Sweet talk: Behind the candy

Rachel Rubino

Candy lovers know Just Born’s products – Peeps, Mike and Ike, Hot Tamales, Peanut Chews, and Just Born Jelly Beans are amongst the most popular sweets in the country. As the opening event of AD Week 2013 on Monday, Marketing Manager of Peanut Chews Bob Zender presented “The News on the Chews,” an inside look into the sugary franchise of Peanut Chews. Zender’s advertising genius has helped the candy sustain its success.

Based locally in Bethlehem, Pa., Just Born takes pride in its roots as a candy created in Philadelphia in 1917. Peanut Chews began as a high protein snack during the war ration.

“Due to the candy’s popular demand in the theater industry, by 1930 the brand converted from full-size to mini bars. This gave the food a quick and fun travel aspect,” Zender said.

Since then, the candy’s addictive chocolate taste has been known to people around the world. Peanut Chews are an age-old delicacy; eighty years in passing and fans are still eating the same delicious, nutty bar that their great-grandparents had the pleasure of enjoying.

Composed of a sticky molasses center and layered in milk or dark chocolate, very few changes have been necessary in order for the Just Born family recipe to appeal to the masses. With customer satisfaction and overall brand awareness currently at an all-time high, consumers are not only happy with the “un-mass produced” taste of the candy, but also with its proposed health benefits as a gluten-free, vegan product.

Peanut Chews’ rise to sweet glory has not necessarily been an easy ride. In 2003, the product broke its regional barrier and launched sales across the nation. With broadening horizons, Just Born launched a new, zany design for the Peanut Chews wrappers in order to appeal to younger consumers. Sales decreased, but the candy’s marketing team aimed to take a definitive step towards rebuilding their market worth. This is where Zender and his team stepped in.

Zender launched the franchise’s official ad campaign in 2011.

“A lot of the recent success and growth of this product had to do with the fact that the brand faced a plateau when we changed the labeling,” Zender said. “Upon re-launching the look of the product, however, the snowball effect came into play.”

The childish packaging of the candy was replaced by an original, “old-school” design, in an attempt to bring back its classic roots.

With his marketing squad in tow, Zender popularized the product’s new vintage vibe with an ad campaign that travelled across the tri-state area via VW Microbus. The Microbus tour in the 2011 Mummer’s Parade focused the heart of Peanut Chew’s campaign in digital and social media. Adapting the slogan, “Now, that’s chewin’ it old school,” Zender and his team rose overall brand awareness to 97 percent.

Zender’s presentation proved how crucial skilled advertising is to product sales. In the case of Just Born, Zender’s work kept Peanut Chews on the stands.

For students participating in the events of AD Week, Zender’s story is especially inspiring. AD week, sponsored by the AD Club, Student Government, Lafayette Activities Forum (L.A.F), Dean of the College, My Lafayette (ITS), Career Services, and Film & Media Studies, is a five day series of exposure into the advertising industry.