I'm probably a fool for writing this column, considering I got burned once before on this company. But I'm a sucker for David vs. Goliath stories - or in this case, the A.J. Canfield Co. vs. Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola, the giants of the $4 billion soft drink industry.
Back in 1985 I told you about a fabulous new soda called Canfield's Chocolate Fudge, a virtually no-calorie hot-fudge-sundae-in-a-can that was so good it should have been illegal. It wasn't . . . you just couldn't find it.Not long after I extolled the virtues of this new product and its inventor/marketer, Alan Canfield, I began getting calls and letters from readers who wanted to buy the stuff but couldn't find it in their local supermarkets. It was there one week, but not the next, they complained.
Well, yes, distribution was - and remains - a problem, conceded Canfield in a telephone interview from his Chicago headquarters.
"What happened to us shouldn't have happened to anybody - it was like being tied to a rocketship," said Canfield of that first year after introduction of Canfield's Chocolate Fudge. "Everybody and their brother wanted it; we sold millions and millions of cans."
But millions more went unsold. Consumers wanted it all right, but Canfield's couldn't deliver - literally. Bottlers and distributors licensed by the company were not remotely up to the task and Chocolate Fudge lost crucial momentum when it needed it most. Today, sales of the drink are half what they were at its 1986 peak.
But you can't keep a visionary down, and Canfield is a visionary in his industry. With memories of the Chocolate Fudge debacle still fresh, he is embarking this month on a new venture: Hubba Bubba Original Bubble Gum Soda.
Yes, I've tasted it and I'm not going to do a repeat of Chocolate Fudge and tell you to run around town until you find some. I mean, almost everyone loves chocolate, but bubble gum is an acquired taste that most people promptly lose on their 18th birthday.
But for the 5- to 16-year-old set - DYNAMITE! There is talk of grandmothers stashing a six-pack in the fridge just to lure the grandkids over for a visit.
For those of you who haven't popped a giant pink wad of bubble gum in your mouth for a decade or two, I will tell you that Hubba Bubba is the name of a bubble gum marketed by Wrigley's, the company who virtually owns (about 80 percent) the chewing gum market.
Wrigley's liked the taste of Canfield's creation so much they agreed to license the name to him, something not done every day by the giants of consumer products. It could be that Wrigley's thinks Canfield's Hubba Bubba could become the Nintendo of soft drinks for the grade-school set.
Or even young adults, if they happen to like the taste of bubble gum. And be assured, Canfield's Hubba Bubba does not just taste similar to bubble gum, it tastes exactly like bubble gum.
Canfield believes the potential is enormous.
"We are in 37 states (with Hubba Bubba) now and your (Deseret News) readers started getting it last week," said Canfield. "Young adults and kids have a lot of expendable income these days and, for them, bubble gum is an accepted flavor - incidentally, it's delicious over ice cream."
Distributor for Utah, he said is Columbine Beverage Co. of Denver. Stores that should have it in stock include Albertson's and Smith's Food Kings, among others.
If they don't have it, please, don't blame me. Besides, I want to go on record here that I don't like the stuff. Actually, I wasn't that hot on bubble gum even in 5th grade.
Chocolate Fudge, on the other hand, is another story. Wish I had one right now.