saved so that a man, for example, could go online and order his wife’s favorite box for each and every holiday. In fact, this site will be so convenient, that men can pre-order the boxes they would like and plan for it to be shipped on any date that they choose within three calendar years, so that birthdays, anniversaries etc. are no longer forgotten! Around special holidays, such as Valentine’s, the company could offer special promotions and deals for building and ordering a custom box online well in advance. They could also give away x number of boxes around these times of the year, so that customers will go online and create their ideal box early. The goal will be to attract people to the site to try to win special promotions, such as a free box of chocolate each month for a year, which could be given away sparingly each year. In turn, the company will sell more chocolates through this marketing gimmick, because few consumers will have the willpower not to purchase their favorite box of candy, once it is staring them in the face. This interactive site will allow consumers to play a role in the making of their own candy and may alter young, technologically oriented people’s viewpoint of the “old-fashioned” company.
Television Script: (30-second commercial)
Russell Stover’s Candies’ :30 Radio
Young Man: “Sir, I’m here to pick up Christina for the prom. Are you her father?”
Old Man: “I’m her grandfather. She’ll be right down.”
Young man (nervously): “Thanks. Nice place you got here.”
Old Man: “Enough with the small talk! And, give me that wilted corsage.”
Old Man: “Here, take this instead. Don’t you know these young girls like everything new and improved? They’re healthy, and, they’re her favorite. “
Old Man: “Yep. They still make ‘em like they did in my day, same great taste, but with a new look and flavors. Only the best for my Christina.”
Christina, the prom date, enters the room. She takes one look at the chocolates and gives Young Man a huge hug.
Christina: “Oh, you are the best date! I’m so glad you didn’t go for one of those smelly corsages that would wilt in 10 minutes.”
Visual: Shows wilting corsage sitting behind them on the table.
Young Man gives thumbs up to the grandfather behind her back, and he winks at the Young Man.
Announcer: “Buy Russell Stover’s today- the brand your grandfather trusts and your date will love! And for a limited time, you get one long-stemmed red rose with your purchase of an 8 oz. bag of creamy, flavor-infused chocolates.”
Lindt sees significant growth worldwide
It looks like Lindt’s and Sprüngli’s decision to buy Russell Stover Candies back in September 2014 is working out for the chocolate maker.
That and it’s expanding brick-and-mortar store network, as well as the worldwide success of the Lindt brand has helped the company reach CHF (Swiss francs) 3.39 billion in sales — about 17.4 percent more than last year.
The company recently discussed the past year as part of it’s annual sales report. Lindt says the highlights of an eventful 2014 include:
- The announcement of a joint venture in the retail sector in Brazil
- The opening of the “Swiss Chocolate Adventure” theme world at the Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne by the LINDT Chocolate Competence Foundation
- The opening of the highest-situated chocolate shop on the Jungfraujoch glacier pass (3,454 meters)
- The acquisition of Russell Stover Candies in the United States.
Lindt was able to accomplish all of that despite what it calls, “a persistently sluggish European economic climate, coupled with slightly improved consumer behavior in North America.” The chocolate maker also faced, “rising rates for relevant raw materials and tough price competition.”
However, the company credits its uncompromising commitment to premium quality, efficient cost management, and numerous product innovations, enhancing its ability to grow much more quickly than the overall chocolate markets.
In fact, excluding the effects of the acquisition, Lindt’s organic growth in local currencies reached 9.8 percent, by far exceeding the strategic growth target of 6-8 percent.
Lindt sees worldwide growth
In the European market, Lindt had seen organic growth in local currencies of +6.5 percent, a positive performance that all the countries played a part in.
France and Germany, the major markets in the region, reported particularly impressive progress. And, in the UK, a wide variety of innovations in both the seasonal and permanent sectors and the ever increasing popularity of the Lindt brand with consumers, helped the company achieve double-digit growth in the country.
As for North America, Lindt saw 14.3 percent growth in the NAFTA region, excluding the sales of Russell Stover Candies.
All three US subsidiaries achieved double-digit sales growth thanks to the launch of numerous new products and the increasing interest of retailers and consumers in quality products from Lindt & Sprüngli.
The rest of the world segment grew by 13.9 percent. The company credits the growth to success in Australia, duty-free business and its worldwide distributor. Lindt also opened new subsidiaries in Japan, Russia, and China over the past few years, which also helped the company achieve high growth rates at lower absolute levels.
