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Standing the test of time

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

What's the secret to HARIBO's success? Credit: Getty/deepblue4you
What's the secret to HARIBO's success? Credit: Getty/deepblue4you

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Food Manufacture interviews Phil Murphy, HARBIO’s UK head of marketing, to find out how the sweets brand has maintained relevance since it rolled out UK production more than 50 years ago.

HARIBO has been making treats since 1920, when Hans Riegel launched his production in a small kitchen, and has been manufacturing sweets in the UK for more than five decades.

With a team of 600-sweet makers across two Yorkshire sites alone, producing classics such as Tangfastics, Starmix, Supermix, and Giant Strawbs, it has been able to maintain its status one of the most iconic confectionery brands donning supermarket shelves.

So after all this time, how has this brand managed to stay on trend, navigating ever-changing consumer preferences?

Kids and grown-ups love it so

“HARIBO has always invested in both of our brands, HARIBO and MAOAM, to ensure that we deliver great tasting, quality products at good value for money,”​ Phil Murphy, HARIBO’s UK head of marketing told Food Manufacture.

“Our mission is to create more moments of childlike happiness across the country through our much-loved treats. Whilst a lot has changed since we first entered the sweets category, a lot of our consumer’s core needs have stayed the same. By staying true to our core purpose, we’ve been able to stay as relevant today as we were 50 years ago.

“In addition to our range of iconic bestsellers, we continue to develop new product formats, flavours and textures to bring innovative sweets into the category as well as excitement and choice to our consumers.

“Our most recent product launches have included HARIBO Soda Twist Zing and HARIBO Awesome Axolotls. HARIBO’s success is down to continuing to listen to our consumers, a fantastic brand with a big personality, underpinned by the passion and commitment of our team, that continuously brings new treats to market.”

Keeping one eye on TikTok

Indeed, this July saw HARIBO adding to its range of gummy sweets with the launch of the Awesome Axolotls range. These will be available for a limited time only and are inspired by the real-life, quirky creatures that shortly became an overnight sensation.

Speaking on modern-day influences, Murphy said: “The rise of social media has increased the pace at which trends can emerge and they can now appear overnight. These new trends need to be identified and acted on quickly.

“As an FMCG business with a clear, simple brand message and purpose, we have a strong platform to leverage to successfully navigate any changes in the market and deliver innovative products that correspond to consumer demands. HARIBO Awesome Axolotls is a great example of just that. The Axolotls’ trend began in the gaming world and took over social media by storm with over three billion views of Axolotls videos in the last year.”

Collage Maker-11-Sep-2023-10-44-AM-8749
Awesome Axolotls from HARBIO

Available in 160g packs, the bags contain a mixture of brightly coloured jelly and foam gummies shaped like Axolotl faces.

“Our consumers expect high-quality, great tasting products from HARIBO,”​ continued Murphy. “When developing new products with different shapes, flavours and textures, we always ensure we provide the same great eating experience that HARIBO is loved and known for.

“For HARIBO Awesome Axolotls, we chose some of our consumers’ favourite flavours to help them rediscover their playful side. Our Axolotls shaped sweet treats offer a mix of juicy flavours including strawberry, blackcurrant, pineapple, apple and raspberry. No matter what our consumers taste preferences are, there is something in the bag that we know they’ll love.”

Social trends: Here today, gone tomorrow

But as Murphy stated, consumer trends can often be here one day and gone the next, especially since the rise of platforms like TikTok, so how do you keep pace and ensure you’re being prudent with your trend selections?

Murphy said the key is being connected to your market: “As a consumer led business, we stay connected and are in direct contact with our fans. We have a lot of followers on our social media channels. Therefore, as well as investing heavily in consumer research, we stay close to what our HARIBO fans talk and get excited about in our retail stores and on our social media pages.”

He concluded: “Our understanding of consumer needs, corresponding to demands and trends, and continued investment in our products and our team, has made HARIBO to what it is today: [the] UK’s most loved treat and number one sweets manufacturer!”

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