US-based brand owner Packom Sweets also plans a sales office in Mexico by the end of the year with a view to expanding into Central and South America.
The functional confectionery firm founded in 2007 has seen rapid sales growth every year, company chief of operations (COO) and vp of sales Nicholas Busuioc told ConfectioneryNews.
“In 2009, the large chains started to take notice of us,” he said.
At this time, the brand gained listings at Serbia’s biggest supermarket chains – Delhaize and Mercator.
The business expanded into other Balkans countries in 2012, before setting its sights on the US.
Jake vitamincandy was created in 2007 by a Serbian national Milos Ristic, who formerly worked for a small pharmaceutical company. He took over a factory from his father in Belgrade, Serbia, and began selling the brand in the nation’s capital.
Coming to America
The US has now become the family firm’s largest market, a year after entering the nation.
In April last year, Packom opened a plant in Wayne, New Jersey, and has since secured listings at 2,700 Walgreens stores nationwide. A local distributor in Brooklyn has also helped the company enter 3,500 independent stores in New York State.
Packom physically sends its sales staff to individual retail stores to secure listings.
“That seems to be the formula to success,” said Busuioc. “There’s nobody else doing this in the world and we’ve been doing it since 2007… The focus right now is definitely on the US,” he continued.
The company expects to produce 40m blister packs annually by 2016 across its two factories: One in the US and the other in Begrade, Serbia.
Jake vitamincandy is a gluten free, sugar free, vitamin enriched breath freshening, pressed candy. Jake is pronounced “ya-ke,” meaning strong. The brand’s seven flavors are enriched with vitamins or natural extracts, varying from Vitamins B1, B2, C and E, and/or natural green tea extract. The breath fresheners are made from a dry mixture/granulation without any wet ingredients involved and are manufactured using pharmaceutical quality ingredients and equipment.
Around 20m packs will be produced in the US by year end and 30m by 2017.
The US factory services Western Europe, North Africa and Asia, while the Belgrade site supplies only Eastern Europe.
The first order for China will leave the US factory by air this June after the firm setup a Beijing sales office last month.
“The Chinese consumer is focused on convenience and diet, so this appeals to both,” said Busuioc.
Packom Sweets expects comparable revenues in the Chinese and US markets by the end of 2017 with sales volumes of between 20m and 30m in each country.
Competing with major candy brands
Globally, the sugar-free brand – mainly sweetened using sorbitol – is positioned as an impulse product that competes with major candy brands.
Jake vitamincandy is sold at cash registers at every store in which it is stocked. It has a shelf life of 24 months.
“We’re giving you a better option on the impulse section,” said Busuioc.
Each 15-piece pack of Jake vitamincandy contains 50% of the US Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) recommendation for each vitamin in the product.
Busuioc said the vitamins used are also water soluble, so if a consumer exceeds their daily dose they will expel it from their body naturally. “There’s no adverse side effects,” he said, adding that people typically consume one pack every two days.
The brand is aimed at health-conscious Millennial females buying for their households and is sold across all trade channels, said the COO.
South America push
Jake vitamincandy is also looking to open sales offices in new geographies and plans a strategic play in Central and South America with a sales office in Mexico by year end.
“We will continue moving south and open offices throughout South America,” said Busuioc, adding that local manufacturing may be required in Brazil due to high import taxes.