“We are the eighth-largest candy company in the world and have more than 6,000 employees worldwide,” says Christian Jegen, president of Haribo of America. “Each country’s operation is owned by the same family that founded the company, but the operations run independently as their own profit center.”
The company has five factories in Germany and 10 in other parts of Europe, as well as sales offices in most European countries and the United States and Australia. Haribo of America was incorporated in the 1980s in Baltimore, and the company’s gummi candies have been a mainstay in the U.S. mass market ever since.
Jegen leads a staff of only about 20 people, as the majority of Haribo’s confectionary sales are handled through its well-established broker network. The network works in conjunction with the company’s own sales staff, selling Haribo products to many different classes of trade in the United States.
The company is most known for its Gold-Bear gummi product. Jegen feels Haribo sets itself apart from other gummi candy manufacturers because the family ownership is extremely focused on the quality of the product.
“Everything has to adhere to a high quality standard,” Jegen says. “We only source the best raw materials and our method of production of gummis is a secret. We feel we have perfected the gummi-making process, as the key distinguishing features of our gummis is a firmer texture and truer flavors.”
Haribo of America has gone to great lengths to ensure that its products are as appealing to retailers as they are to consumers. The company understands that once the products reach the shelves, they have to sell. And they do, as Jegen says Haribo products outsell gummi competitors – as well as many other non-chocolate chewy categories – at the U.S. retail level.
“We know that we have to be able to provide the retailer with whatever type of package they need,” Jegen says. “Whether they need hanging bags, laydown bags or something else, we try to offer different packaging types based on the requirements and needs of the retailer. We also have a product assortment that is broad, and although our best-selling item is the Gold-Bears, we have 20 other flavors.”
And the company is always looking for ways to add to its offerings. This year, the company had two new product introductions in the United States: a Smurf-branded gummi and Juicy Gold-Bears.
The Juicy Gold-Bears brand is an extension of the original Gold-Bear brand. What distinguishes Juicy Gold-Bears from the original is the fact that it contains 20 percent fruit juice.
“That is a selling point as the product has fruit juice and no artificial colors,” Jegen says. “In Europe, a big trend in gummis has been to move away from artificial colors, and we are introducing that kind of item in the U.S. to see what interest there is from American consumers.”
As for the Smurf gummi, Haribo has had a Smurfs license in several European countries for many years. That license expanded to include the United States this year, as The Smurfs have experienced a resurgence in popularity thanks to their new big screen escapades.
“We have launched that product in conjunction with this year’s ‘The Smurfs 2’ movie launch,” Jegen says. “Plus, there are not too many blue gummi or candy products, so they should also stand out from that perspective.”
Although the Haribo brand is well known and long lived, Haribo of America is still striving to raise brand awareness. The company started a large advertising campaign in 2010 with a three-month, third-quarter ad run on national cable, targeting households that had mothers with younger children. The ad campaign has evolved since then.
“We are doing a lot of Gold-Bears and Happy Cola ads this year, and we’ve found that consumers have been very receptive to them,” Jegen says. “We’ve seen a lot of growth in sales. Our objective has been to make Haribo a household name for non-chocolate chewy candy in the U.S. through TV ads, sales growth and social media. In February 2012, we launched a Facebook page to help us engage consumers. We also do sampling events and couponing.”
The major challenge for Haribo of America remains the changing face of the retail landscape. The company is focused on ensuring adequate distribution of its product at the retail level and getting the products to where it is easy for consumers to find them. Jegen says the company is working with retail partners to make sure newer items are getting good distribution while still promoting previously existing programs.
“In the next 18 months, we see great potential for the Smurfs and Juicy Gold-Bears products,” Jegen says. “Our objective is increased consumer awareness. We are a big, family owned company. Here in the U.S., we are trying to grow our business with our retail partners by introducing new items and supporting our brand.”