As part of its ongoing expansion into new markets, the “LINDT Global Retail” Division is playing an increasingly important role.
Last year, Lindt added 29 nine stores worldwide. Moreover, the sales generated by the Lindt & Sprüngli shop-network accounted for about 10 percent of overall Group sales, making a significant contribution to sustainably strengthening and further consolidating the Lindt brand image and recognition.
As for the future, it looks bright for Lindt.
Excluding the acquisition of Russell Stover Candies, the Lindt & Sprüngli Group expects to improve the EBIT margin in 2014 against the previous year within the range of the medium-term target of 20 to 40 basis points. Including Russell Stover Candies and the one-off transaction costs, the EBIT margin is expected to be about the same as the previous year.
Russell Stover: How the chocolate company is evolving since being bought by Lindt
Andreas Pfluger, president and ceo of Russel Stover Candies, is all smiles holding up a supersized box of chocolates.
An overview of Russell Stover's manufacturing facility in Abilene, Kan. The 395,000-sq.-ft. plant opened in 1995, employs 600 people and produces 25 million lbs. of chocolate items annually.
Alex Otero and Apolonio Ocana pour out caramel, which will cure 24 hours before ready for use. One batch totals 300 lbs.
A variety of centers are produced at the plant's kitchen to support a broad range of products found in boxed assortments.
Workers pour white chocolate into a sugr-free strawberry creme recipe into one of 10 ball beaters. Once agitation is completed, the candy is cured for 24 hours.
Kitchen Manager Micky McGuire watches over production of pecan caramel delights.
Ron Kelehar (left), director of production, and Paul Willis, plant manager, pose near seven cooling tunnels that feed the packaging area
Claudia Reyes and Bertha Ruiz at the inspection area for dipping caramels.
Greg Carlson, v.p. of operations, talks about integrating the best practices of Lindt's operations into Russell Stover's facilities.
Marjolaine de Claviere, v.p. of marketing, explains Russell Stover's new everyday Favorites initiative.
Pecan caramel delights receive a coating of chopped pecans.
Benjamin Montoya (left) and Doug Rodriguez fl ank supervisor Tracy Jacobs as Pecan Delights head toward enrobing.
Supervisor Tracy Jacobs (dark burgundy top) watches butter almond toffee leaving the slitter with employees Ramiro Rodriquez, Mauricio Santa and Melissa Robertson.
Jennifer Mayes checks placement of butter almond toffee sticks after leaving the guillotine.
Faustino Olivas and Cathy Allen feed the coconut creme center into the hopper.
Coconut cremes are enrobed as they pass through a chocolate waterfall.
Once deposited onto the belt, the coconut cremes receive a bottom coating of chocolate.
Sugar-free pecan delights enter a flow wrapper at a rate of 700 pieces per minute.
On July 14, 2014, when the Lindt & Sprüngli Group announced that it was acquiring Russell Stover Candies, the news raised some eyebrows within the U.S. chocolate market. While few were surprised to hear that the Kansas City chocolate manufacturer was acquired — the industry knew Russell Stover was on the block — the final deal generated closer scrutiny from not only industry participants, but observers as well.
But for Lindt & Sprüngli, the acquisition marked the company’s “Biggest and most important strategic acquisition to date,” emphasized Ernst Tanner, chairman of the Lindt & Sprüngli Board of Directors and Group CEO. It was, as he added, “A unique opportunity for us to expand our North American chocolate business and will greatly enhance the group’s status as the leader in premium chocolate in the world’s biggest marketplace.”
More than a year and a half after the purchase — the deal was finalized on Sept. 8, 2014 — the integration of Russell Stover Candies into Lindt North America is in full swing. Andreas Pfluger, president and ceo of Russell Stover Candies as well as head of Lindt North America, affirms that the Lindt Credo, which hangs in his office next to the doorway, is being implemented across all segments of the company.
Looking back at 2015, Pfluger says the company “met its objectives” regarding integration. As he pointed out, there were several regulatory, structural and financial hurdles to resolve first before deep drilling into the integration process could begin.
“Russell Stover was a privately owned company,” he explains. “As a publicly traded company, there are certain financial rules, reportings and corporate governance we had to meet. We also had to integrate our organizational ‘point of view’ to make it similar with the rest of the Lindt Group.”
In doing so, Pfluger quickly strengthened the sales and marketing departments, “Lindt is a marketing and sales driven organization,” he said, so adding talent for both groups was critical.
