Future focused

Specialising in Licensed Confectionery, Novelty, Premium Sugar and Chocolate Brands, What Next Candy has streamlined its business and built solid supplier and customer foundations ensuring the future looks sweet

Based in Derbyshire, What Next Candy began operations in January 2000 with the goal of delivering innovative confectionery products to young and old alike. The unique importer and distributor WNC 131 bwent on to specialise in children’s novelty and traditional confectionery as well as gifting confectionery whilst also developing a highly successful business that focuses on own-label confectionery, pre-packed bags and gifting lines for a number of high street, multiple and wholesale retailers.

“What Next Candy was created by myself and business partner John Windsor,” says Ian Gavin. “We wanted to be cutting edge and first to the market for novelty confectionery. Back in 2000 we launched a new category of Licensed Jelly Pops, which quickly became our most successful line. Over the years, we have continued to develop new and exciting products and in 2012 we were acquired by BIP Holland, an international licensed confectionery specialist with offices throughout Europe.”

The strategic acquisition of What Next Candy, complete with its distribution power and innovative product range, enabled BIP to enhance its in-store presence in the UK and Ireland and boost its market share. Moreover, What Next Candy was able to re-establish its position as a leader in the supply of licensed novelty confectionery products within the UK market.

In line with this development and the economic downturn that resulted in customers such as Woolworths and BHS fall by the wayside, What Next Candy has adapted its business to fit the evolving needs of the market place and to ensure a more streamlined operation is in place. “Two years ago, BHS was our biggest customer and as everyone knows this retailer is no longer trading. Before this took place, we had seen a decline in volumes on the complex gifting side and we had started to lose direction. We were trying to be all things to all customers and with volumes declining and margins being squeezed, we needed to adapt to market changes but without changing our core identity of bringing newness to the market, and in 2016 we had to restructure the company,” comments Ian.

“Once the restructure took place, we focused on the key pillars of the business and our key brands, whilst still offering a bespoke operation, albeit on a more manageable scale. We invested many hours working through this change and everyone put in so much effort, showing pure dedication for the cause. We are now in a position where our sales are up significantly year-on-year and we are investing in people again across different areas of the business as the skill set is now different. There is so much change happening now and in the foreseeable future, that we need to be fastWNC 131 c moving to stay on top of market demands,” he adds.

Current market trends What Next Candy is paying particular attention to include healthy eating, for which it has recently launched its Fun and Fruity range of Disney novelties, featuring 90 per cent fruit fillings. There is also a planned range of protein products. “It’s a crowded space, but we feel we have a product that tastes amazing and is great value for money, something that isn’t easy to achieve,” notes Ian. “In addition to our own market, we also look outside of confectionery when it comes to trends; this can include colours, themes, textures and packaging. We like to take inspiration from other markets as we innovate rather than imitate.”

In terms of its most popular products, What Next Candy’s licensed novelties continue to rise in demand, with Super Surprise Eggs its biggest line. On top of this, the company represents Yupi Gummy Zone, for which it distributes more than seven million Gummy Pizzas per year, and Kidsmania plastic novelties including Sour Flush, a toilet shaped container with sour sherbet fill and two plunger lollipops. “We also specialise in premium fizzy gummies and take pride in being first to market with the original Lutti Bubblizz Bubble Gum Bottle, along with Lutti Tubble Gum – bubble gum in a squeezy tube,” notes Ian. “Amongst these products, we also have more sophisticated items within our portfolio. For example, we proudly distribute Anthon Berg Chocolate Liqueurs, the very first 41liqueur filled chocolate manufactured from bean to bottle in Denmark with famous branded liqueur fills.” Being an innovative company What Next also develop bespoke co-packed lines, working with customers on colourways and trends to make the end product that little bit more unique.

With a broad range of well-loved products in its portfolio, What Next Candy will focus on the brands it represents while also keeping a close eye on the latest market trends over the coming years. “Looking ahead, our goal is to further develop the company by integrating our strengths in order to become the largest and best distributor of the brands we represent in Europe, including licensed and non-licensed novelties. We will achieve this by continuing to offer our bedrock items such as PopUps and Surprise Eggs and constantly stimulate the market with new launches,” Ian concludes.