Sweet Success

Ever since the first lickable dick-on-a-stick appeared, erotic candy novelties have flirted with the perception of serious confectionary delights versus bawdy party favors. More and more consumers have embraced anatomically correct and sexually suggestive treats, and manufacturers can expect solid sales growth-along with the U.S. candy market as a whole-over the next few years.

According to a report by Packaged Facts, a leading publisher of food-market research, sales of chocolate in the U.S. are expected to grow from $16 billion in 2006 to $18 billion in 2011. Packaged Facts reported that dark chocolate experienced the largest sales jump, going from 13 percent of the total market in 2002 to 17 percent ($2.7 billion) in 2006, presumably because of "reported health benefits" and "a general trend towards product premiumization."

"We expect that the trend towards high-end products, especially those touting wellness benefits, will be the life force in this market for the next several years," says Tatjana Meerman, managing editor of the Packaged Facts report "U.S. Market for Chocolate."

The "wellness benefit"of increased female libido is the main purpose of candy maker Bonnie Stern's Flurtz Chocolates.

"I'm not just feeding off the [perception of] chocolate as an aphrodisiac: There is something in it to help," Stern says of her heart-shaped, dark-chocolate concoction. "We actually have a combination of herbs from China and South America." Stern says the proprietary herbal blend "balances the female hormones, creating a warming sensation, and focuses blood flow to the pelvis and makes the woman more sensitive."

"And they taste good," she adds. "It doesn't get any better than that."

Chris Post, vice president of HottProducts Unlimited, also is dabbling in the sexual-chocolate arena, fine-tuning his company's Libido confection, which is set for release later this year.

"There's an aphrodisiac powder inside the chocolate," Post says. "It comes in an individually wrapped square and contains an all-natural herb blend." Post says the chunk shape was chosen to inhibit melting; one passed a test in the trunk of his car this summer.

Satisfying sexual appetites also is the focus for David Johnson, owner of Sweet Arousals in Chicago. The 1-year-old online business features several anatomically correct chocolate edibles; customers have found creative ways to incorporate them into their sexual diets, Johnson says.

"One woman told me that she uses the candy as a form of foreplay," he says. "She said if she wants to give her man a hint about what he's getting that night, she'll bring home a blowjob lollipop and serve it as dessert after dinner.

"But our edible body paint is our signature item. It's an awesome product. It's not waxy; you don't need to warm it up. You just rub it on your partner, and then you get to eat it off them." After you've used it in the bedroom, Johnson adds, "you could bring strawberries in and dunk them. It's a quality confectionary item that can be used as a dipping chocolate."

"Quality" was a word that our group of adult-novelty candy manufacturers used to describe their offerings.

"All of our pieces are hand-poured; we quality-check and hand-pack each one," says April Terrero, marketing manager of Chocolate Walrus in Reno, Nev. "When [owner Tammy Borde] bought the business in August 2005, she made a lot of changes and really focused on the erotic chocolate. She fine-tuned a lot of the recipes to make them more unified and branded." That branding includes several flavored chocolates in different colors that are used to make the adult molds more lifelike and appealing.

"Our most popular is the butterscotch; it's flesh-colored," Terrero says, adding that the company's Boobs on a Stick consists of white, lemon and orange chocolate and "looks like candy corn," and the Lips molds are made of cherry-almond chocolate. "We not only wanted a novelty piece," Terrero says, "but we wanted a piece of chocolate that looks good, as well as tastes good."

Sweet Arousals owner Johnson agrees. "Novelty is definitely the bigger draw, but at the same time, when you buy something from us, you're getting a high-quality confection," he says. "You're not getting something tasteless, waxy or cheap."

Robert Prado, majority owner of non-chocolate confectioner Candy Prints in Denver, Colo., believes quality ingredients are the key to success.

"We use Grade A (cane sugar); most manufacturers will use a Grade C," Prado says. "If you want something that has long shelf life and looks good, you should use Grade A."

