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Rated C for Candy – AMC Theatres Launches Private-Label Brand

How appropriate I spoke to Hank Green, vice president of food and beverage at AMC Theatres, on Jan. 23 – the Oscar nominations had just been released that morning for this year’s show. But we didn’t meet to talk about Oppenheimer, Barbie, and more.

Our business was more Wonka-esque in scope – namely, the recent debut of AMC Cinema Sweets, the company’s own private-label candy: Milk Chocolate-covered Almonds, Raisins, Peanuts, and Pretzels, which also feature a Dark Chocolate Swirl around their salty, twisted turns.

According to a press release from AMC, “the launch of AMC Cinema Sweets follows more than a year of study and close collaboration with top confectioners to create gourmet chocolate candies” as part of a superior movie-going experience at competitive prices.

To Green, though, the answer is much simpler. “It starts with our guests,” he said, “and what they want.”

AMC already had launched a product into retail to much fan service (and fanfare) from moviegoers – popcorn, of course, in ready-to-eat and microwaveable varieties.

“Our Grocery Popcorn varieties taught us our brand means something to our guests and we saw great success with that,” he said, “and the next best thing is candy. There’s an opportunity here to get a premium, gourmet-level candy guests will love.”

Like the grocery world before it, private-label products have come to a movie theater near you.

The Suspense is Terrible – I Hope It Will Last

As we spoke via Zoom that morning, I noticed a custom mosaic print of Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka hung framed on the wall behind Green.

“We got in the chocolate factory, you might say,” he mused, reflecting that over 100 years of consumer feedback helped the AMC team realize another opportunity was at hand to promote their own product from within.

“There was a definite consensus on our side – how do we get further into this category? We wanted high-end, gourmet chocolate.”

So they went to work, Wonka-style, testing and tasting, tasting and testing. Inspiration may in fact be 93% perspiration, 6% inspiration, 3% perspiration, and 2% butterscotch ripple, but for Green and the AMC team, whetting the sweet tooth was really about listening to the moviegoing public.

“I’m an equal-opportunity candy consumer, whether it’s chocolate, licorice, sour or spicy gummies,” he added, “but for this, our first set of Cinema Sweets, we really wanted to lean into the feedback and put our name on something we believe in.”

For years, AMC guests had been asking for chocolate-covered pretzels, so that was where the team began. Green said though they’ve sold other chocolate-covered products, they really wanted to nail the pretzel and then work from there, eventually crafting the chocolate-covered almonds, peanuts, and raisin varieties also available.

“We’re constantly evaluating bundles,” he mentioned, “and we get a lot of feedback from guests. The Cinema Sweets line will be part of that as we go forward, and eventually more options will fall into line next to the popcorn and the pretzels and be front and center with everything else,” working with big releases and promotional teams on other limited-time and seasonal products.

A World of Pure Imagination

The current line of Cinema Sweets launched in December and sales have been brisk. “We’re quite pleased,” he said, brandishing an R2-D2 popcorn holder from a Star Wars release years ago, “and it’s definitely been a good launch for us across more than 550 domestic theaters.

“It’s a fun space to play in; that’s one of the great reasons to be in the movie business. We’re here to sell fun and entertainment and provide something great to snack on while seeing a movie. Everyone’s got their favorite movie snack and movie experience – it’s woven into the fabric of our society.”

Over the last 30 years, ticket sales peaked in 2002 to almost 1.6 billion, but since then, tickets have been declining despite record box office sales in 2018 reaching almost $12 billion. The pandemic put a stop to all of that, but both tickets and box office revenue have been climbing each year since 2020 as consumers continue to seek out not just entertainment in the form of movies but eatertainment in the form of a snack and a drink coupled with a few hours of recreation.

After all, a little nonsense now and then (as Wonka told Henry Salt) is valued by the wisest men. Green said there are other flavor profiles they’d like to develop in the spicy and sour realms, and like the contract Charlie and the other Golden Ticketers had to sign, Green can’t say exactly what’s developing in the lab – “only that we’re back, we’re excited, and we’re working” to provide more premium candy for silver screen consumers.

So much time and so little to do! Wait a minute – strike that. Reverse it.

When I asked about my favorite – a Whoppers analog, perhaps, rife with malted milk flavor and premium chocolate? – Green threw his head back and laughed.

“Perhaps someday – malted milk ball is not for everyone!”

Willy Wonka GIF - Discover the Magic of Chocolate Factory

Guess I’ll have to put my faith in the lab. Until then, moviegoers looking for a sweet treat will have plenty of new options direct from AMC itself. They say that art imitates life, and in the case of private-label candy for savvy consumers, a new premium option should be available for them before the previews roll at their next trip to the cinema, or they can wait a few more years and buy a ticket to Hershey’s upcoming retailtainment attractions.