Mexico is not a chocolate country. Or at least not if you compare the average consumption made by Mexicans in a year, which is less than a kilo, with that of other markets such as the United States or Europe, where it ranges from six to eleven kilos a year.
Gabriel Fernández, general director of Mars Wrigley Latin America North, explains that the low consumption of chocolate in Mexico is due to the fact that other categories, such as fried foods, have positioned themselves better among Mexicans when sharing with other people.
“Sharing chocolate is something that is done in many other parts of the world. For example, if you go to another country and you get to see a soccer game or a soap opera in a house, they would take out a chocolate to share or a bowl of M&M’s,” he says.
Mexicans usually put baskets with fried foods in the center of the table and not so much bowls with M&M’s. Today the consumption of chocolate in Mexico -adds Fernández- is rather individual. “When you go to a corner store and buy yourself a chocolate, for example.”
Mars seeks to increase the sales of its brands by taking advantage of the collective consumption occasions that already exist. For example, during a family gathering, an event, or when giving a gift. “There is a lot of work to do and a great opportunity that we can capitalize on,” Fernández said in an interview.
The director calculates that if the category of chocolate to share is developed – with the launch of new presentations such as Turin bars, covered chocolates or “family” packaging of M&M’s – it could even double the consumption of chocolate in Mexico, and go from one to two kilos per capita . However, the executive recognizes the responsibility that the company has in not giving the wrong message. “We want to be very responsible in the consumption of chocolate. We want chocolates to be part of a consumption occasion, not part of the daily diet.”
Sugar-free chocolate, a developing category
Following the pandemic, consumers became more health conscious and that has fueled the development of the sugar-free chocolate category, which are formulated with sugar substitutes such as stevia.
Sales of sugar-free chocolate have nearly doubled in the United States – North America’s largest market – over the past five years, according to a September report by IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm.
Retail sales of sugar-free chocolate products in the United States increased 27% during the 52-week period ending July 10, 2022. This percentage compares with a 9% increase in total chocolate sales.
A larger assortment and new products are the reasons for the increase in sales of sugar-free chocolate, according to IRI. There are 23% more sugar-free chocolate items on shelves today compared to 2021.
Mars developed the Zero category under its Turin brand and this year is launching new presentations, such as one with almonds.
The brand is also working on reducing the number of calories in its traditional lines. “All our sizes have less than 250 calories and we are working on how we can lower it even more,” concludes Fernández.