Ferrero’s Bertrac Discusses The Rebirth Of The Company’s Iconic Mainstream Chocolate Brands


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Washington — When Ferrero Group purchased Nestle USA Inc.’s confectionery business in 2018, the company admits the brands had been neglected. While the non-chocolate range was folded into Ferrara Candy Co., Inc.’s portfolio, the chocolate brands — Butterfinger, Crunch, 100 Grand, Baby Ruth and Raisinets — joined the Ferrero U.S.A., Inc. stable, where the company almost immediately began transforming the products.

Candy & Snack TODAY recently had the opportunity to speak with Catherine Bertrac, senior vice-president of marketing at Ferrero North America, who offers insights on the dramatic changes made to the brands and what the strategy is to continue their growth. 

Candy & Snack Today: Can you set the stage. What was the state of the brands when they were acquired from Nestle in 2018?

Bertrac: The brands we took on are candy icons that have been a part of so many special moments in Americans’ lives, from digging through trick-or-treat bags for Butterfinger bars, to unwrapping a Crunch bar after school, to sharing Raisinets at the movies. But these brands were not getting the innovation and marketing support they deserved, and the business results showed that. It was our team’s job to refresh these brands and give them the support they needed to reignite that love in fans and reach a new generation.

Candy & Snack Today: And now?

Bertrac: So far, so good! The brands are seeing healthy growth under Ferrero today — especially Butterfinger and Crunch. Butterfinger now ranks among the top 20 national brands in sales, and Crunch is in the top 10 for highest awareness with consumers in mainstream chocolate. 

Candy & Snack Today: Ferrero is known for premium chocolate brands. How do these products fit into the company’s overall chocolate portfolio?

Bertrac: Ferrero has a long heritage of unique products delivering unbeatable experiences to the consumer. The mainstream chocolate brands fit perfectly with this core principle with their unique recipes: Butterfinger’s one-of-a-kind crispety-crunchety taste; Crunch bar’s crispy and chocolatey experience; 100 Grand’s unique combination of crispy rice and long-lasting caramel; Baby Ruth’s strong peanut and nougat delivery; and Raisinets’ unrivaled sunny real chocolate-covered fruits. Consumers love these recipes, and we’re applying all our teams’ experience to bring them back into the hearts and minds of the consumers. 

Candy & Snack Today: It seems like Baby Ruth has really come into its own. How did that happen?

Bertrac: Baby Ruth got a total refresh, from brand new packaging to an upgrade to dry roasted peanuts. We also relaunched its social channels and kicked off new marketing efforts. Embracing the role Baby Ruth plays in the Goonies film when Sloth and Chunk bond over the chocolate bar, we used the 35th anniversary of the movie to launch two partnerships — one with Stance featuring Goonies and Baby Ruth-themed socks and another with Warner Bros to support the release of the 4k Ultra HD version. We also created a social challenge promoted by Sean Astin, who starred as Mikey in the film.

The Baby Ruth team is also working with American Girls on their next historical character doll — look out for that later this year!

Candy & Snack Today: Those are some strong partnerships. What about the Crunch brand?

Bertrac: Crunch also got new packaging to recreate the brand’s look, and we launched the first new campaign for the brand in more than a decade with TV spots and YouTube content as well as content across influencer and social channels. 

In 2020, we partnered with Blaze Pizza by giving a complimentary full size Crunch bar to every person who picked up a pizza on Halloween night and said “trick-or-treat” at one of the chain’s 200 U.S. locations. 

Crunch also led a partnership with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in the summer of 2021 for the “Raising the ‘Bar’ to Help Kids” campaign, which donated $350,000 to hospitals across the network. This partnership sparked a long-term investment with Children’s Miracle Network as the full Ferrero portfolio offered support during Halloween 2021 and has plans to do the same this upcoming Halloween. 

Candy & Snack TODAY: You’ve already talked about the success of Butterfinger. How did that happen?

Bertrac: Butterfinger saw a refresh in packaging, a new formula and a new creative campaign. The Butterfinger Investigators, or “BFI,” spots star Amir Arison from the critically acclaimed The Blacklist and Alexandria Benford from the CBS show FBI in a funny new spin on the iconic line “don’t lay a finger on my Butterfinger.” The BFI kicked off on YouTube with support across TV, digital and social channels. Using a playful spirit and quick wit, the duo appears at major “crime scenes” to chronicle the hilarious antics of potential Butterfinger-swiping perpetrators. 

Through the “Game Better with Butterfinger” effort, we’re also building equity with gamers through promotions involving marquee titles like Final Fantasy VII Remake, Final Fantasy XIV, Halo Infinite and our PUBG MOBILE promotion launching May 12. We help gamers “game better” by not only offering exciting in-game gear through these “buy/get” promotions but also fun streamers who foster a positive community. 

Candy & Snack Today: Obviously you are looking at media in whole new ways with these programs. What is driving this? 

Bertrac: We never settle for just an advertisement. Our brand, media, shopper marketing, PR and social media teams work together to ensure we are capturing new fans anywhere they might be and giving them compelling opportunities to engage and interact.

