March 9, 2013

Tiny peeps hatch huge profits

The Just Born company will produce a record 1 billion Peeps this year

By MICHAEL RUBINKAM The Associated Press

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Boxes of Peeps move through the manufacturing process at a factory in Bethlehem, Pa. The popular confection is part of a $33 billion candy industry that has proven to be fairly recession-proof, analysts say.

The Associated Press

Just Born certainly benefits from being part of a $33 billion candy industry that is seen as basically recession-proof, offering an inexpensive indulgence during tough economic times.

"Candy did not seem to take the hit that some other industries faced in recent years. We think a big reason for that is candy's place in our hearts and minds," says Susan Whiteside of the National Confectioners Association, a trade group.

Long associated with Easter, Peeps have penetrated the pop-culture consciousness in a way that other candy brands have not.

Aficionados send chicks into battle in a microwave "sport" known as Peeps jousting. They enter Peeps art contests, dozens of which are held around the country this time of year. They innovate recipes like "Peepza," a desert pizza. They write cheeky blog entries with titles like "101 Fun Ways to Torture a Peep."

Hoping to capitalize, Just Born recently opened three Peeps & Company retail stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Minnesota.

While the company churns out more than 1 billion Peeps this Easter season -- a record -- it sees the 60th anniversary as another marketing opportunity and a chance to connect with its fans via social media. In addition to the TV ad campaign, it's promoting a Facebook survey that asks knowing questions like this one: Do you like your Peeps fresh, frozen, or "aged to perfection"?

So which is it, Ross Born? Fresh or stale?

He's happy to address that perennial Peeps debate. Just don't ask him to take sides.

"There's a lot of gray area here," Born says diplomatically. "There are people who tell me they put a one-inch slice in the film (that seals the box), and they'll lay it on top of their refrigerator for two days. No more, no less. Then they are PERFECT to eat.

"So it's not necessarily stale, it's just a little firmer. All right? It's just like politics," says Just Born's commander-in-Peep.

"You've got people way on one side, and way on the other side, but there are a whole lot of people in the middle."

 

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