IRVINE, Calif. -- Three convenience-store chains—Wawa, Sheetz and Pilot Flying J—have taken a cue from their Asian counterparts and recently added a top-selling chewy candy to their sets. The Hi-Chew candy also has been added at Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Albertsons and SuperValu.
Simultaneously, Morinaga America has launched a marketing campaign to support the new distribution channels, including TV and digital ads, and a new website, hi-chew.com.
The Irvine, Calif.-based company said traffic to the site has jumped dramatically as the campaign runs in several major cities across the United States, including Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.
Hi-Chew is a top-selling chewy candy in Japan, and also is popular in the rest of Asia. Sales in the United States are targeted to millennials and teens, the demographic where it has been most popular in Japan and throughout Asia. The candy has been available at 7-Eleven c-stores for more than a decade, as well as at other convenience-store chains, such as ampm, according to product spokesperson Mike Cline.
Cline said the marketing campaign was launched especially to support the newest distribution channels in the United States. He said sales at Wal-Mart are "exceeding the buyer's targets."
“Hi-Chew has experienced exceptionally strong sales growth in recent years,” said Norio Otsuki, COO of Morinaga America. “The new marketing campaign represents a major investment by Morinaga to support our retail business partners in the United States. Both this campaign and our new factory in North Carolina show that Morinaga has made a permanent commitment to America. We are in it for the long haul.”
In the United States, original Hi-Chew is offered in strawberry, green apple, mango, grape, cherry, banana and melon flavors; Hi-Chew Sours come in lemon, lime and grapefruit; and Hi-Chew Bites come in grape, strawberry, mango and orange. Real fruit juice is blended into the chewy candy, which is 100% free of gluten, cholesterol and artificial colors.
New retail outlets include:
- Wal-Mart: Hi-Chew is in regular candy set in approximately 3,000 stores.
- Walgreens: Hi-Chew is in regular candy set in about 4,000 stores.
- Wawa: Hi-Chew introduced for first time.
- Sheetz: Hi-Chew introduced for first time.
- Pilot: Hi-Chew introduced for first time.
- SuperValu: Hi-Chew introduced for first time.
- Albertsons: Adding new Hi-Chew products.
At Wawa, category manager Krisanne Flamini said about 600 stores are carrying the product in two flavors: strawberry and mango. Sales are averaging about two to three units per store week. "I would have hoped for a little more," she told CSP Daily News.
Pilot Flying J Category Manager John Lutz said he added the Hi-Chew peg bags to stores during his regular reset earlier this year. All stores are selling the original (yellow) candies, and about 250 stores stock the tropical flavor (blue). "They are doing well enough to stay in all stores," Lutz told CSP Daily News.
Jennifer Moling, Morinaga America's marketing manager, said the marketing campaign "is driving four times more traffic to our website, and we’re doing our best to push that traffic to stores.”
The site also has a product locator for visitors to find retail outlets. "The site also includes a new Team Hi-Chew fan club, which offers regular giveaways, in addition to a summer sweepstakes," she said. The summer sweepstakes is being conducted in partnership with Time-Warner, as part of a TV campaign in the Los Angeles area.
The history of Hi-Chew stretches back more than a century, when company founder Taichiro Morinaga brought candy-making skills to Japan from America. Morinaga America Inc., sales, and Morinaga America Foods Inc., candy production, are wholly owned subsidiaries of Morinaga & Co. Ltd., which began in 1899 as the first maker of chocolates in Japan.