Hot Seat ! Dulce de Leche M&M;’s Fail
March 2003 - By: Xochil Arkin-Information Officer

Dulce de Leche M&M’s Fail, Proving the Need for Niche Expertise

Masterfoods USA has recently announced that it will be pulling the plug on its first-ever product marketed at Hispanics—Dulce de Leche filled M&M’s. 

The caramel flavor was originally introduced in August 2001 in five markets including Miami, Los Angeles and San Antonio, and heavily backed by Spanish-language advertising. Just one year after the candy’s launch, the company has determined that the target audience prefers existing varieties and viewed Dulce de Leche as a special-occasion purchase.

In an effort to better target an Hispanic audience and in the hopes of not making similar mistakes in the future, Masterfoods acquired a Mexican candy company called the Lucas Group in the spring of 2002, long after the initial development of the specialty M&M’s.

"The relationship with Lucas allows us to bring more products that appeal to Hispanic consumers to the U.S. marketplace," the spokesman said. Masterfoods will use its extensive distribution system to extend brands already popular among children and teens in Mexico more widely to U.S. consumers, since about two-thirds of the U.S. Hispanic population is of Mexican descent.

Masterfoods has not made a final decision on which Lucas brands -- among them Felix sour fruit, Skwinkles licorice, and Lucas hot and spicy candy in flavors popular in Mexico like tamarind -- to launch beyond existing markets, including Texas, California and Chicago.

Mexican brands
Relying on authentic Hispanic brands to drive sales among the fastest-growing ethnic group in the U.S. is increasingly common. PepsiCo's Frito-Lay in May announced a snack line targeted at Hispanics and developed in partnership with Pepsi-owned Mexican snacks marketer Sabritas. Frito-Lay worked with Sabritas to choose Mexican brands familiar to Mexican-American and Latino consumers, including Sabritas Adobadas -- tomato and chile potato chips -- and Crujitos, cheese-and-chile flavor puffed-corn twists.

As the American economy becomes increasingly specialized, it is those who understand individual groups and there preferences that will succeed.

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