Free Candy Creates Wild Frenzy at Wall Street Event

Updated on
  • Feeding frenzy for chocolate kisses at Boca Raton convention
  • Lore of scrums past begets ever-more intense free-for-alls

They are lined up four or five deep, anxiously waiting with tote bags in hand for the official green-light to swoop in and scoop up as much Hershey Co.’s candy as they can.

There’s a palpable excitement in the air. The rush will be intense. And brief. Within minutes, all the best stuff -- the classic Hershey’s bars, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups -- will be gone. Someone impatiently lunges for a Kiss, snares it and is reprimanded by the hotel staff.

Elementary-school kids? No. Cash-strapped college kids? Not them either.

Boca Raton Resort and Club

Photographer: Richard Patterson/Getty Images

They’re Wall Street analysts, congregated at the posh Boca Raton Resort and Club in Florida for an annual convention where consumer companies try to convince the analysts that their stocks are worth investing in. Each afternoon during the five-day event, known as CAGNY, one company lays out piles of samples for the ravenous crowd. Ostensibly, it’s an opportunity to show off new items, and to build good will with the crowd of equity numbers crunchers.

The reality is more like a feeding frenzy, with analysts, and sometimes members of their families, loading up on sugar-loaded treats.

What causes wealthy Wall Street men and women to run, elbow and lunge for candy bars -- and then pack them into boxes to be shipped home -- is something of a mystery. It’s just one of those phenomena that seems to build on its own reputation. The lore of the scrums of past years begets ever-more intense free-for-alls.

Candy rush

Photographer: Craig Giammona/Bloomberg

Mondelez International Inc., the maker of Cadbury chocolates and Oreos, lures a raucous crowd. But nothing quite compares to the buzz surrounding the Hershey offering. Here’s how this year’s edition unfolded.

2 p.m. Inside the main ballroom, PepsiCo Inc. executives have just started their presentation. In another room, Altria Group Inc. is wrapping up another session. The real action, though, is underway in a corridor outside. Hotel workers are briskly setting up displays for the Hershey break. A large sign for “Hershey’s Gold,” the first new flavor of the famed bar to come out in more than 20 years, is put up. The area is mostly empty beyond the hotel staff. It’s the calm before the storm.

2:10 p.m. Tables packed with candy start to emerge. A woman swoops in and snags a bag of Reese’s snack mix. A cry of “cover, cover” rings out. The staff quickly drapes white table cloths over the tables to deter other early birds.

2:12 p.m. Boxes of Krave beef jerky and Bark Thins appear. Hershey has delivered a lot of product -- roughly the amount they would sell at 350 retail locations on an average day.

2:17 p.m. Most of the tables are now set up. Hotel workers stand guard. Hershey staff are also on the scene, making final tweaks to the displays.

2:25 p.m. Pepsi has kept its presentation short and analysts are trickling out of the main ballroom. The crowd starts to gather near the tables.

2:27 p.m. The table cloths covering the candy are adding to the intrigue. One analyst laments that he doesn’t know where to set up to grab the best stuff. A woman says she wants to get Sour Patch kids for her kids, but is disappointed to learn those are made by Mondelez. She’ll settle for Twizzlers.

2:32 p.m. More and more people, including children of some conference attendees, are showing up, clutching bags. Totes handed out earlier in the conference by General Mills Inc. and Conagra Brands Inc. seem to be the preferred transport of candy.

Leftover candy

Photographer: Craig Giammona/Bloomberg

2:44 p.m. The crowd near the tables is four or five people deep in some spots. The tension is building. (A day earlier, in anticipation of the Mondelez break, Andrew Lazar, a Barclays analyst who heads the conference, cautioned the crowd -- sort of jokingly -- to “be careful” out there.) Just then, a hotel worker gives the green light, signaling with his hand for his colleagues to pull back the table cloths. It’s on. And it’s clear some of the veterans have a strategy, grabbing handfuls of items, filling bags and quickly moving on.

2:53 p.m. The initial rush is over, but there’s still plenty of candy left. Analysts are stuffing their pockets with Hershey Kisses.

3 p.m. The next company presentation -- by Constellation Brands Inc. -- is starting and most of the analysts have gone back to the ballroom. Almost all of the Hershey snacks are gone, save for a bunch of Jolly Ranchers, some Twizzlers and bags of Skinny Pop and Paqui Chips.

3:15 p.m. Three children dump out their bags of candy on a table near the CAGNY registration desk. It’s like a scene out of Halloween. The resort’s shipping room is down the hall. Soon, it will be busy processing whatever couldn’t be consumed or jammed into suitcases.

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