THE BIG INTERVIEW: Christine Cool, Licensing Area Manager, Perfetti Van Melle

Samantha Loveday

By Samantha Loveday

June 4th 2015 at 4:07PM
UPDATED June 5th 2015 at 10:59AM
THE BIG INTERVIEW: Christine Cool, Licensing Area Manager, Perfetti Van Melle

We talk about the expansion of the Chupa Chups brand, and the plans afoot for Mentos, Airheads and Frisk.

Firstly, can you give me some background to the Chupa Chups brand?

Chupa Chups was launched in Spain back in 1958 by Enric Bernat, who invented the way to eat a round sweet on a stick. He also offered the product to the consumers in new ways and soon it was successful in many countries. Chupa Chups became a part of popular culture, a true generic name for round lollipops in many places. Moreover, the famous flower logo of the lollipop was designed by the artist Salvador Dalí himself in the late sixties. Every year billions of lollipops, with a huge variety of flavours in eye catching colourful wrappers, are enjoyed by people of all ages in 150 countries. In 2006, the company was acquired by Perfetti van Melle, the third largest confectionary group in the world and today, Chupa Chups is the most popular and consumed lollipop around: one out of four lollipops sold worldwide is a Chupa Chups. It is a truly global brand, wherever you go, you get a big smile from people when you talk about Chupa Chups, their fun flavours and funky attitude have turned it into a real love brand.

At the end of the Nineties, considering the huge emotional link with its consumers, Chupa Chups took up the challenge of entering into the licensing world, with leading companies in other sectors to extend the magic of the brand to new products on the wish list of its fans.

What is the main aim behind the licensing programme?

The Perfetti van Melle group is fully aware of the benefits of licensing for its brands. It has a dedicated licensing division which strategically manages and develops the business.

Licensing creates value by introducing new touch points with the consumer. It is a business model which not only enhances visibility and allows the consumer to experience the brand in new ways, but also creates revenue for the brand.

Chupa Chups has developed licensing activities for more than 15 years in lifestyle categories, all reflecting the playful, colourful and cool attributes of the brand. Now the programme will further expand into FMCG categories of the food and beverage aisles.

How has the brand performed over the past 12 months?

The brand has a healthy and steady growth. Chupa Chups ranks among the 150 largest licensors in the world according to LicenseGlobal. The best performing markets for Chupa Chups’ licensing activity in 2014 were France and Japan, where a deal with Uniqlo proved to be an international success. Across all markets, the apparel category accounts for half the business. The brand has been introduced into new markets such as Australia and Russia and this year it will further expand into the USA, China, Korea and the Middle East. The positive performance of the licensing activity has encouraged the Perfetti van Melle Group to extend the licensing business also to selected Food & Beverage categories and to develop licensing programs for other jewel brands such as Mentos, Airheads and Frisk.

How many licensees are now on board and across which categories?

Until now the Chupa Chups brand licensing programme has been built in the apparel and lifestyle categories. We manage about 60 licensees, mainly in the European and Asian territories.

With many of our multinational apparel partners, such as H&M or Uniqlo, we have launched happy Chupa Chups apparel and fashion accessories for both teens and kids and we are present in over 50 markets. The lollipop brand also brings its awesome flavors to many other categories such as personal care to retailers such as Claire’s, Boots and Primark. Scented products such as candles or car air fresheners are also very popular and of course fashion accessories and stationery, among others.

What are some of the most popular products?

The tees and hoodies with the iconic logo shape for teenagers are a constant bestseller on the High Street. These days we are also seeing a fantastic performance of the lip balms and air fresheners with the popular flavours of Chupa Chups across many markets.

Are you looking to grow the number of licensees in 2015? If so, are there any particular categories that you are targeting?

Licensing is a dynamic business which is constantly transforming. We are always on the lookout for new partners and new business opportunities. At this moment, we are particularly excited about the group’s recent decision to move into the huge food and beverage category, starting with the frozen novelty sector for Chupa Chups but also the brand Mentos. This project is led by the Beanstalk agency, who is specialists with deep food and beverage category expertise.

Are there plans to expand the brand further internationally? Are there particular territories where it is more well-known than others and, therefore, has made licensing easier?

