Mars Inc wants to go over the moon in India, one bite at a time

Welcome to India.
Welcome to India.
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Last week, iconic chocolate brand M&M’s finally arrived in India, 75 years after it began selling in the US.

The sugar-coated, coloured chocolate candy, which even has dedicated stores in New York and Shanghai, is the largest-selling brand of American confectioneries major Mars Inc. In India, though, M&M’s market has been long dominated by rival Cadbury’s Gems.

But Mars Inc, which sells brands such as Twix, Snickers, Bounty, Skittles, and Galaxy, feels the country’s appetite for expensive chocolates is now ripe enough to launch a Rs80 pack of M&M’s here. At Rs12,000 crore, India’s chocolate market is one of the world’s fastest-growing.

Quartz spoke to Raghav Rekhi, marketing director, Mars Chocolate India, about why it took so long for it to try India.


India is the last big market where M&M’s has been launched? What took Mars Inc so long?

You’re right, India is one of the last remaining large markets where M&M’s didn’t have an official presence. Bear in mind that Mars International India (as a company) is five years old. We started local manufacturing here only last year (for some of our chocolate brands) and we have taken a disciplined and focused approach to launching our brands. Given the nascent size of its bite-sized chocolate market, this was the right time for us to bring M&M’s.

What was your consumer insight into the brand?

Normally you don’t expect latent equity for a brand to be present before you actually launch it. But the legacy of M&M’s is so much…that I think there was a pervasive awareness…in India well before we started selling here and well before we launched any form of brand communication. And that was really encouraging for us.

What about the chocolate market in India?

The Indian chocolate market continues to be amongst the fastest-growing in the world. It’s a sizeable market between Rs6,700 and Rs7,000 crore. India is a very large snacking market and chocolate as a category is within that space. What we did find is that the bite-sized category is still very small (Rs300 crore) here.

At Rs80 as the starting price point, you’re clearly catering to the premium end.

As I mentioned, India is the world’s fastest-growing chocolate market and that, too, across all price segments. So it isn’t just growing across the Rs5-10 space but across all price points. We find that growth rates for the higher price-point segments are actually greater than growth rates of lower price-point segment. While smaller than the mass-market, the higher-priced market is still sizeable. The proportion of premium products in the Indian chocolate space is only growing year-on-year. Do bear in mind that M&M’s is an imported product and we have to pay significant import duties in India. So, it is a competitive price point we’ve launched at.

Any India-specific innovations?

We’ve had to make significant efforts to make sure we innovate these products for masses in India. A green dot on our products in India (that connotes chocolate without egg), for instance, on the Snickers pack, means we had to develop a recipe for Snickers specific to India.