What Are the World's Most Popular Candies?

BusinessWeek

Despite the recession, global candy consumption is growing. In many countries, the industry giants must battle small players for market share

If you've ever tried to find a Snickers bar in Saigon or Hershey's Kisses in Paris, you were out of luck. While such American favorites as Coca-Cola, Big Macs, and Marlboros can be bought in just about every major city in the world, Americans looking to satisfy a sweet tooth overseas must choose from among such exotic brands as Flake, Freddo, and Curly Wurlys.

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The global confectionery market accounted for $150 billion in retail sales in 2008, according to international market researcher Euromonitor. And it's a market that has grown steadily over the past five years at a 5% compound annual rate. The U.S. is the world's largest candy consumer, spending more than $8.8 billion on various sweets last year, a 2% increase over 2007. On average, Americans consume about 25 lb. of candy per capita annually, according to the Census Bureau.

The rest of the world likes its sweets, too. As industry experts will tell you, confectionery is broken up into three categories: chocolate, nonchocolate, and chewing gum. Chocolate is by far the largest, with a 55% of the total, while gum holds only a 14% stake but is the fastest-growing segment.

Switzerland is the reigning chocolate champ, where per capita consumption is 25 lb. a year. Britain comes in second, eating 19.4 lb., and Belgium third at 19.1. (The U.S., by comparison, seems positively abstemious with an average consumption of 11.6 lb., although we apparently like to load up on plenty of other sweets instead.)

Chewing Away Cravings

So what are the chocolates and candies that people like to eat most around the world? As June is national candy month, BusinessWeek in celebration collaborated with Euromonitor to compile a list of the world's top 25 best-selling candy brands by country. The results were fascinating. For example, did you think that truffes au chocolat were the most popular candy in France? If you did, you were wrong. The winner is Hollywood chewing gum.

One of the reasons behind the surge in gum sales is the tough anti-tobacco stances that many governments around the world are taking, especially in countries such as France and Italy where smoking remains widespread. Increasingly unable to smoke indoors or looking for a cigarette alternative, many smokers are taking up chewing gum.

The global economic downturn may have caused many consumers to cut discretionary spending, but candy proves to be an exception. Nielsen categorizes candy as among the top five recession-proof foodstuff categories, alongside seafood, dry pasta, beer, and pasta sauce. "People have a special relationship with candy, especially those who have grown up with it," says Michael Allured, publisher of Manufacturing Confectioner, a trade magazine. "It's comforting and relatively inexpensive."

Sweets Skirmishes

The candy business is dominated by global giants. For years Britain's Cadbury battled it out for the top spot with Nestlé based in Vevey, Switzerland. But the April 2008 acquisition by privately held Mars of Chicago chewing gum maker Wm. Wrigley Jr. for $23 billion propelled Mars from No. 5 in 2001 to No. 1 in 2008.

Emerging markets have seen particular growth in recent years, leading some multinationals to more aggressively penetrate these markets in an effort to increase their market share. Yet while the biggest companies and brands enjoy supremacy in multiple markets — Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate bar, for example, is the best-seller in Australia, Britain, and India — they still enjoy only a 42% market share worldwide. That leaves smaller, local manufacturers like Hsu Fu Chi International in China and Tiger Brands in South Africa to enjoy dominant market share in their home countries.

M&M's Are No. 1

Billions of candy bars and sticks of gum. Billions of dollars. Billions of calories. Anyway you look at it, candy is big business. From the U.S. to India, international giants such as Mars Inc., Cadbury, Nestlé, and Kraft dominate the industry but there is still room for smaller, regional players like South Africa's Tiger Brands and China's Hsu Fu Chi International, each of which is its country's No. 1 candymaker. With data from Euromonitor, BusinessWeek compiled a list of the world's most popular candies and in many countries the results were surprising. While chocolate is still the most popular candy in the world, chewing gum is growing rapidly. The reason behind gum's growth? Tougher antismoking campaigns and aggressive pushes by manufacturers into new markets.

World's Best-Selling Candy: The Top 10

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1. U.S. — M&M's

World rank: 1*
Country: U.S.
Best-selling candy: M&M's
Who makes it: Mars Inc.
Annual sales: $1.8 billion**
What is it: Chocolate candy

Invented in 1941 by Forrest Mars and R. Bruce Murrie, the duo who gave the candy its name, M&M's top the list as the No. 1 candy brand sold in the U.S. with $1.8 billion in sales. Virginia-based Mars Inc. is now the world's leading confectioner following its 2008 acquisition of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., according to Candy Industry magazine, and it also produces the Snickers and Dove brands in addition to Pedigree and Whiskas pet food.