The licensing activity started in Spain, the cradle of the brand, and then rapidly expanded to the rest of Europe. Chupa Chups was also quick to develop licensing activities in Japan, where we have been present for more than ten years now. It is one of our biggest individual licensing markets. The brand is a good fit for the Japanese consumers who are always looking out for novelty gadgets with a quirky character, very much in line with our brand characteristics. In the upcoming licensing show in Tokyo, we will also present Frisk, the most popular mint brand among Japanese businessmen, as a newcomer on the licensing scene to create a more upscale licensing programme.

Strategically we have always put the focus on developed licensing markets where the brand is very well known and loved by a teenage audience. This year we are very excited about a retail project with the US’ most popular candy retailer, IT’SUGAR, where Chupa Chups will have a shop-in-shop in all its stores across the USA. This will no doubt open other doors and we are looking forward to doing more projects in the American market. We will also explore new territories such as the Middle East, Korea and Greater China.

What are the main challenges when it comes to licensing a brand such as Chupa Chups and how have you overcome them?

One of the main challenges is to consistently refresh the image by developing artwork which strikes a balance between reflecting the essence of the brand and tapping into the trends that appeal to the target. You need to behave a bit like a fashion brand, really. Our licensees are always especially appreciative about our pop and vintage artworks.

In the early stage of the programme, it is sometimes difficult to convince license buyers that the brand has the power to go beyond its core category and to extend into others. It’s key to give them a variety of original design elements that they can interpret on their products. Once a few are established, others then follow in a natural way. It’s also important to be very clear about your positioning and selective about the retail where you want to see the brand. Sometimes you need to pass on certain opportunities, and wait to move forward with the right ones. In licensing, as in the core business, you need to build the brand step by step to make sure it can keep evolving.

Can you talk to me about the Mentos programme and your plans for the brand going forward? What kind of deals/product can we expect to see?

Mentos is the biggest brand of our group and a global leading mint brand. It has been in the market since 1932, when brothers Michael and Pierre van Melle originated the product, and it´s literally consumed all over the world: 75 rolls are consumed every second worldwide.

Guided by the fresh, playful and dynamic philosophy of the brand, we have created a beautiful style guide that will appeal to young adults, to take into lifestyle categories such as apparel, accessories, electronics, personal care, stationery and publishing, gifts or sports.

The first licence will see the light this summer with Pantone Colorwear, the home of the colour, which has teamed up to mix ‘n match our iconic brands to create an amazing international outwear collection with both Mentos but also Chupa Chups.

Taking the freshness even further, frozen novelty and ice cream products will also be explored with Mentos, represented by Beanstalk worldwide.

How important will the Licensing Expo and Brand Licensing Europe shows be for Chupa Chups? What would you most like to get out of attending/exhibiting?

Both shows are always a commercial highlight for us, an ideal spot to meet with our agents, clients and retailers. It’s also the perfect setting to make a brand statement. In the upcoming Las Vegas show, we will be represented by Beanstalk for the food and beverage opportunities for Airheads, Chupa Chups and Mentos. Lisa Marks Associates will represent Mentos for lifestyle opportunities and Jewel Branding and Licensing takes care of the lifestyle side of our popular American Airheads brand. This year a lot is happening for us, we are seeing the business expand by the moment as we work with more brands and are starting to negotiate the first frozen novelty deals for Mentos and Chupa Chups.

We have recently witnessed a massive ice cream launch of 12 SKUs with our Airheads brand into the US main grocery retailers and club stores. It is infused with the taffy of the candy and it’s so innovative and successful that it will be enhanced next year with water based novelties. Apparently the timing is right to offer new brands and flavors as there has been a dearth of true innovation geared for kids in what is supposed to be a really fun category. New deals for drinks and bakery products are already under negotiation.

What would you most like to have achieved with the brand in the licensing space by the end of 2015?

If we are allowed to dream we have two wish lists, we would like to welcome new projects with the leading fast fashion retailers for Chupa Chups but also for our newcomers in licensing: Mentos and Airheads. With our Frisk brand, the leading mint brand in Japan, we look forward to doing collaborations with cool men’s fashion brands.

Our other main goal is to ink a deal for Chupa Chups and Mentos with a major player in the ice cream scene, as a first step in offering the consumers a totally new way of experiencing their beloved candy treat.