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Mars aims to capture a bigger bite of the chocolate market

By JACK FREIFELDER (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-16 09:46

Mars aims to capture a bigger bite of the chocolate market

Chocolate candies are displayed at M&M'S Asia flagship store in Shanghai. CHINA DAILY

Candy giant sets up megastore in Shanghai to take advantage of Chinese demand

Though chocolate consumption in China is still a far cry from the levels seen in the US and Europe, it has not deterred global confectionery majors like Mars Inc from setting up exclusive megastores to drive growth in the world's second-largest economy.

"Chocolate is a growing category in China and M&M'S is the largest candy brand in the world," Brian Schiegg, general manager of the Mars Retail Group, said on Thursday. "The color and fun of M&M'S transcends all geographies and the minute a customer walks into the megastore, they get a unique opportunity to experience the brand personally."

On Monday, Mars Inc opened its M&M'S World store in Shanghai, the company's first such flagship store in Asia, and the operation has already created 130 new jobs.

Nearly three-quarters of a million people have already visited the 1,580-square-meter facility, and Schiegg said "the positive reception gives the company great confidence".

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"Since the store's soft opening about seven week ago, the response has been tremendous," Schiegg said. "With more than 300 million visitors each year, Shanghai and East Nanjing Road present a fantastic opportunity to connect with both local residents and regional and international tourists."

Schiegg said the opening of the Shanghai storefront also represents the strong growth of Mars products both in China and throughout Asia, adding that M& M'S was already among the "top five chocolate brands in China".

Mars Inc, founded in 1911 in Tacoma, Washington, is one of the world's leading global candy companies. Now based in McLean, Virginia, the company also makes a number of well-known brands, including Snickers, Skittles and Starburst.

The Shanghai site is the Mars Retail Group's fifth international M& M'S World store location.

With two full floors devoted to the colorful chocolate candy, customers at the new location can choose from a wide variety of merchandise, including backpacks, M& M'S-themed cellphone covers and kitchenware, as well and Shanghai-and China-centric products like specialty mugs and t-shirts.

Patrons can create their own blend of M& M'S from a mix-and-match menu that includes 22 colors and three different varieties (milk chocolate, peanut and almond).

The centerpiece of the new store is the "Great Wall of Chocolate"-the world's largest M& M'S candy wall.

Clarence Mak, president of Mars Chocolate China, said that the opening of M& M'S World Shanghai represents Mars' "significant investment and commitment to the Chinese market".

Mak also said the attraction was a "new, engaging way" to increase the popularity of one of the world's largest confectionery brands.

Lawrence Allen, a US-based author and commentator who formerly worked as an international business executive with both Hershey and Nestle-two leading chocolate manufacturers-said Mars' presence in the Chinese market is bolstered by the success of the company's Dove chocolate brand, which accounts for "about 30 percent" of the chocolate sold in China.

Allen, who is also the author of the 2009 book Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds and Wallets of China's Consumers, said: "In my experience Chinese people react to chocolate pretty much the same way that people anywhere do. And if China continues on its annual growth rate, it will eventually become the largest chocolate market in the world. It may take 20 or 30 years, but they'll get there."

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