The most vivid example of this is Butterfinger Halo Havoc. We had a great promotion lined up with the highly anticipated game Halo Infinite, but when we learned that unfortunately the game would be delayed, we had to pivot quickly. So, with the help of our friends at Twitch, we created Butterfinger Halo Havoc, a mini game where you play as characters from Halo blasting through Butterfinger asteroids. It could be played within Twitch, hosted by fan-favorite streamers. Players could win prizes and, maybe more importantly, have a fun taste of the Halo universe at a time when they might otherwise be disappointed about not getting their hands on a game they were looking forward to.

While this campaign with Twitch did involve typical preroll and display units, it went way beyond, with an original interactive gaming experience and influential personalities who could drive genuine excitement for the moment. All told, the campaign garnered 149,600 earned engagements and 79 billion earned impressions across social channels, nearly doubling Butterfinger’s association in the gaming community.  

Candy & Snack Today: That’s impressive, but all of these initiatives require funding and a strong team. How is that being addressed? 

Bertrac: We’ve invested significantly in advertising and PR to reinvigorate interest in these brands. We’ve also grown our teams and infrastructure, hiring hundreds of new team members since 2018, adding distribution centers in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona, and breaking ground on a new chocolate processing facility set to open in Illinois in spring 2023.

Candy & Snack Today: With all of these changes, have there been missteps?

Bertrac: With the brands undergoing such much change so quickly, we expected to see some growing pains. For instance, we’ve seen resistance to the new Butterfinger recipe from people on social media. While upgrading to higher quality peanuts and chocolate seems like something everyone can get behind, some vocal longtime fans of the bar didn’t appreciate the change. But the amount of these comments we get seems to be subsiding as the new recipe grows on some fans and as we attract new ones. 

Most importantly the numbers show that an upgrade was the right decision since Butterfinger sales have steadily grown ever since.

Candy & Snack Today: What are the next steps for these brands?

Bertrac: Overall, we are convinced that both Butterfinger and Crunch will continue to see strong year-over-year growth with the ambition to go back to their former glory among the top 10 brands in the category.

In the short term, we are very excited about Halloween, one of our biggest moments of the year. We have some great surprises in store from brands like Butterfinger as well as the overall Ferrero portfolio. We’re also excited to build on our success with assorted bags. 

Longer term for Butterfinger, we are focusing on our strength areas: the BFI campaign and our efforts in the gaming community. In the coming months, you’ll see some new hilarious adventures and consumer activations from the BFI, as well as more exciting partnerships with big-name gaming franchises and fan-favorite streamers. 

Crunch will be launching new creative and new product innovations, looking to attract younger consumers. 

There’s still more to come with Baby Ruth and 100 Grand as we work to relaunch both brands to better resonate with younger generations and keep pulse with their interests. 

Candy & Snack Today: That brings up a good point. What is Ferrero doing to bring young consumers to these brands?

Bertrac: Each of these brands is looking to attract new fans, especially among millennials and Gen Z, but they all have their own strategies to get there.

For example, Butterfinger is reaching these audiences through their interests and passions. The Game Better with Butterfinger effort helps gamers explore and escape by enhancing their experiences through livestreams and in-game exclusives. During the pandemic, we launched Bake with Butterfinger as we saw people taking such a great interest in baking at home during the lockdown, and we have since worked with many different influencers and creators to engage at-home bakers through recipes and inspiration.

Because it is so easy and fun to share a Crunch bar, that team has looked to tap into Gen Z and millennials’ desire for time with friends and family and developed the new campaign with a tone and humor that speak to this. We are taking more steps to research, test and better relate to these consumers as we develop our new Crunch creative.

Minis and other more sharable products can also create a strong opportunity for sampling. For example, a box of Buncha Crunch enjoyed at the theater is a perfect entrance point to the full Crunch portfolio, increasing the brand’s visibility and driving our overall business. 

Candy & Snack Today: Are you finding crossover opportunities for these brands with other Ferrero brands?

Bertrac: The Butterfinger, Baby Ruth and Crunch brands recently teamed up on a partnership with the online sports apparel store Fanatics. Spending $5 on products from any of the three gets you a discount at Fanatics.com and a chance to win a trip to any sports championship. With promotions like this and the gaming promotions led by Butterfinger, it makes sense to give consumers more options and drive retail sales across the mainstream chocolate brands.

At Halloween, brands across our portfolio unite to make one of our industry’s biggest moments special. Butterfinger, Baby Ruth, Crunch and 100 Grand join other Ferrero brands including Kinder Joy, Kinder Bueno and Tic Tac to share recipes, crafts, and party ideas through Pinterest. And all of these brands are included in our highly sought-after 31 Days of Halloween Countdown Calendar, which contains a surprise treat for every day in October.

Candy & Snack Today: Why should retailers be excited about the changes to Ferrero’s mainstream chocolate products? 

Bertrac: We achieved a turnaround to the mainstream chocolate business one year ago, and our offerings are continuing to outpace category growth both in volume and value. As of this year, Butterfinger has accelerated with a 14 percent increase, Crunch has experienced 17 percent growth and Baby Ruth is up 17 percent. We recently broke the half billion mark, with the mainstream chocolate portfolio totaling $525 million now.

In the future, you will see Ferrero leaning into breakthrough innovation by listening to our consumers, tapping into cultural moments and unlocking new flavors, shapes and ingredient trends.