“We implemented changes in the organizational structure,” he continues. “In manufacturing, we started taking advantage of Lindt’s know-how and introducing that into operations. We’re also looking at how we manage the supply chain and our manufacturing processes. But everything we’ve done and are doing with regards to change is done to give us leverage in the long run.”
As Pfluger points out, “We acquired Russell Stover to build the business in the long run. When we acquired Ghirardelli 15 years ago, which we successfully integrated, it was with the same mindset.”
Moreover, during the due diligence process, it became very clear to Lindt’s executives what they were getting.
“The Ward family was very open, fair and transparent in the process,” Pfluger says. “We were aware of what the company was all about there were no skeletons in the closet. We knew we were getting a well-managed group.”
Lindt & Sprüngli was also getting a strong company culture, a culture that proved to be a pleasant surprise for Pfluger.
“There’s definitely a strong culture in Russell Stover you feel the pride of people who know they are working for a great chocolate company,” Pfluger says. “They are proud and excited to work for this company.”
Of course the next question was whether they would be proud to work for a new owner?
All signs suggest yes. After all, Lindt & Sprüngli’s track record is impressive: It’s credited with establishing the premium chocolate market in the United States. With the acquisition of Russell Stover, Lindt North America is the third largest chocolate manufacturer on the continent, trailing only Hershey and Mars.
And its track record with Ghirardelli simply reaffirms the company’s winning philosophy of integrating best practices from both parties.
“I definitely see a willingness to change, to take advantage of opportunities in a positive way,” Pfluger says. “I see people growing, from young people to not-so-young. And that only means we’re building a stronger culture than before.
“There’s also an openness, a ‘Let’s give it a go’ approach,” he adds. “I see them embracing the Lindt Group. One of the reasons they do stems from the way we integrate organizations. We always respect the culture. And it’s different than the culture at Lindt USA or Ghirardelli. But we want to keep it like that it a culture that’s driven by pride.”
He cites the company’s beginnings, which date back to 1923 when Russell Stover began making chocolates in a Denver bungalow. Then there’s the Whitman’s brand that traces its origins back to 1842, making it the oldest chocolate brand in the United States.
“We also have Pangburn’s, which goes back to 1914 and remains part of the fabric of Texas,” Pfluger says. “We’re talking about some of the most respected and traditional brands in the United States. The former management was able to build leadership positions within the boxed chocolate category, also seasonal leadership during Valentine’s Day, Easter and Christmas, as well as the sugar-free chocolate segment. We’re definitely the leader in gift-giving, which really personifies Russell Stover.”
Pfluger was also very appreciative of Russell Stover’s Midwestern roots, which lend themselves to a “very grounded, substance over style, content before noise” culture. The chief executive says that’s evident with the “get things done” attitude and a strong level of professionalism prevalent at Russell Stover.
“Our goal is to make that even stronger,” he says.
To do so, the company is implementing the Lindt Group’s quality requirements across all operations.
“We want to be even more consistent in quality than ever before,” Pfluger explains.
As Greg Carlson, v.p. of operations, says, “Russell Stover has always been about quality. However, we want to take advantage of the quality processes existing at Lindt to enhance what we have. When you are running your own business, you do what you know. Now, with the Lindt Group, we can take the best practices and incorporate them in our operations.”
Oftentimes, that not only means adding procedures and/or processes, but streamlining and/or eliminating them. And SKU management can help sharpen that focus as well as improve efficiencies.
During the past year the company reduced its large catalogue of products to remove any non-strategic items. That continues to be an ongoing process, one that’s carefully dovetailed with consumer research — research that’s designed to be a road map for the company’s strategic growth plan.
“We believe that there’s a huge opportunity in the gift-giving segments for us,” Pfluger asserts. “We see plenty of white space for an alternative in the market, one that provides new excitement. We’re more experienced than other players in the category as well as very appreciated and trusted by consumers. They [consumers] trust the brand.
“We haven’t been exploiting the gift-giving opportunities,” he continues. “For example, there are birthdays to be celebrated. In addition, one can simply gift chocolates as a casual way to say thank you.”
Pfluger cited the company’s famous Whitman’s Sampler gift box as a delightful way of providing variety and excitement for the consumer.
“There are 14 recipes in a Sampler box,” he says. “How about making that variety more interesting by taking it out of the box? Chocolate is all about indulgence. How about giving myself a treat, say once a day or twice a week?”
