Wrigley Dips into Chocolate

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Wrigley Dips into Chocolate

Last week, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. entered the premium chocolate candy market last week, rolling out three flavors of an Altoids mint covered in dark chocolate.

"They have looked at using chocolate a few times, but could never develop the right idea," Bob Boutin, executive vice president of Knechtel Laboratories, a candy consulting company, told the Chicago Tribune.

Rory Finlay, vice president and managing director of new confectionery brands for Wrigley, told the newspaper the new Altoids candy is aimed at America's growing preference to indulge itself. He said the company has a "strong desire [to develop] more indulgent products for the consumer."

Wrigley will have to focus on chocolate even more if that is the direction it intends to take, Boutin noted. "If you want to do anything upscale, you almost right away have to use chocolate," he said.

Expanding into chocolate realizes a dream that Bill Wrigley Jr., Wrigley's executive chairman, often expressed to associates following the company's failed effort to purchase Hershey in 2002.

The chocolate mint capitalizes on currently touted health benefits of using a dark chocolate, which Finlay said contains 50 percent cocoa. Dark chocolate contains higher levels of cholesterol-fighting antioxidants than white chocolate or milk chocolate.

Following on the "Curiously" theme used to highlight the particular flavor of the Altoids mint, the new Altoids Dark Chocolate Dipped Mint is called Curiously Chocolate.

Targeting the upscale market, the new mint carried a suggested retail price of $2.49 per tin, 40 percent higher than the $1.79 normally charged for a tin of regular Altoids, the newspaper reported.

Rather than relying on typical marketing programs, Wrigley for the first time has attempted to create buzz around the launch by conducting an auction that raised $182.49 for the American Red Cross for three tins of mints on eBay. In addition, the company offered information about the new mint to "key candy blogs" long before its launch, the newspaper reported.

The company had planned to introduce the new mint after Christmas, but several major retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp., Walgreen Co. and CVS Corp., asked that it be made available earlier. Because of those requests, he said, the mint will be introduced during the next six weeks.

The chocolate-covered Altoids are key to Wrigley's efforts to revive the mint brand, which it acquired from Kraft in 2005 for $1.4 billion. Poor sales linked to the mint dragged Wrigley's shares lower for most of the year and helped prompt Bill Wrigley's decision to step down as the company's chief executive in October.

William D. Perez was named to replace Wrigley as CEO, and since that appointment, the company's shares have risen, closing Friday at $52, up from the $46 territory it was trading at in October.