Definitely a social phenomenon aimed at the ever-increasing demographic of 15- to 35-year-old tech-savvy, extroverted hipsters whose biggest fear may well be halitosis and who would have no qualms about spending $5 or less on the next new anything, the "intense mint" is hot. Fueled by the early 1990s reintroduction of Callard & Bowser-Suchard's infamous Altoids, it has become one of the fastest-growing segments in the candy industry.
"Despite the fact that [Altoids] have been around since the reign of King George III," says senior brand manager Chris Peddy, "we're very much on track with today's consumer attitudes." With America's attraction to strong-flavored foods, he adds, "power mints were a natural occurrence."
Whether their popularity is due to the whole "curiously strong" appeal, word-of-mouth buzz generated by high-profile consumers like Monica Lewinsky, or simply a desire for nonoffending breath, Altoids are pushing intense mints in the right direction. With a 58 percent sales increase from 1997 to 1998, according to Information Resources Inc., in the midst of a $302 million breath-freshener industry, intense mints have built a significantly strong fan base.
Meanwhile, a handful of mint-producing companies have emerged, like the online mint store http://www.goodleaf.com and ifive Brands with its Penguin Caffeinated Peppermints, the first mint to tout physical and mental augmentation.
"People are looking for higher-quality items that are still affordable, yet something they can treat themselves to," says Amy Katz, who, with partner Donna Slavitt, created Webfuel, a mint carried in a tin shaped like a computer mouse and accompanied by a list of Web sites for your visiting pleasure.
Jim Corcoran of The National Confectioners Association agrees: "Consumers are demanding more when it comes to mint flavors, and they're willing to try new products, so now is a good time to be [involved]."
Before you know it, they're grown up . . .
THEN: In 1994, we wrote of Chad Oberson, who founded Pennywhistle Lawn Service in Concord Township, Ohio, at age 10, and at age 18 won the Johnson & Wales Outstanding High School Entrepreneur Award. With a roster of 50 customers, $25,000 in sales and the award of a four-year scholarship to attend Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, opportunities seemed limitless.
NOW: We found this ambitious youth, as suspected, very healthy, quite wealthy and extremely wise. Oberson went on to start an investment firm, simply titled MFI. With more than 200 accounts and offices in Westchester and Fairfield, Ohio, you'd think this 23-year-old would be content, but Oberson has even grander visions. "I want to own a broker firm," he says. "I have this vision of creating a huge firm someday."
. . . and leaving home.
THEN: Back in 1995, Glenn Paul was heralded the winner of Entrepreneur's AT&T Home-Based Entrepreneur of the Year Contest, and his $2.5 million computer and software company, QwikQuote Development Corp., had taken over his Robbinsville, New Jersey, town house--where products were developed on the kitchen table and the company's file server and fax machine were housed in the laundry room.
NOW: Paul, 42, and co-founder Alan Katz have taken their company from town house to office suite and renamed it Electronic Business Universe (EBU). Although QwikQuote Sales Quoting Software continues to be their main product, Paul and Katz are convinced the future of medicine is in computerized screening of compounds. Seeking an investor, EBU hopes to become the world's leading pharmaceutical contract research organization.
By Laura Tiffany
In your business dealings, is it better to be like a lion or a rabbit? A lion roaring at the competition, right? Wrong. The insecure rabbit lives the longest. Knowing your place in the food chain is just one of the unique tidbits of advice Miles Spencer and Cliff Ennico offer in Money Hunt: 27 New Rules for Creating and Growing a Breakaway Business (HarperBusiness, $25). Read their examples of real-life entrepreneurs, and you'll understand why during a gold rush, you need to be selling shovels.
Leadership for Dummies (IDG Books Worldwide, $19.99) by Marshall Loeb and Stephen Kindel is exactly what it sounds like: an easy-to-read guide on all aspects of leadership, from building a strong team to articulating your vision. You can't miss the bull's-eye tips. And with anecdotes from the worlds of business, military, sports and volunteer organizations, you can lead your daughter's soccer team as well as your employees.
Information Resources Inc., http://www.infores.com
MFI Investments, (800) 891-6458, email@example.com
National Confectioners Association, 7900 Westpark Dr., Ste. A-320, McLean, VA 22102, firstname.lastname@example.org
Webfuel, (212) 644-0447, email@example.com