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A Candy Conversation: 10 Questions for Sweet As

Categories: Candy,Foreign (non-US) Candy

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Sweet As Shopfront
When I’m at the local mall and I feel like a sugar fix, I can almost always find a Sweet As store to run wild in. A vast majority of my reviews here are done from candy I bought there, as Sweet As is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) candy superstore here in Melbourne. The stores all have a Great Wall of Sweets which literally reaches from floor to ceiling and is jam-packed with new and classic candies. With seven stores operating and two more on the way, this is some serious candy loving going on for the people of Melbourne. Recently I had the opportunity to interview Cheree Smith, one of the family members who run Sweet As. Considering that Australia is often described as “America in the 1950′s” it was interesting to see if this applied to candy trends as well.

Q: I know that Sweet As is a family business. Tell me a little bit about the business’s history.

About 25 years ago, Paul & Christine Smith bought a chocolate store in Gippsland as a semi retirement hobby which turned into a great success. This gave them the inspiration to launch their first Melbourne store with the help from Paul’s little brother Adam who was fresh back from traveling the globe and was looking for something to do career-wise. This was 1993 and we opened what we still consider to be our flagship store in Box Hill. From there the Smith team opened more stores, recruiting more family members along the way. The Sweet As stores have turned into bright and prosperous career options for most of the family and give us a great sense of pride and achievement. It is a true blue Australian family business which has grown these days to employ around 50 people.

Q: With the focus on low-fat, no-fat, sugar free and healthier lifestyles, have you noticed any difference in your client’s requests? Is there more demand for things which are somehow “better” for you? Have you noticed a trend in the amount or way people are buying their candy?

With the recent news that dark chocolate is packed with anti-oxidants and is good for us in “moderation,” we have seen a marked increase in dark chocolate sales. As for the “moderation,” who knows if people are sticking to the 10-20g daily part of the bargain which true Candy Addicts will know isn’t much more than a small square of chocolate. I myself find it hard to stop at an entire block!

Fat free is getting lots of exposure these days. Most jellies (gummies) and lollies (hard candy) are FAT FREE which is pleasing to those who are counting calories.

Q: What is the single most popular candy (specific product) you sell? In your opinion, what about it makes it so popular?

Lindt is certainly our leading brand currently; our Sweet As stores alone account for 26% of independent national sales for Lindt Australia. Which is the result of our customer demand for high quality chocolate at great prices. All of our Sweet As stores feature the Great Wall of Sweets, which carries lollies and chocolates of all descriptions. We bag these items up ourselves to ensure freshness and the best prices. It is a full time job to keep the wall full and looking fabulous; our most popular items on the great wall would be… Chocolate Bullets (chocolate covered black licorice), Party Mix (mixed types of gummis) and Gummi Bears.

Q: What, if any, confectionery trends do you predict for the next 3-5 years? I know that co-branding with movies and well-known candies is a big one, but I’m thinking more in terms of types/flavors/textures. A very popular flavor gaining popularity in the US is matcha (green tea) – have we seen any of that here? Chocolate combinations with savory flavors are also gaining popularity – chilli/chocolate basil/chocolate and so on. Have you seen any of this yet?

We haven’t seen any “matcha” flavors as yet but the Lindt Chili Chocolate block has been very well received with our customers. Newmans are a Melbourne-based company and they produce a chilli chocolate truffle which is excellent and starting to become more popular.

Q: So many candies and chocolates these days just seem to be variations on a theme as opposed to something really new and innovative. Related to the above question, is there any company (Australian or otherwise) which you think is really doing anything new, product-wise?

Chocolatier is a company which has undergone many changes in its packaging and product in the last five years. We believe their most recent look which they launched last year is fantastic. They have gone with a retro inspired box and have really upped the anti with their chocolates flavors and textures. They also produce a bright pink box of chocolates which sees a donation from every box sold go to breast cancer research which is a wonderful initiative.

Q: How do you source new products? What criteria (if any) do you judge a new product on? Are there some flavors or brands which you “know” will be a success?

When sourcing new products we really focus on brand and price. The popular European brands such as Toblerone, Bouchee, Guylian and Lindt will always sell well. Our customers have come to rely on us for top quality chocolates at even better prices; thanks to Sweet As they know they no longer have to spend top dollar to get what they want.

Q: Melbourne seems to be a real breeding ground for boutique chocolate shops – Patchi, Cacao, Koko Black, Black Rock Chocolates, Lizzy’s and so on. Has the growth of all these smaller producers had any impact on Sweet As? Is the consumer as a whole getting more demanding for quality?

The boutique chocolate store hasn’t really had an impact on us as they target an entirely different consumer to us. Overall though, chocolate lovers are more aware of the quality products on offer these days. If anything given that some boutique stores sell their hand made chocolates for up to $150.00 per kilo, that makes even our most expensive box of chocolates look affordable.

Q: There has been some debate on Candy Addict recently about lolly bags, and candy making an appearance in schools. Are lolly bags as popular as they once were? What influence (if any) do children have on what their parents are buying at Sweet As?

Lolly bags are as popular as ever at Sweet As due to the fact that customers can pick up quality sweets at great prices. Some people are choosing to include a little toy in the bag so that it is not totally lollies, but generally birthdays are seen as a special time to reward the children with sweets. As schools are phasing out chocolates and lollies from their canteens (cafeterias) this only further cements Sweet As as a great place to come to for that special reward or indulgence for a special occasion.

I had a great time interviewing Cheree – it was quite interesting to see what is happening in the candy world from the perspective of a retailer rather than a direct producer. It seems like we are all still crazy for chocolate… but then, did you really expect anything different?!



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5 Responses to “A Candy Conversation: 10 Questions for Sweet As”

  1. 1
    AntFan says:

    Chocolate covered black licorice?! I have never seen that!

    My closest “mall” candy shop recently went out of business. Now, about 10 miles away, I just have a See’s Candy and a Candy Tyme (who don’t tend to get “new” things).

  2. 2
    Sera says:

    Great read Michelle! It must have been such a fun interview! :)

  3. 3
    oakling says:

    wow! great, interesting questions and answers. this makes australia seem even sweeter to me :)

  4. 4
    shonelle says:

    im doing this this sience fair project on lollie addict and im wondering if you have any ideas
    p.s
    shonelle tautari

  5. 5
    terri says:

    Great article. I am doing a research project on the chocolate industry in Australia at the moment. Do you know how to find out about how many boutique chocolate businesses there are in melbourne for example. all info seems to be large scale maunfacturing info. your article is very helpful. i went to chocolatier the other week. they are a really remarkable business and i was very impressed with their professionalism. thanks

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