Sniffing out Pez perfume

The makers of the popular candies are thinking out of the dispenser and licensing a scent.

January 16, 2000|By Melody Holmes | Melody Holmes,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

For almost 50 years, Pez -- an abbreviation of pfefferminz, the German word for peppermint -- has been as much a part of American childhood as diaper changes and kindergarten.

The popular candies, eaten out of their even more popular dispensers, are consumed in the United States at a rate of 3 billion per year. Collectors have been snapping up the dispensers since long before Beanie Babies hit the scene (the online auction site eBay has its roots in Pez trading).

Now, the Orange, Conn.-based Pez Candy Co. has signed a licensing agreement with a Florida perfume company that will let the candy's fans eat their Pez and wear it, too.

Parlux Fragrances Inc. of Fort Lauderdale has announced plans to introduce a Pez fragrance, with an eye toward a potential line of Pez cosmetics. We spoke with Scott McWhinnie, "Pezident" of Pez Candy, and Frank Buttacavoli, chief operating officer of Parlux Fragrances, about the new venture:

How did the idea for a Pez cosmetic line come about?

Buttacavoli: Really, the idea for the fragrance came from the [Parlux] chairman's son. [But] no, he won't be getting any royalties. He just wants the credit.

Is this a new sort of venture for Pez?

McWhinnie: [Actually], we have so many of them, that this is not a big deal. We're happy to add another licensee to the Pez roster, [but] this is just one of 40-plus licensees.

Really, 40? What are some of the other Pez items you license?

McWhinnie: Clothing, neckties, eyeglasses, sunglasses, eyeglass cases, key chains, toys, games, puzzles, die-cast cars, cookie jars, watches, Christmas tree ornaments, clocks, coffee mugs, pens, flashlights, nightlights, ice cream bars, piggy banks, silver and gold jewelry, children's books, calendars, porcelain figurines, nodders -- they're those things you stick on your dashboard whose heads bob up and down -- tattoos, bean bags, tapestries, refrigerator magnets, party favors, Halloween costumes, toothpaste and toothbrushes, video games ... that's enough.

Tell us about the kinds of cosmetic products you plan. Will they look like or work like Pez candy dispensers?

Buttacavoli: [For now] it would only be fragrances. But there are always things like body creams, shower gels, deodorants -- they're all possibilities. There are marketing groups scheduled to meet in a month or so to figure things out. We would want to obviously use one of the heads from the Pez candies.

Will anything you make be edible?

Buttacavoli: I don't believe that would be an option. We're working on the engineering; maybe we'll have it so that you can lift up the head on it and spray the fragrance.

Who is your target audience? Who will be wearing Pez? Males, females, both?

Buttacavoli: It would be [aimed] toward the younger consumer, but if you look at Pez from a recognition standpoint, it has tremendous recognition from people aged 45-60. There's some possibilities, we believe, from a collectibility standpoint.

How do you intend to advertise?

Buttacavoli: We haven't really discussed that yet. We're not going to put it in the candy aisle. The fragrance has to be able to stand on its own. Parlux is a prestige fragrance company; we have names like Perry Ellis, Fred Hayman Beverly Hills and Ocean Pacific. We want you to be proud to wear it.

When will we be able to find the fragrances in stores?

Buttacavoli: It takes us about 14 months to get through the development. It's a very time-consuming process. ... We hope to have them out by the end of 2000, so it can be a millennium collectible.

Do you eat Pez or collect Pez dispensers yourself?

Buttacavoli: My kids use them; I use them.

McWhinnie: Of course I do; my office is full of 'em. ... I'd be in trouble if I picked a favorite. I love 'em all -- and I really mean it.

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