Hormel Foods’ Justin’s brand is taking on M&M’s with better-for-you ingredients it’s hopeful will appeal to consumers.
The spreads and confectionary brand is debuting Dark Chocolate Peanut and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter candy pieces with a crunchy candy shell this month. The products mark the first major confections launch for Justin’s since it rolled out peanut butter cups in 2011.
“Customers don’t just reach for peanut butter cups every time they go to the candy set,” Penny Andino, vice president of marketing at Justin’s, said in an interview. “They want choices and variety. And we saw that we had an opportunity to bring the Justin's expertise into a new nostalgic format.”
Executives are optimistic that the product’s ingredients appeal to consumers craving a permissible indulgent item, giving it an immediate advantage in the market. A recent Shopkick study found nearly half of consumers are actively seeking out healthier confectionery options when considering their next treat.
Justin’s new confections are USDA-certified organic, use Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa and are Non-GMO Project Verified. They also contain coloring from fruits and vegetables instead of synthetic dyes and contain no stevia or artificial sweeteners. In addition, Andino said Justin’s new candy pieces will benefit from ongoing consumer demand for nostalgic treats.
If Justin’s can grab even a small share of the market, it would be lucrative for the brand.
Mars-owned M&M’s candy was the second most popular item in the $19.6 billion chocolate candy space in 2023, according to Circana, a Chicago-based market research firm. M&M's sales totaled $1.2 billion — placing it second in the chocolate candy space behind Hershey’s.
When it comes to nut-based chocolate candy pieces, organic options have not reached the market so far. This makes Justin’s the first to offer a USDA-certified option in the category with its launch, according to the brand.
Justin’s has been a key part of Hormel’s natural and organic portfolio since the brand was purchased by the Minnesota company for $286 million in 2016.
The candy pieces will benefit from Justin’s top spot in the natural category for peanut butter cups, allowing Hormel to tap into relationships with existing retailers to procure shelf space for the new launch, Andino said. The cups also made it easier to procure premium ingredients needed to develop the new offering.
“This innovation marks an exciting expansion for the brand, and we’re going to continue to expand, leveraging our leadership position in core categories and beyond,” she added.
Andino noted that ahead of Justin's next major confections launch, executives would need to make sure that it fits with how consumers view the product. In the case of the new candy pieces, Justin’s had to work with organic and natural ingredients while replicating the crunch of the candy shell that people expect from this type of product.
The candy will be available at Whole Foods, Amazon, The Fresh Market and Stop & Shop later this month, with other retailers expected to be added later this year.
The items will be “competitively priced” with similar items in the natural category, Andino said. A shareable 4.5-ounce Justin’s bag will have a suggested retail price of $6.49 while a single-serve 1.5-ounce package will run about $2.29.