Go Mexico!

by Renee M. Covino
Want to really capture that growing Hispanic market? Surround them with sweet treats that remind them of—and come from—home.
Confectionery imports from Mexico have increased significantly—to over $103 million dollars annually, according to the National Confectioners Association. Many Mexican candy companies are currently growing sales at over 30 percent a year.
 American retailers who haven’t considered these candy sources, not just for branded Hispanic treats, but also for private label goodies, are at a disadvantage in targeting their growing Latin consumer population.
Here are just a few Mexican candy companies that are coming on strong in the U.S. marketplace for consideration.
Tonala, Mexico
With 45 years of experience producing and exporting candy under its belt, Dulces Beny plans now to sweeten the Latin U.S. market with its marshmallows (with and without chocolate), chewing gum, and hard candy lollipops. The company, which is stressing high-quality products in specifically targeted Hispanic communities, is being met with an excellent response, according to Carlos Zamora, export manager of Dulces Beny.
CUANDA, S.A. de C.V.
Mexico City, Mexico (soon moving to Juventino Rosas, Guanajuato, Mexico)
Since 1981, Cuanda has specialized in the panning sugar process and in gelatin gummies in its homeland Mexico. Last year, the company started addressing the U.S. Hispanic market with spicy candies and other sweets the growing ethnic market is “homesick” for, according to Adrian Moran, executive director of the Mexico City-based candy company.
Moran says the company is reaching out to the American market in two ways: with its own brands through a Los Angeles-based broker, and with private label for Alegro International (Sonric’s), a PepsiCo division.
Just what makes Cuanda candies so special? “We produce panning-process lollipops with chewing gum centers and layers of colors and flavors that we think can match in any market because they have very interesting play value,” says Moran. “We also produce gelatin gummies—we can make any shape that a private label could wish for like comic characters or movie heroes, etc.”
Guadalajara, Mexico
In business since 1948, De la Rosa’s roots were in manufacturing peanuts and peanut-related confections. “As our operation grew, we penetrated the marshmallow, tamarind, chocolate, lollipops, gum, hard candies, fruit chews, and cookies/wafers categories,” says Armando Crespo, managing partner, exports. Now the company is proud of its “leadership position” in the following Mexican confectionery markets: marzapan (a peanut and sugar candy), marshmallows (with over 12 different SKUs and Latin America’s largest manufacturing capacity), tamarind and chile bars (with the popular brand name Pulparindo), and bubble gum pops.
De la Rosa has been marketing products in the United States for over seven years, however, such efforts were basically conducted by major importers and distributors in key demographic regions.
“In the past two years we’ve made inroads selling our products directly and the success has been immediate,” maintains Crespo. “Our volume has grown 38.3 percent in 2003 vs. 2002, and year-to-date (January-September), our tonnage is up by 32 percent vs. the same period in 2003.
The company is currently very strong in the “independent Hispanic trade and the dollar store distribution channels,” according to Crespo. “Our target market—Mexican Hispanics—purchase candy in the dollar stores,” he explains. De la Rosa is already selling in many of the top dollar chains, and is gaining a presence in drugstores such as Walgreen’s, supermarkets such as H.E.B. and wholesale clubs like Costco.
De la Rosa currently has six successful brand names in the United States. It has also established several private label arrangements in Puerto Rico and is currently working with two major supermarket chains in Texas and New Jersey for a store brand marshmallow business.
In 2005, the company plans to launch three new products: bubble gum cherry lollipops in a 12-ounce bag, square “mega” bubble gum pieces in a 12-ounce bag, and most importantly, according to Crespo—cocktail peanuts with spicy and regular flavorings.
(Sabritas S. de R.L. de C.V.)
Mexico, D.F.
For the past 20 years, Alegro has been making candy for kids in Mexico. Three years ago, the company hit the U.S. market with brands such as Rockaleta, the number one lollipop in Mexico, according to Roberto Gonzalez, U.S./Sales manager for Alegro. “Most of our candies, such as Rockaleta, are intended for the Hipanic market; on the other hand, our private label targets everyone with items such as bubble gum,” he says.
Alegro is mostly targeting supermarkets, “cash and carry” stores and dollar stores in the U.S. “Those are the main places where Hispanics buy candy,” says Gonzalez.
In the near future, the company is planning to unveil even “more fun, quality” candies, according to Gonzalez. “The direction of the market is moving to a more competitive scenario, with more candy companies coming from overseas,” he says. “We plan to be right in there as a leading Mexican candy company.” n
CANEL’S S.A. de C.V.San Luis Potosi, Mexico
Mexico-based Canel’s is a chewing gum and candy manufacturer with more than 75 years of experience in the confectionery business; it also has some very big American plans: "Canel’s is looking to be present in every store candy set in the United States," maintains Emyre Barrios, exports general manager.
Canel’s specializes in manufacturing confectionery products such as: sugar-coated chewing gum and bubble gum, non-coated chewing gum and bubble gum, sugar-free chewing gum and bubble gum, hard and soft candy, lollipops, marshmallows, jellies, caramel milk lollipops and candy, cough drops, and more.  The company already manufactures confectionery products under private labels for highly recognized candy companies around the world, according to Barrios.
During the last few years, Canel’s has been adapting its presentations "to meet the diverse merchandising needs of the different distribution channels," says Barrios.
Canel’s is hardly new to the United States.  Back in the 1970s, the company’s confections were imported to this country and distributed by Mexican candy wholesalers to highly Hispanic areas. Then in 1989, Canel’s established Canel’s USA, based in San Antonio, Texas, "in order to strengthen the distribution and sales of our line in the USA market," says Barrios. To consolidate its position in key marketing areas, the company later opened two sales offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. Additionally, it has established a network of brokers and merchandisers.
Today, Canel’s continues to distribute its products directly from its distribution centers to its customers: wholesalers, major supermarkets, convenience stores and dollar stores. "Our market share is growing every year and our brand is becoming more and more recognized by American consumers," maintains Barrios. "As a matter of fact, we are the only Hispanic chewing gum sold in some major U.S. supermarket chains, c-stores and dollar stores in their regular candy and gum sections."
Canel’s brands include chewing gum and candy under the Canel’s name, as well as La Vaquita, a milk caramel candy.