10 Minutes With … Hilco Sweets

License Global sits down with Lou DiMarco, executive vice president, Hilco Sweets, to look at the state of play in American food and beverage manufacturing and to discuss current and future trends.
Ian Hart

November 4, 2022

Lou DiMarco
Lou DiMarcoHilco Sweets

Hilco Sweets

provides fun and unique toys that are affordable to every level of income. Since 1987, it began combining toys with candy, pivoting the business to focus on novelty candy. In 2014, it was acquired by


, allowing growth and improvement in novelty candy products, as well as an expansion of licensing rights. 

How would you describe the modern manufacturing and licensing process in U.S. in relation to food and beverage, within confectionary and associated products? 

Lou: From a manufacturing standpoint, we always ask, ‘Is this brand slapping?’ before we manufacture a product. For example, a licensed character on a potato chip bag. Will a child appreciate the fact that the chip has no relevance to the brand when the bag is actually opened? Is this type of licensing proper for the end user? We always try to place the consumer first in assuring that final product delivers on licensed equity. 

What are the main challenges that you face as a business? 

Determining the true evergreen licenses vs. the trends and fads. Everyone has the ‘next best thing’, but few truly live in the evergreen status that is so critical to the investment needed on the innovation side. 

What are the main opportunities within licensing in the confectionary market? 

Addressing functional while

maintaining true brand equity and delivering on fun. 

How do you approach the licensing process, and what elements make a marketable licensed product? 

We look for evergreen opportunities with consistent and resilient growth for three-plus years. You need consistency vs. the multiple one-off offerings. It was difficult with the COVID lockdowns and the explosion of the ‘me-star’ generation, where a child, a teen, parents can be a larger social media star than a Hollywood generated character. We all know that social media has truly put the power of popularity into the hands of the common person. 

You touched on COVID there, how were you impacted by the pandemic? 

Because of our focus on brands during COVID, vs. entertainment properties, we were not impacted in a negative manner during the lockdowns. However, it did change the face of the consumer, exposure to new and how consumers digested the opportunity for new. 

What do you see for the future of the licensee industry, and has the pandemic brought about any noticeable trends in the food & beverage market?   

I think licensing will now, and in the future, compete with the stability of branding, private branding and less volatile segments that rely more on flavor profiles vs. characters, or an emotional event tied to entertainment. In essence it’s a market correction much like we see in real-estate or the stock market. Pre-COVID we were over-saturated with too many releases and the target market could not even respond to the sales of products released because newer was being released too fast. 

Hilco Sweets is owned by


, which was named in License Global’s 2022 Leading Licensees Report. The report recognizes more than 200 manufacturers worldwide across all categories that have made significant developments in the licensing business and will continue to push the industry forward in 2023.

Contained within the report is an exclusive interview with Clark Taylor, senior vice president, sales and marketing, CandyRific.

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