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Mouthwatering Idea

M&M caters to Hispanics with new Dulce de Leche candies


July 11, 2001
Copyright © 2001 THE MIAMI HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

M&M's are going ethnic.

Hoping to tap into the Hispanic market, M&M/Mars will launch a new M&M candy -- Dulce de Leche-Caramel Chocolate Candies -- later this month in five predominantly Hispanic markets, including Miami.

``This variety was designed with Hispanic taste buds in mind,'' said Roberto E. Garcia, ethnic marketing manager at M&M/Mars.

M&M/Mars will begin shipping the new candies on July 31 to Miami, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Antonio and McAllen-Brownsville, Texas -- the five U.S. cities with the largest concentration of Hispanics. A nationwide rollout of the candy will follow at a later date.

``We want to be the first to develop a product Hispanics will recognize and to really bond with this community,'' Garcia said.

Work on the Dulce de Leche candies -- which feature a chocolate and caramel swirl within the traditional M&M candy shell -- began two-and-a-half years ago as M&M/Mars looked for avenues to augment the business, which is still privately held by the Mars family.

The numbers on Hispanics were just too good to ignore.

Recent census data shows that there are 35 million Hispanics in the United States. With purchasing power of $325 billion, Hispanics have become a prime target for advertisers and products. It is estimated that within the next 10 years 40 percent of all new consumers will be Hispanic and that Hispanics will account for nearly 15 percent of the entire U.S. population.

``We wanted to take into consideration the new face of the United States,'' Garcia said.

Marketing experts agree it's a wise move for M&M/Mars.

``Obviously it's one more recognition of the importance of the Hispanic marketplace,'' said Arturo Villar, publisher of Hispanic Market Weekly. ``It's also a recognition of how Latin tastes have permeated the non-Hispanic market.''

Villar praised M&M/Mars for being ``tuned in'' to consumers preferences and for being savvy enough to detect new trends.

``It's an important investment on their part,'' Villar said.

Dulce de leche -- caramelized sweetened condensed milk -- long popular throughout Latin America where it's eaten by the spoonful, on bread and crackers, in cakes and pastries, was the obvious flavor to woo Hispanics. Cubans call it fanguito. Colombians call it ariquepe. Mexicans call it cajeta. Peruvians call it manjar blanco.

``Dulce de leche is big in Latin America regardless of what culture you come from,'' said Garcia, who is Venezuelan and married to a Cuban.

Besides, the product has already crossed over into U.S. households. Dulce de leche became an instant hit in the United States when Haagen Dazs introduced its wildly popular dulce de leche ice cream several years ago.

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