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Fannie May follows fruity chocolate trend

Fannie May President David Taiclet promotes new assortment chocolate covered strawberries Michigan Avenue Fannie May store Wednesday October 17 2012.

Fannie May President David Taiclet promotes the new assortment of chocolate covered strawberries at the Michigan Avenue Fannie May store on Wednesday, October 17, 2012. Samples will be handed out at the store to promote the online program where the strawberries can be purchased. I Stacie Scott~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 23, 2012 6:07AM



Fannie May has added a “berry” line of strawberries dipped in its signature Pixie, Meltaway and Trinidad chocolate coatings as it continues to expand its “good for you” delicacies.

The line is sold in a limited variety in certain stores, but is primarily an online introduction at FannieMay.com.

The strawberries, dipped in either milk chocolate or dark chocolate and including holiday eggnog and candy-cane flavored pieces, sell for $24.99 for a six-berry box and $59.99 for a 12-berry box. They can be shipped within 24 hours after an order.

“We use the same recipes and formulations as our traditional products,” said David Taiclet, CEO of Fannie May Confections and president of the Gourmet Food Group of parent company 1-800-Flowers.

The rollout exemplifies how the 92-year-old iconic Chicago chocolatier has relied on Web-based growth of 150 percent and a 26 percent increase in overall revenues to become a $90 million brand since its acquisition by 1-800-flowers six years ago.

The strawberry introduction was aimed at two trends: middle-class shoppers who are increasingly looking to chocolate as a gift purchase and chocolate lovers who are looking for small portions that contain dark chocolate’s antioxidant effects and the energy-boosting properties of so-called super fruits, according to “The Chocolate of Tomorrow,” a report by KPMG analysts.

The seasonal chocolate market totaled $4.9 billion in the United States in 2011, up 6.4 percent from 2010, according to KPMG.

Sales of chocolate candies are expected to total $19.3 billion this year in the United States, with boxed chocolates accounting for $1.8 billion of the total, according to Chicago market research firm Euromonitor International. Total sales are forecast to jump 21 percent in the next five years, to $23.3 billion in 2017, Euromonitor said.

Fannie May is taking hold of the growth by expanding its wholesale and bricks-and-mortar businesses, Taiclet said, declining to give details.

Today’s Fannie May retail-store presence — six stores in Chicago and 56 in the suburbs employing a total of 200 — is 28 percent of Fannie May’s 200 stores at the height of the company’s popularity.

The Melrose Park headquarters employs 75.

Taiclet was the head of Alpine Confections when it bought Fannie May and Fannie Farmer companies out of bankruptcy for $38.9 million in 2004.

That same year, Alpine reopened 45 Fannie May stores.

The 2004 bankruptcy and West Side manufacturing plant closure followed by 13 years the founding family’s sale of Fannie May to a private equity group. The private equity group started a series of acquisitions that piled up debt.



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