- Mars Wrigley saw massive success with the launch of its Fudge Brownie flavored M&M’s amid the pandemic in April.
- The confectionary arm of Mars Inc. tailored the launch to focus on engaging with consumers via e-commerce and online partnerships. The flavor is now one of the fastest-moving products in the larger “stand-up pouch” category for the brand.
- “We are innovators, we help lead the category,” said President of Mars Wrigley North America Anton Vincent. “So it’s important that our new products are gaining scale as well.”
- Other companies like Magic Spoon, Hydrant, and Tenzing also released new flavors of products during the pandemic.
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With supply chains impacted across the country and consumer habits shifting rapidly, launching a new product during the pandemic can seem a bit like taking a shot in the dark.
For Mars Wrigley, the confectionary arm of Mars Inc., a launch was worth the risk. According to the company’s North American president Anton Vincent, making progress in the snacking category was an important value for the company responsible for iconic brands like M&M’s, Skittles, and Snickers.
“We are innovators, we help lead the category,” Vincent told Business Insider in an interview. “So it’s important that our new products are gaining scale as well.”
So after about two years of development and testing in various markets, Mars Wrigley launched the soft-center Fudge Brownie M&M’s flavor in April, despite widespread lockdowns during the pandemic.
Before going ahead with any new products, Mar’s Wrigley’s first priority was to maintain the stock of high demand flavors for brick-and-mortar and digital customers. Executives from Hershey, Mars, and Frito-Lay previously told Business Insider how their companies had to quickly adapt factory and supply operations when the pandemic hit. In general, an uptick in snacking demand forced a change in how factories were getting snacks on shelves while accommodating social distancing and sanitation efforts.
But after making sure its supply chains could safely keep up with rising demand for its already-popular flavors, some of Mar’s Wrigley’s focus could shift toward developing and marketing new products.
From all angles, the launch of Fudge Brownie M&M’s was a massive success. Though Mars Wrigley does not provide specific sales data, a spokesperson confirmed that the new flavor was receiving “very positive reactions” among consumers on social media.
—Samantha Kornaker (@samajamaaa) March 28, 2020
Vincent said the team has already noticed a cycle of repeat buyers for the new flavor, which is the third product launch, after M&M’s Caramel in 2017 and M&M’s Hazelnut Spread in 2019, to feature the brand’s “soft center” flavor technology.
“It’s not surprising that it’s doing well,” Vincent said of the new item, which is currently one of the fastest-moving products in the brand’s larger “stand-up pouch” category. “I would say it is encouraging that it is doing well in the context of COVID-19.”
Mars Wrigley isn’t the only brand to go ahead with a new flavor launch during the pandemic. Tenzing, an energy drink brand, released its blackberry and acai-flavored beverage in April. In June, health and hydration startup Hydrant released new orange mango, fruit punch, and iced tea lemonade flavors of its rapid hydration mix, the latter of which sold out in just 10 days.
“With everyone staying at home due to the pandemic, adding something novel to their wellness routine has been a big success and we’ve had resoundingly positive feedback so far,” said Hydrant’s co-founder John Sherwin in a statement to Business Insider.
Magic Spoon, a direct-to-consumer cereal company, also launched two new flavors of its low-carb high-protein cereal for adults. The brand, which had already seen strong sales during the pandemic, saw great success with the launch of its peanut butter and honey nut flavors. The launch included live taste-tests conducted on Zoom.
Magic Spoon sold thousands of boxes of the new flavors within an hour of the launch, marking the biggest sales day for the company since it started in 2019.
Like many creators of shelf-stable products with the option to buy in bulk, Magic Spoon experienced an increase in demand from both new and existing customers amid the pandemic, which translated to positive impacts in sales, even before the new product launch.
According to the Mars Wrigley spokesperson, a similar shopping habit also likely contributed to the dominance of the Fudge Brownie flavor in the “sharing size” category, as consumers shifting to bulk options as opposed to on-the-go sizes.
To reach consumers during a period of lockdowns and a general slow in brick-and-mortar shopping, Mars Wrigley pivoted its Fudge Brownie marketing plan to focus on e-commerce and online partnerships. The company also extending the air time for its new TV commercial advertising the new flavor.
According to consumer response, these efforts seem to be paying off. And as for Vincent, he expects a lot more positive impact from the successful launch of the new flavor during the pandemic.
“We’re excited to see what Brownie is offering us,” he said.