Area treats bring smiles

Area treats bring smiles

Market remains sweet for local candy, snack manufacturers

June 28th, 2009 by Andy Johns in Trends2009products

In the middle of a steep recession, people are reaching for inexpensive, comforting snacks, according to local food manufacturers.

"I think when times are tough we all want a little smile in our lives, and that's what our product provides," said Mike Gloekler, spokesman for Collegedale-based McKee Foods, which makes Little Debbie brand snacks.

Consumers continue to buy Athens, Tenn.-churned Mayfield ice cream, Cleveland, Tenn.-made M&M/Mars snacks and Chattanooga-made MoonPies and Double Cola, according to company spokesmen.

"There's no question that when times are tough people eat at home more, and they eat at home because it is less expensive," said Mayfield Dairy spokesman Scottie Mayfield. "Ice cream is a very inexpensive treat."

Tory Johnston, a spokesman for Chattanooga Bakery, which produces MoonPie, said the company's product is continuing to see strong sales because of its price and its placement at discount stores like Wal-Mart and Dollar General, which haven't been hit as hard as higher-end shops.

"We've just got a great value proposition," he said.

Double Cola spokeswoman Gina McCommon said the company is trying to find new buyers who are looking to save a few cents by leaving Coke or Pepsi.

"We're trying to price ours a little bit lower than that to appeal to consumers, and it seems to be working," she said.

But not all of the companies are completely immune to a slumping economy.

While Snickers, M&Ms and Twix candies remain at the top of industry sales charts, the Mars factory in Cleveland was still forced to let 90 employees go earlier this year.

"By ensuring that our operations are efficient, we will remain an industry leader and a part of the Cleveland community," spokeswoman Jessica Graves wrote in an e-mailed statement. "Each of our sites will undergo this process in the coming months."