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Sweet Spot

The world’s candy land is now flat

Americans celebrate Halloween today by donning silly costumes, watching scary movies, and consuming lots of candy. While the holiday has not quite caught on around the world, the candy certainly has.

Mars’ Snickers bar is this year’s most popular around the globe. It surpassed both M&M candies and Kraft’s Trident gum to take the top spot, in part due to innovation in the US with new brands like the Snickers PB Squared. But also, Snickers’ success is due to growth in emerging markets like Russia, where sales have doubled to $300 million since 2007.

With the decline of chocolate consumption in Europe since the economic crisis, the emerging middle classes in Russia, Brazil, India and China made up 55% of last year’s growth in confection retail. While many people scoffed at Kraft’s acquisition of Cadbury in 2010, that allowed it to penetrate emerging markets through greater distribution in Asia and Latin America. Ferrero, makers of Kinder, Nutella and Tic Tac, is making inroads in Mexico with plans to open a plant in the state of Guanajuato.

Nestle’s big bet is on China where it bought a 60% stake in Chinese candy company Hsu Fu Chi for $1.7 billion last year. It plans to open two research and development centers in China.

Thirty years ago, most Chinese people had never even tried chocolate but Mars has been able to dominate the market by discovering that Dove chocolates are the perfect size for the Chinese consumer and good for gifts.

But there’s still room for other players in China where chocolate sales are expected to rise 19% to $1.2 billion this year.

Businessweek’s best selling candies of the world list was filled with emerging markets for sweets:

  • Brazil: Cadbury’s Trident gum with $682 million in annual sales
  • Russia: Orbit gum $445 million
  • China: Hsu Fu Chi $256 million
  • Mexico: Trident gum $345 million
  • India: Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate $127 million

In India, four of the top five candy brands are now chocolate (the real kind; Indian English has long included sucking candies and chews under the term “chocolate”), and the country is expected to see a 7% increase in chocolate sales this year.

Not surprisingly, the emerging sweet tooth is presenting another business opportunity in India and China: the dental industry.

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