“Gift-giving isn’t limited to the seasons,” Pfluger adds. “Look at the boutique chocolatiers that sell small, five-piece boxes as samplers. Consumers are anxious to discover new flavors they want their products to be playful. They are looking for excitement, indulgence, purity. It’s all about surprising them.”
And that’s where the collective strength of Lindt North America can make an impact. As Pfluger points out, there are three research and development centers — Lindt USA, Ghirardelli and Russell Stover — working with an urgency for the North American market.
“After all, consumers are looking for innovation. Today, it’s mandatory to be the innovation leader. And innovations are driven by marketing, by ongoing trends and by consumer research. Innovation has always been one of our pillars we are now going to add some excitement to that pillar.”
Pfluger didn’t waste any time in seeking out the right individual to bring that excitement to Kansas City. As Marjolaine de Clavière, v.p. of marketing for Russell Stover Candies explains, Pfluger recruited her internally by posing a simple question, “Do you want the most exciting marketing job in the [Lindt] Group?”
de Clavière didn’t hesitate. Her experience at Lindt not only encompassed overseeing the Lindt Excellence brand as brand manager as well as launching several innovation blockbusters like Excellence with a Touch of Sea Salt or Excellence 90% it also included eventual responsibility for bars worldwide. Those were the credentials Pfluger was looking for. And since coming on board in January 2015, it’s been a whirlwind for her.
“I’ve met so many amazing people here at Russell Stover,” she says. “I know that’s typically a cliché that everyone uses, but for me it’s true. I really didn’t know how I would be welcomed here, and I was a bit anxious. But everyone here has welcomed me with open arms.”
Moreover, it didn’t take long for de Clavière to make an impact one of the first things that came about, in addition to learning about the company’s portfolio and visiting customers, was expansion of the marketing team. It tripled in size.
“It was a small team, but we really have a large portfolio,” she says. And de Clavière quickly embraced Russell Stover’s 12-person in-house creative team, which adds flexibility and speed to new product introductions.
And there are and will be many, de Clavière asserts. Nonetheless, all are grounded in consumer research, which is critical to the way the company goes to market. Earlier this spring, the company began rolling out its new Everyday line of chocolate items.
The number one focus within the Everyday Range is the “Favorites” sub-range of stand-up bags. As the name implies, “Favorites” takes some of the company’s most popular boxed chocolate pieces “out of the box,” such as Pecan Delights, wraps them up individually and literally places them in a stand-up bag. In addition to the Pecan Delight Favorites Bag, consumers will also find one for Caramel, Coconut, Mint Patty and an Assorted selection of all four.
But it’s not just about ”Favorite” chocolate pieces from Russell Stover’s boxed chocolate selection it’s also about new items, such as Pomegranate, Blueberry and Orange flavored Bites Coconut, Pecan Delight and Dairy Cream Caramel Minis as well as Pistachio and Crunchy Caramel Barks. Sweet and savory fans will also find Double Dipped Pretzels with Sea Salt in the rollout. Whereas Favorites will be individually wrapped in stand-up bags, the rest of the range will present itself in re-sealable pouches, perfect for snacking occasions.
There are also new additions for sugar-free shoppers, such as the fruit trio of Blueberry, Orange and Cranberry flavored Bites.
Long a leader in seasonal, the new launch signals Russell Stover’s intent to expand its Everyday offerings. As Pfluger points out, the company’s current mix of sales runs heavy toward seasonal — two-thirds seasonal versus one-third for every day.
He believes that’s a clear opportunity for the company.
“We’d like to reverse that ratio, thereby reflecting the market,” Pfluger says. “In doing so, we’d be twice the size.”
As he points out, “There’s no need for consumers to wait for the next season before they can get another Russell Stover product,” he says. “And consumers trust us.”
So do retailers, says de Clavière.
“Buyers like Russell Stover,” she says. “But they have been waiting for something to happen from one of the most important players in the U.S. market. And we have big ambitions, big plans. It’s up to us to execute them.”
Earlier this year, the company teamed up with Hudson News, which has hundreds of retail outlets in various transportation hubs such as major airport and train stations across the United States, to launch a “Favorites” promotion centered on pairing up best-sellers and the new product line.
The Everyday range ramp up will continue throughout the summer as the company kicks off a major, yet focused, public relations campaign to drive awareness and sales.
“In addition to nationwide in-store sampling of products amongst key retailers, we’ll be using digital tools to get the word out amongst key influencers,” she says.
