At first blush, you might consider confectioner It'Sugar's products less than appetizing. After all, with sugary sweets like "Dingle Bearies" and "Flinging Poo," you might not want to take your kids in for a visit.
That irreverence is precisely what sets It'Sugar apart, says Jeff Rubin, the company's founder and CEO. "I felt the next evolution would be a concept that could cater to the young adult. American adults have a love for candy as strong as anyone, so why not market it to an older demographic?"
The strategy has been undeniably successful. With 96 retail stores across the country--four of them in international locations like the Cayman Islands and Panama--the company expects to generate $81.9 million in sales this year. That's up 12 percent from last year's revenue of $73.6 million, according to the company.
The Road to Candy Land
Rubin cut his teeth in the candy business at an early age. Growing up in Michigan, he was surrounded by sweets. His family owned a candy store chain called Mr. Bulky. He also carved out a sizable trade selling chocolate bars and bubblegum to his classmates in elementary school. After graduating college, he worked on the family business. He would later land a job at FAO Schwarz, where he operated the company's candy department dubbed, "FAO Schweetz."
Then in the fall of 2000 he met Dylan Lauren, the daughter of famed fashion designer, Ralph Lauren. She shared Rubin's passion for sweets. A year later, together they launched Dylan's Candy Bar in New York City. With 16 stores around the U.S., including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, the company has become a cult favorite among candy aficionados.
It was a fruitful relationship--until 2005 when the co-founders parted ways, says Rubin. It'Sugar was born shortly thereafter.
After 10 years, the "52-years-young" entrepreneur doesn't take his success for granted. He says he owes much to thinking creatively about how to market his company and the customer experience he provides. "We kind of sell fun and we sell an attitude," says Rubin. "The difference with It'Sugar is that you come to us to laugh, to escape reality. The sun is always shining inside of It'Sugar."
Just take a look at one of Rubin's latest inventions: the "poop shop." A distinctive outpost in the store where you can buy "Dingle Bearies" (chocolate covered gummy bears) and "Flinging Poo" (chocolate covered banana chips.) He has also created "Marshmallow Madness," a marshmallow cereal without the cereal, and "Schweddy Balls," the iconic Saturday Night Live-inspired treat (salty chocolate balls). Then there's "Sugarpova," a line of candy inspired and backed by the Russian tennis player, Maria Sharapova.
When it comes to creating new products for It'Sugar, "nothing is off-limits," maintains Rubin. His raunchiest products include "Camel Balls" (liquid-filled sour bubblegum balls) and "Yellow Snowballs" (white chocolate covered crispy treat balls.)
Part of his success is also due to the variety of his product line, which incorporates exclusive items from the private label business, including apparel and novelty items. That side of the business accounts for approximately 30 percent of It'Sugar's total sales, says the company.
"Our stores stay open until midnight," says Rubin, explaining why he thinks It'Sugar stands out from its competitors. "That's probably the biggest thing that we've hit on." Another strategic decision he made was to place It'Sugar stores in heavily populated areas. "Most of the time candy is an impulse purchase," adds Rubin.
The business is slated to reach 100 stores by the end of the year and is projecting to open at least 20 more in 2017. One of the stores, scheduled to launch later this year, will be located in the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, home of the Florida Panthers. "I think that will be the largest candy store ever placed in a sporting venue," reveals Rubin.