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It sounds like the plotline from an old movie: Small town player gets introduced to the big movers, changes her image and tries to make it in the big time—only to find that new audiences aren’t interested and old audiences just don’t recognize her anymore.

The same sad plot was almost the fate of a local Philadelphia candy that a national firm tried to introduce to the rest of the world. Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews—an odd candy bar with whole roasted peanuts, molasses, and dark chocolate—originally was invented in the face of sugar rations during World War I. The local favorite was so popular that Just Born (which also distributes well-known candies such as Mike & Ike and Peeps) bought out the brand and decided to take it national.

In so doing, it changed the images on the packaging. It changed the color of the packaging. It even brought in a milk chocolate version. And it dropped the familiar name “Goldenberg’s.”

Rather than the massive bump in sales that the company expected from the national rollout, sales plummeted. New customers did not know what to make of this unusual candy. And consumers who had been buying the candy for decades were simply unable to find it on the shelves. When the company’s brand manager asked for the candy at a concession stand and was told that Peanut Chews were not being made any more, he knew the company had a serious problem.

Addressing the problem led to a compelling solution. If consumers loved the old-fashioned look and feel, why not embrace it? The print and television advertising campaign re-introducing Peanut Chews relies on the tagline, “Now that’s chewin’ it old school.” A billboard in the Phillies’ stadium suggests that the candy is “The only chew a player needs.”

Now that Philadelphians know their candy is back, Just Born is ready to expand Peanut Chews’ reach again—but this time, carefully and strategically. It began the rollout this summer in New York, where it already had some brand recognition. It also plans to move into Baltimore in the next few years—introducing itself as the original Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews.

Source: Andrew Adam Newman, “After Failed Identity Change, Peanut Chews Reclaims Its Goldenberg’s Roots,” The New York Times, August 19, 2012.