“It’s all about on-the-go indulgence,” de Clavière continues. “It became clear to us that everyday products were missing in our portfolio. But that’s a mega trend. Consumers are looking for good quality chocolate. They want to satisfy a craving they want to share a piece of joy. And our new products address those needs by targeting the everyday consumer.”
And how were the Everyday “Favorites” chosen to be Favorites?
“Of course, we asked for recommendations,” she responds. Those recommendations encompassed consumers, employees and buyers. Critical feedback also came directly from Russell Stover’s 35 retail shops, which are on the front line of direct consumer contact.
As mentioned earlier, the Everyday launch represents just the tip of the Russell Stover innovation iceberg. There’s much more coming for the sugar-free category.
“There’s been a lack of innovation and ideas in the sugar-free segment,” says Pfluger. “We’ll change that. There are many innovations coming, but we want to make sure we get them right before we launch them.”
Getting it right involves “designing products that meet the needs of the consumer,” adds de Claviére. “We want to give them products that taste good and satisfy their cravings. Consumers don’t want to compromise on taste.”
It would be incorrect, however, to assume that the new Lindt team is ignoring Russell Stover’s seasonal business. Here, too, the push is to grow share, says de Clavière.
“We are focused on listening to the consumer, doing research,” she says. “For example, we’re leaders in the flatback chocolate rabbit segment for Easter. We are working on introducing several innovations for Easter 2017. It’s all about making that Easter egg hunt more exciting.”
With more than 2,000 SKUs on hand, there’s ample existing items to choose from that can provide that excitement.
For example, barks have been a staple at the company’s retail stores for years, says Carlson. Their introduction into the Everyday line simply involved tweaking production to accommodate the new packaging.
But then flexibility and nimbleness have always been key trademarks of Russell Stover’s manufacturing prowess.
“We continue to produce confections from our kitchens using small batches,” he says. When one considers the range of chocolates that can go into a typical box of Russell Stover chocolates — anywhere between 21 to 30 products with 20 to 50 different centers — it’s evident why a small batch process makes sense.”
And Pfluger sees that as a strength few companies have.
“We employ many specialists, candy makers that have the know-how to create fillings like caramel, mint or coconut ,” he says.
Carlson, who was part of the four-person team that was involved in the sale of Russell Stover, says the acquisition of the company by the Lindt Group proved to be the best-case scenario for the company.
“They know the legacy of the brands, what we do as a company, our core beliefs, and they are intent in keeping that intact during the integration process.”
Lindt is also intent on introducing its strengths into Russell Stover.
“They definitely have a great deal of experience on the back half of operations that we can take advantage of, particularly when it comes to pack type and wrapping equipment,” he says. “We’re looking to leverage what Lindt has regarding their experiences and bring that in-house.”
And the input has been welcomed. As Carlson notes, his team’s “dedication and expertise has been one of the keys to facilitating a seamless transition.”
Given that Russell Stover’s four manufacturing facilities (Iola and Abilene, Kansas., Corsicana, Texas and Montrose, Colorado.) represent 1.5 million sq. ft. of “manufacturing goodness,” as Carlson calls it, there seems to be plenty of production power on hand.
Carlson also points out that the company has its own transportation fleet as well as its own rigid box-making capabilities.
“Having an in-house transportation fleet gives us a cost advantage along with flexibility and quick turnaround for the new innovations that are demanded in today’s marketplace,” he says.
“It’s a big advantage, particularly for a confectionery company that is still very seasonal,” Carlson adds. “Otherwise you are at the mercy of the trucking companies. This way we control our own destiny.”
Then there’s the advantage of having one’s own rigid box-making capabilities.
“Our Butler Box facility in Butler, Mo. can die cut, emboss and print,” he explains. “The components are sent to the factory where we can assemble the boxes on demand.”
Once again, it provides the company with added flexibility.
“There’s tremendous positivity and enthusiasm for the future,” says Carlson. “We’re now part of a much bigger, worldwide organization that has a strong focus on marketing, sales and quality. We’re looking to take those strengths and apply it to the business.”
Given the “getting things done” culture at Russell Stover, it’s what the Lindt Group is betting on.
As Carlson asserts, “I see a very good future for the company.”
At-a-Glance: Russell Stover Candies
Headquarters: Kansas City, Mo.
