Coming to a candy store near you – the battle of the chocolate peanut butter cups. Nestle has come out with a new peanut butter cup called Butterfinger Cups, based on the famously crispy-crunchy Butterfinger bar. It takes some chutzpah to challenge an iconic brand like Reese’s, which pretty much owns the peanut butter cup category. (People in the candy business assure us there is such a thing).
Nestle's already attracting attention for its new product by putting out some racy online "teaser ads" leading up to a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl. One features "Mr. and Mrs. Buttercup" – aka Peanut Butter and Chocolate – seeking couples therapy to spice things up a bit. "Don’t you think it'd be nice to try something new?" Mrs. Buttercup asks Mr. Buttercup while they wait for an "Edible Couples Counseling" session. Heavy breathing and the phrase "hurt me" follow, leading some critics to label that particular marketing effort as "raunchy."
A tamer ad is expected during the Super Bowl.Robert Passikoff, founder of Brand Keys, says Nestle is subtly setting up a taste-off with ads that imply a peanut butter cup could be made better. So consumers will either say, "'No it isn’t, but I have to try it to be able to say no it isn’t.' Or people are going to say, "'Wow, it’s something different,'" says Passikoff.
Georgetown marketing professor Ron Goodstein, for one, tastes trouble ahead for Butterfinger. He says it’s like the time Burger King tried to out-French fry McDonald’s.
"Everybody who walked into Burger King to try them had decided they weren't going to like them before they ever tasted it," says Goodstein. "Because the one thing you cannot screw with, with McDonald's, is their French fries."
Marketing expert Jonathan Salem Baskin suggests Nestle's move may be more about corporate strategy than selling tasty morsels of peanut butter and chocolate. "Could this in fact be something from a corporate level and in fact, what Nestle is trying to do is get Hershey’s to spend more money protecting its turf, or its peanut butter cups, which then takes away resources and attention from the categories in which Nestle wants to compete and gain market share?"
But Butterfinger brand manager Jeremy Vandervoet says it’s "almost the opposite... Reese’s is the number one brand in the category, and they are going to do just fine. And I think together we will all sell more chocolate and peanut butter cups," he says.
The new product certainly attracts more attention to that tasty combination. Vandervoet says peanut butter is the most popular flavor to add to milk chocolate and Nestle sees room for growth in the category. He says consumers already use Butterfinger bars in a variety of ways, like crumbling them up and using them as a vanilla ice cream topping: "So it got us thinking, wow, what could we do beyond our traditional candy bar, with Butterfinger?"
And that got us thinking about other food turf wars... remember these?
- Hershey’s Swoops, a.k.a. Hershey’s trying to get in on the Pringles market.
- Bit O’Honey's Bit O'Licorice, trying to get in on... the black licorice market?
- Reese’s Pieces with peanuts… like Peanut M&Ms but… Reese's.
- Jell-O's salad gelatin. Presented without comment:
Jason Liebig of CollectingCandy.com wrote in with some additions to the list:
- Hershey-ets: Hershey's 1950s answer to M&M's.
- Snik Snak: M&M's/Mars' 1970s answer to the Kit Kat bar.
- Dip-It Candy: Topps' 1980s answer to Fun Dip.
None exist today. The cutthroat candy market: Not so sweet on knock-offs?