*Ranks according to Euromonitor
**2007 sales figures in U.S. dollars

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2. United Kingdom — Cadbury's Dairy Milk

World rank: 2
Country: United Kingdom
Best-selling candy: Cadbury's Dairy Milk
Who makes it: Cadbury
Annual sales: $852 million
What is it: Milk chocolate bar

According to the European candy trade group Caobisco, the British are the second largest consumers of chocolate in the world, annually eating more than 19 lbs. per capita. (The Swiss are No. 1.) Cadbury's Dairy Milk, which the company plans to make certifiably Fairtrade in the U.K. and Ireland by the end of the summer 2009, is the most popular chocolate bar with over $852 million in sales.

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3. Germany — Milka

World rank: 3
Country: Germany
Best-selling candy: Milka
Who makes it: Kraft
Annual sales: $733 million
What is it: Milk chocolate

The Germans are the fourth-largest consumers of chocolate per capita. Milka is the best-selling brand in Germany by a wide margin, grossing more than $730 million (Lindt trails in second place with less than $500 million). Now owned by Kraft, Swiss-created Milka uses the same mauve-colored packaging and cow-in-snow-covered-mountains image as when the name was trademarked in 1901. All but one of Germany's top five best-selling candy brands is a chocolate product, with gummi maker Haribo coming in fifth.

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4. Brazil — Trident

World rank: 4
Country: Brazil
Best-selling candy: Trident
Who makes it: Cadbury
Annual sales: $682 million
What is it: Chewing gum

Trident is not only the No. 1 candy in Brazil, it is also the No. 1 brand of chewing gum in the world, Cadbury says.

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5. Japan — Meiji

World rank: 5
Country: Japan
Best-selling candy: Meiji
Who makes it: Meiji Seika Kaisha
Annual sales: $479 million
What is it: Chocolate bar

Japan's winning brand is Meiji chocolate from privately held Meiji Seika Kaisha Ltd. The Tokyo-based company opened "100% Chocolate Café" in its hometown in 2004 featuring 56 different types of chocolate made with cacao beans from 18 countries in flavors such as cheese, black pepper, jasmine, basil, and lemon salt.

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6. Russia — Orbit

World rank: 6
Country: Russia
Best-selling candy: Orbit
Who makes it: Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.
Annual sales: $445 million
What is it: Chewing gum

Orbit gum, which is owned by Mars Inc. subsidiary Wrigley, dominates the Russian candy market with $445 million in sales. Alpen Gold chocolate bars, a division of Kraft, is a distant second, grossing less than $198 million.

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7. Mexico — Trident

World rank: 7
Country: Mexico
Best-selling candy: Trident
Who makes it: Cadbury
Annual sales: $354 million
What is it: Chewing gum

Mexico is another country of gum-chewers with three gum brands among the five best-selling candies. Cadbury says it was the first gum to voyage to space, in 1964.

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8. France — Hollywood

World rank: 8
Country: France
Best-selling candy: Hollywood
Who makes it: Cadbury
Annual sales: $318 million
What is it: Chewing gum

California-themed Hollywood gum is the most popular candy item in France. While chewing gum may still be seen as largely an American activity, "le chewing gum," as the French now call it, has all but replaced "pâte à mâcher," which literally meant "paste to chew."

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9. Italy — Vivident

World rank: 9
Country: Italy
Best-selling candy: Vivident
Who makes it: Perfetti Van Melle
Annual sales: $313 million
What is it: Chewing gum

Vivident chewing gum reigns supreme in Italy's candy market. The sugar-free gum is manufactured by the Italian- and Dutch-owned Perfetti Van Melle Group, which also owns other household names such as Mentos, AirHeads, and Chupa Chups, among others. Italians spent over $312 million on Vivident, up from just under $107 million in 2001, when Italian chocolate maker Perugina claimed the No. 1 spot.

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10. China — Hsu Fu Chi

World rank: 10
Country: China
Best-selling candy: Hsu Fu Chi
Who makes it: Hsu Fu Chi International
Annual sales: $256 million
What is it: Assorted candies

Hsu Fu Chi International offers a wide range of sweets that include jelly beans, gummies, lollipops, peanut crisp, chocolates, and coffee-flavored hard candies. In September 2008 the company recalled two of its puffed-rice roll products — the Cheese and Butter Corn flavors — from Singapore following detection of the presence of the chemical melamine.

Read on for BusinessWeek's full list of the world's best-selling candies.

Deprez is a reporter for BusinessWeek.

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