Sales: $700 million Lindt North America - $1.626 billion (Lindt USA, Ghirardelli and Russell Stover Candies)
Output: 90 million lbs.
Products: Moulded pralines, moulded chocolate novelty items, panned chocolate products, barks, clusters, enrobed pralines.
Plants: 4 candy factories (Abilene and Iola, Kan. Corsicana, Texas and Montrose, Colo., 1 box factory (Butler, Missouri)
I too used to love Russell Stover because it was the candy my mom ate & gave me. Now it tastes like plastic or box flavor. It is really hard to find a piece unless it is individually wrapped and not in a box that tastes like candy. I haven't complained to the company but, I am extremely picky and I keep getting a box here and there praying it was just "bad" but the flavor of the product is compromised. I don't like the candy in the box anymore :(
Thank you so much for confirming my opinion. I have also had several more boxes (I can't stop my brother from buying them for me) and the taste has been permanently compromised. I'm am sure they are using inferior ingredients as well as shrinking the weight of the box to maximize profits!
I am glad I found this post.
I just bought 3 boxes of assorted creams.
I opened a box and picked out a few favorites.
I immediately got a bitter taste.
it was so strong it over powered any filling flavor.
It was just a mixed muddy bitter taste.
what a shame.
I thought it was just me.
I tried a piece the next day and it was the same bitter waxy taste.
how can you mess up chocolates?
I will be avoiding R.S chocolates in the future.
RUSSELL STOVER CHOCOLATES ARE HORRIBLE. We got a box for Christmas and MAN are they gross. The cream fillings are all sugar and the chocolate is of disgustingly low quality. The overall candy is one huge bomb of overpowering, artificial saccharine sweetness that makes you want to gulp down a gallon of water. NEVER getting this brand it's a good thing we got it as a gift.
We used to always celebrate with a Whitman's sampler. Russell Stover bought Whitman's in 1993 and slowly phased out the distinction. Now, the yellow sampler box if full of those new, terrible Russell Stover replacement chocolates. You can't buy RS, Whitman's, or Pangburn's without getting a box full of chemical taste.
I received a box for Valentine's day. Held off eating a piece until a night who and choked on a piece of plastic. It was about half the size of my fingernail. I just sent a email to them to let them know I am extremely unhappy. I should not choke on something that I thought would bring me joy.
yes they are bad and now smaller too! Fanny Mae has done the same thing !! Where are all the good chocolates of yesterday .
gone with everything else I guess��
I used to work at RSC & I quit eating their candy within 6 months of working there. Oh, the stories I could tell you about why their candies taste different.
This really bothers me, RSC use to be the absoloute best, but now its full of the nastiest unhealthy ingredients I would love to hear the stories of why they stop producing quality chocolate. ,
I just got a small box for Christmas. It had 4 little chocolates in them. I picked out the coconut one as that is my favorite ingredient and as I was chewing I noticed a strange taste, plastic type, chemical, not rancid to me but the taste was definitely off. I spit it out in a tissue. I looked at the bottom of the other chocolates and it was white like when chocolate gets very old. There was no expiry dated on the box. I would love to know why these chocolates taste like plastic and chemicals. Now I have stomach pain and I know it's related.
Russell Stover, Whitman's, Elmer's, Hershey's pot o gold-- crap, bad, horrible, worse.
Stay away from these good awful, stale drug store "candies" and get yourselves (and especially the people you love) a box of Godiva chocolates. They are the only brand that still has flavor and actually tastes like chocolate because they actually use real cocoa and lots of it.
Just got a box for Christmas and the chocolate has a chemical taste almost. It's gross! Blech!
I just tasted a piece in Whitman's chocolate samplers. Very chemically taste to it, like frieken windex! I looked it up to complain and found that Russell Stover owns them, figures. Disgusting taste, the whole box is a waste. We got it for Christmas too. This sucks. I will never buy Russell Stover's or their brands.
All of this is good to know. I was going to buy some valentine chocolates for the grandkids but now, I'm going to the local candy maker and buy them there. I know I'll pay more but I'm sure the taste will be worth it!
I recommend See's candy. Just go to www.sees.com. It's not cheap but man is it good.
I have to agree with everything here. My Grandma and Mother used to buy nothing but Russell Stover. The downsizing and nasty aftertaste (The person that called it Windex is close.) have stopped me from buying their "candies." I think See's the the best now, and I am fortunate to live within 7 miles of a See's store.
