When Spain-based Chupa Chups S.A. decided to become a world supplier of lollipops, owners didn’t downplay their ambitions. From designer-inspired to motorized lollipops, the company even supplied props for a 1970s TV show featuring Kojak, a lollipop-addicted detective. Chupa Chups has opened markets in more than 160 countries and owes its success to yummy tastes and marketing acumen. You don’t have to compete with them, but your business will get off to a great start if you adopt their mantra: recognize your market and give them a treat they can’t get anywhere else.
Know your competitors. Chupa Chups may play in a star-studded arena that includes the likes of Brach’s, Hershey, Nestle, Tootsie Roll and more, but you’ll face equally formidable competition from local candy makers, so do your homework before you do another thing. Find out what types of lollipops each one is producing, how they’re marketing their product and, most important, how competitors are pricing their treats.
Perfect your recipes and variety of offerings. Hard candy- and chocolate-based lollipops may use similar ingredients--sugar, corn syrup, flavorings and chocolate--but your unique recipes will differentiate your lollipop brand from others, so keep perfecting your candy. Investigate new combinations of ingredients, try unorthodox molds and come up with unusual product ideas that appeal to your market.
Raise start-up funds if can’t bankroll your lollipop business on your own. According to "Entrepreneur," a start-up candy-making enterprise costs from $2,000 to $10,000 to launch, depending upon the complexity of the new business. Producing lollipops within the confines of your home kitchen won’t push your budget in the same direction as an operation that includes renting space, remodeling it and outfitting it with new and pricey candy-making equipment.
Obtain licenses, permits and other credentials required by local and state government authorities for businesses that prepare and sell foods. Your kitchen may be subject to inspection by Department of Health authorities as a precondition for getting these permits. While you’re waiting for approvals, find a local wholesale candy-making supply business or turn to supplier websites to stock up on molds, bowls, utensils, pots and other necessities.
Determine your packaging needs. Whether you’ll wrap your lollipops individually, box them in bulk or create a system that pairs a displayer with carded, cellophane-wrapped confections, don’t overspend on this facet of your product development. That stated, if you’re going to pitch your lollipops as “gourmet” treats, your packaging must be high-end enough to justify the expense.
Market your lollipops aggressively. Make sales calls to obtain shelf space at confectioneries, high-end department stores, bakeries, mall kiosks and boutiques. Launch a website. Display your lollipops in delicious colors accompanied by enticing copy salted with keywords for search engine pickup. Make a video and post it on YouTube. Use social media to develop a reputation. Invent a lollipop creation that's so unique that you become a pioneer.
Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.