Quality also is a top focus for Robert Wiessen, who co-owns Adult Candy Shoppe with his brother, Andrew.

"One of our bigger challenges is that (adult novelty) candy hasn't always been the highest quality," he says. "We're trying to raise the quality of candy in the adult business. You can actually taste the difference and see the difference."

Novelty also is a big part of the non-chocolate candy market, Andrew Wiessen says, since "there are only so many dick lollipops you can see, a pussy's a pussy, and a tit's a tit."

The financial outlook for non-chocolate candy is just as sweet as that of chocolate. According to Packaged Facts, between 2005 and 2006, non-chocolate sales grew 7 percent to $8.9 billion, aided by an increase in "functional" candies and "increased product introductions."

Post of HottProducts says his company's non-chocolate confections are both functional and innovative because "there are only so many things you can do, ideally, with candy."

"What sets us apart is we try to be creative from a packaging standpoint," he says. "We try to appeal to the customer with something that's bright, colorful [and] fun. That's what we really try to focus on." Post points to his Chocolate Naughties (graphic images printed on edible rice paper), Dickie Lickie Lights (penis lollipops that light up) and Rainbow Cock Pops (multicolored, multiflavored penis lollipops) as examples.

Robert Wiessen of Adult Candy Shoppe says his company takes a similar approach.

"All our candies are meant to be fun," he says. "We try to find new applications of existing confections and make them adult." For example, he says, the Cum Sucker lollipop-a penis-shaped, strawberry-flavored candy that squirts vanilla crème when squeezed-is based on a mainstream candy with the same features.

Marketing is Key

While all companies compete with regards to novelty and quality, each must chose a marketing strategy that will draw attention from consumers and increase sales.

Candy Prints' Prado, a Denver native who returned to the city after opening the Erotic Bakery in Seattle in 1985 and selling it in 1999, closely watches his sales demographics to determine what products to create and market.

"At the bakery, we tracked who came into the store, whether they were male or female, and what they purchased," Prado says. "The ratio in the store was about 50/50, but women spent 80 cents of every dollar spent in the store."

Holidays are big-business seasons for chocolate and non-chocolate confectioners alike.

"Valentine's Day is our biggest season," Prado says. "We already got our first order, and we'll ship that out next week. We sell a lot of gifts at Christmas, too."

"There's a jump in the holiday season, from Halloween on," HottProducts' Post says, agreeing with Prado that "over Christmas and Valentine's Day, those are really big seasons for our market."

"We do have a line of holiday-themed items," says Terrero of Chocolate Walrus. "We have little penises that have a scarf and a Santa hat, ghosts with peckers and witches flying on a pecker."

To meet consumer need year-round, the Wiessens market extensively to the bachelor-, bachelorette- and home-party crowds, and have found that society is becoming more accepting of adult-novelty candies.

"People are opening up quite a bit more to enjoying themselves and opening their morality up to having more fun when they go out," Andrew Wiessen says. "Bachelorette parties are getting more involved with the candy. We even had two weddings that asked us to supply our little Joy Pops (miniature penis and pussy pops that come in four flavors and colors) to put on the cake."

Based in Las Vegas, where just about everything is the norm, Adult Candy Shoppe has begun getting inquiries about its products from gift shops along the strip and in hotels like The Palms and Hard Rock, Robert Wiessen says. One deal, he adds, involves regularly delivering several extra-large, half-pound Big Daddy lollipops to Planet Hollywood for its "Mesmerized" stage show. During the performance, a group of people are hypnotized and given what they are told are popsicles; the popsicles actually are Adult Candy Shoppe's large penis lollipops. Robert Wiessen says some people snap out of it and realize they're sucking on a large dick in front of the audience, but they go along with the act.

"Of course, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," he says, quoting the famous reasoning for everything decadent that happens in Sin City. "But it just shows how much more [adult-novelty candy] is gaining in acceptance."