GOLDEN-AGERS

Old-fashioned candies, the venerable mainstays of the candy aisle, have never been healthier.Although rarely -- if ever -- advertised or promoted, items like Necco Wafers, Canada Mints, Goldenberg's Peanut Chews, Smarties, Ju Jubes, Mason Dots, Pixie Stix, Mary Janes, Candy Buttons, Charms, Good & Plenty and Circus Peanuts remain timeless favorites with a loyal and often growing following.A box of

Old-fashioned candies, the venerable mainstays of the candy aisle, have never been healthier.

Although rarely -- if ever -- advertised or promoted, items like Necco Wafers, Canada Mints, Goldenberg's Peanut Chews, Smarties, Ju Jubes, Mason Dots, Pixie Stix, Mary Janes, Candy Buttons, Charms, Good & Plenty and Circus Peanuts remain timeless favorites with a loyal and often growing following.

A box of the movie-house staple Junior Mints states they were named after the 1949 Broadway play "Junior Miss." Bit-O-Honey has been a "great-tasting treat" since 1924. Pearson Nips have been "extraordinarily smooth" for over 75 years, and Dryden & Palmer has been making its Rock Candy since 1880. And the granddaddy of them all -- Necco Wafers -- celebrated its 150th anniversary last year.

Retailers find an assortment of old-fashioned candies helps to liven up their aisles and draw a broader cross-section of shoppers to the candy department. Many of them sell especially well around Christmas when shippers are used to provide that extra boost.

"We do not really get into old-fashioned candy in a big way, but there is still a market for this product," said Tom Yarrows, category manager at Big Y Foods, Springfield, Mass.

Big Y stocks its old-fashioned candies in the line set as well as in its bulk program, and supports it with shippers on an in-and-out basis to maximize sales. Several old-fashioned items are also included as part of Big Y's private-label pegged program, Yarrows explained.

"Because they are in our private-label program we see significant margin increases over the national brands. As a result, there is not much of a need to discount," he said.

John Paul, category manager at Genuardi's Family Markets, Norristown, Pa., said several old-fashioned items, including 9-and 2-ounce packages of Philadelphia-produced Goldenberg's Peanut Chews, Brach's Starlight Mints, Smarties and Goetz Caramel Cremes are in his Top 100 stockkeeping units.

"While these items certainly are not a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, Milky Way or Snickers, they are the type of item that often commands a higher gross margin.

And while these products don't have the advertising and marketing muscle of a Hershey or Nestle, as long as they continue to sell they will have a space in the aisles of Genuardi's.

"Category management in its truest form really doesn't take into account the size of the

company," Paul said. But when it comes to advertising, size matters. Most of Genuardi's advertising centers in multi-family brands, such as Nestle, Hershey and M&M/Mars products.

Minyard Food Stores, Coppell, Texas, stocks many old-fashioned candies, like Rock Candy and horehound, on a direct-store-delivery, store-by-store basis in an effort to tailor assortments to customer needs, said Lynett McCoy, candy buyer.

"We have a lot of stores in areas with high concentrations of senior citizens. Those stores do real well with orange slices, Circus Peanuts and those types of products," said McCoy.

Roger Burks, senior vice president at The Mad Butcher, Pine Bluff, Ark., said his stores generally carry only the old-fashioned candies around Christmas, when they are merchandised from shippers and on tables.

"We consider them to be a value-added item for the holidays," he said.

Robert Paciocco, candy buyer for Bi-Lo, Mauldin, S.C., said old-fashioned candy assortment is limited to Mary Janes and some hard-candy items.

"The Mary Janes are not the hottest thing on the rack, yet they remain very consistent," he said.

Mary Janes are manufactured by a division of New England Confectionery Co., Cambridge, Mass., a company that traces its roots back to 1847 and counts Canada Mints, Candy Buttons and Necco Wafers among its product offerings.

Hershey Foods, Hershey, Pa., has been building its presence in old-fashioned candies by acquiring several manufacturers, including Leaf Products and Henry Heide, manufacturer of JujyFruits.