Oh, something I don't see mentioned is how they downsized the candy Easter eggs. I remember how they changed the way they wrap them to disguise how much they had been downsized. I feel deceived and refuse to support such sleazy tactics. I would have preferred the same size and quality for a higher price. Also, they did away with the green coconut and pink strawberry Easter eggs. Those were really good and I liked how they came in clear wrappers. Interesting how none of their Easter eggs can be seen in the packages now.
I was just poking around the interwebs to see if anyone else had noticed that Russell Stover, which used to be delicious, is completely inedible now. Too much sugar, too little flavor. The sugar and the chemicals irritate my throat so bad I just end up so thirsty. It is a shame because they used to be my favorite.
I am a former RSC employee who was poisoned by them. Once they robbed me of my health, they fired me claiming "We know you're not happy here". Of course I wasn't happy - they literally destroyed my health.
If you Google OSHA fines Russell Stover Candies, you will find the reason their candy has a chemical taste. The 2 main plants that made candy for RSC, (Corsicana, Tx. & Iola, KS) were both fined by OSHA for exposing employees to toxic chemicals & destroying sewer pipes because they were washing the toxic crap down the drains. Any chemical that can literally destroy sewer pipes & affect employees health can also affect the candy that you eat. I would also like to remind those who buy RSC candies, is that they not only make RSC, but also Whitmans' & Pangburn's.
Phew glad it's not me.. I always buy pot of gold but got Russell for Christmas.. Tastes plastic and smokey? Wtf these are gross
I received a giant box of Russell Stover Chocolates for Christmas. They used to be so good, but I just threw away the box more than half-full. I agree with the chemical taste, it actually tasted like sewer water. Disgusting!
I got a box as a gift and threw the box out. I thought they were stale. Will never eat them again.
Actually I googled Whitman Sampler shrunk way down to 12 pieces, also the same big box with plastic inlayed & lots of room around them. Can't find weight on box only says 12 pieces. RIP OFF.
Yes RS used to be good, but now See's is best.
Maybe it's just that I preferred Hershey's (and other brands) of chocolate over Russell Stover's, but I haven't liked them for quite a few years now. I used to like them back in the 80s and I'm not sure exactly when I started disliking them. Maybe around the late 80s/early 90s? I always thought the milk chocolate tasted weird, like with a strange fruity/chemical taste. This became more noticeable as the years went on, and definitely in the past 10-15 years. Every time I'd get RS as a gift from family or friends, I'd literally groan. I liked the dark chocolate pieces better, but still found them to be low quality. I won't touch them anymore. I actually like Whitman's better (though I agree their quality has declined too), so it was a bit of a surprise to learn RS makes them as well. A friend from Arizona sent me a box of See's candy once and I loved it. We don't have any of their shops around here, they're just sold in some of my local dept stores. But I'd rather get them or Godiva. Shame what's happened to RS.
Several years ago I got a craving for an exotic box of chocolates. Bought a box of Russel Stover. Bah, disgusting gross taste in every piece. Figured I bought the wrong brand and bought another box, this time Whitman's. GAH! Same gross taste what is going on? I inspect the package carefully and low and behold they are made by the same company! Sold side by side as if competing but they are identical in grossness!
Fast forward to this Christmas, someone gives me a box. I'm three pieces in and I just cant go on, each piece is worse than the last. I wish I could find a quality variety chocolate sold commercially. I honestly don't know how they are still in business selling that garbage all these years. I'd rather eat burnt toast than Russel Stover chocolates.
Like many others my parents ate Whitmans for years and now they inflate the tray so theres only one instead of two with the same exact prices? Never, ever, will I purchase any Whitman product of any kind.
There's a reason I found this blog. googled Whitman's chocolate taste. Both my hubby and I have noticed a tongue-tingling acidic taste the last few years, and again this year. Hubby doesn't want me to "test" any other pieces for fear I'll get sick!
Just tried a Russell Stover chocolate and couldn't believe how "off" it tasted. Googled "Bad Tasting Russell Stover Chocolates" and came across this blog post. Absolutely agree with everyone commenting on the weird, chemical flavour of these chocolates. It's like a mix of chlorine and dirt. quite gross.
Just threw away a whole box of Whitmans - they were soooo gross. Tasted like chemicals and plastic. Never again. Same with Russel Stover. YUK!
RS definitely have downsized their package of individual chocolates. Package now only has 5 pieces of chocolate for the same price and it used to fill my candy dish - now it only half fills it. :(