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Retro candy: a sweet tooth fix for boomers

Posted: Friday, November 07, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) Remember candy necklaces, Wacko-Wax lips and Necco wafers?

These candies and others from the 1950s and 1960s are getting big displays at some of the nation's retailers, particularly this fall and holiday season. Merchants are eager to cash in on baby boomers' desire to relive their sweetest childhood memories and share them with their children.

''I've always loved that candy,'' said Ken Casarsa, 40, from Cicero, N.Y., who's bought items like Razzles hard candy from the 1960s that turns into gum on the Internet. ''They don't make the new stuff like that. A lot of it is unappetizing, and you can't relate to it.''

Candy manufacturers including Tootsie Roll Industries have increased production of some of their retro products like Dots gum drops to meet demand.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is creating a store-within-a-store called Kid Connection, which so far is in 160 stores and highlights old-time favorites like Pez and Rock Candy.

Dylan's Candy Bar, a Manhattan store that was one of the first to catch the trend, is doubling the size of its retro candy section. The company also has stores in Houston; Orlando, Fla. and Garden City, N.Y.

Meanwhile, online candy stores including groovycandies.com, sweetnostalgia.com and oldtimecandy.com have been launched to offer boomers an easy way to get the old-time goodies.

Nostalgic candy is a growing niche in the $24.3 billion U.S. candy business, according to the National Confectioners Association, although some sources say the category still only accounts for about 5 percent of total candy sales.

Many companies believe the trend will be long-lasting.

Scott Hughes, who runs the operations of groovycandies.com, expects to double sales to $3 million in the next two years. The Cleveland-based company had $250,000 in sales in 2000.

''I think it will last at least five or 10 years,'' he said, noting he expects his holiday business to be up by double digits over a year ago.

This nostalgic candy craze is part of an overall retro trend that also includes toys, fashion and cars. Casarsa said that eating Razzles triggers memories of going to the local penny candy store when he was a child.

He still hasn't been able to persuade his children, ages 3 and 6, to try them. They prefer hard candy with names like Nerds and Runts.

In some cases, boomers might not recognize the packaging of these retro brands and find the taste a bit different.

Cadbury Adams USA LLC, based in Parsippany, N.J., aims to triple its Chiclets gum business and relaunched the brand this month in new packaging and two new flavors Citrus and Strawberry. Chiclets' distribution in stores had suffered as the company focused on newer brands, Sydney Taylor, marketing director, said.

In also relaunching a trio of nostalgic gums Clove, Beeman's and Blackjack from September through January, Cadbury Adams toned down the licorice taste of Blackjack. The gums, created in the early 1900s, were first taken off the market in the late 1970s.

Tootsie Roll Industries is making bigger Dot candies in more vibrant colors, according to Ellen Gordon, president.

There's a growing campaign to bring some candies back that were out of circulation.

After tracking a cult-like following to Bonomo's Turkish Taffy on the Internet, New York malpractice attorney Ken Wiesen, 46, purchased the trademark from Tootsie Roll three years ago. The chewy candy popular in the 1950s and '60s was acquired by Tootsie Roll in the early 1970s but was phased out in the early 1980s.

Wiesen expects to have the taffy sold in national chains by summer of 2004, and is working to recreate the original flavors.

Boomers have found that not every search for a childhood favorite has ended successfully.

For the past three months, Chris Falk, 41, has been scouring the Internet with no luck for Fizzies fruit-flavored tablets that turn into fizzy drinks when dropped into water to share with his 4-year-old son.

''It is nearly impossible to find,'' said the Chevy Chase, Md., resident.

''It's the excitement of dropping a tablet into water and watching it fizz,'' he said. ''It's more fun than a refreshing drink. It's something I remember fondly from my youth.''

He soon learned that a holding company that brought back Fizzies in 1995 after more than a 20-year hiatus had gone out of business. Fizzies simply fizzled.

Thomas J. Sheeran in Cleveland contributed to this report.

On the Net:

www.groovycandies.com

National Confectioners Association: www.candyusa.org

www.oldtimecandy.com

www.sweetnostalgia.com

www.tootsie.com



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