SKOKIE, Ill. -- Based on the success of an initial rollout with Big Y Foods, Topco Associates, a private-label cooperative here, will soon introduce new chocolate message bars to its members nationwide, including Meijer, all of the Penn Traffic-owned grocers and Schultz Sav-O stores (Fresh Brands).
The new bars, which can be mailed, carry messages including Happy Birthday, Over the Hill, Happy Easter, Thank You, and You, Me and a Little Chocolate: What Could be Better? The 3 1/2-ounce bars will not be prepriced.
The new introduction also comes on the heels of last year's premiere of Topco's Food Club Gourmet chocolate bars, which at 2 1/4 ounces offer consumers a larger bar than many national brands for a lower price. The bars, which retail at 2 for $1, come in eight flavors: Dark Chocolate Raspberry, Pure Milk Chocolate, Pure Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate with Almonds, Milk Chocolate with Peanut Butter, Milk Chocolate with Butter Crunch, Milk Chocolate with Crisp Rice and Milk Chocolate with Caramel.
"We're seeing growth in the overall chocolate category, and private-label growth is up," said Chuck Harris, grocery director at Topco. "There is an opportunity to sell premium private-label chocolates. We saw the success that members had in selling them in stores."
"More retailers are getting into premium labels. The whole perception of corporate brand now is that you get a good, quality product. You get excellent quality at an excellent price," Harris said.
In the future, the wholesaler plans on delving into the private-label, bagged chocolate arena, and will create more nonseasonal items, like small caramel cups, according to Topco's candy buyer, Alan Moskovitz.
Moskovitz told SN the flourishing category has received an extra boost from private-label manufacturers, who have begun to emulate national brands in the promotions they offer consumers, like giving away trips based on sales, and including a $100 bill in one bar's packaging. Incentives like these, as well as appealing packaging, strategic merchandising and high-quality taste are making an impression on Topco's members, some of whom have decided to place their own name on the bars in place of the Food Club label.