Consumers in the United States spent a considerable $36.9 billion on candy in 2021, and according to projections by the National Confectioners Association, by 2026, this spending is expected to increase to $44.9 billion. With this insatiable appetite for sweets, the Hispanic Candy National Association has made its mission to open doors for Latino manufacturers looking to grow in the confectionery industry.
In a conversation with Abasto Magazine, Baruc Navarro, the current president of the Hispanic Candy National Association (HCNA), spoke about the organization’s work to bring together the growing number of Hispanic companies marketing their candy and snacks in the U.S. market.
Navarro explained the importance and benefits for the Hispanic confectionery and snack industry of having an association that represents them and helps them open doors for their products and what challenges Hispanic brands to face to grow in the competitive U.S. candy market.
Abasto Magazine: Tell us about the origin of the association.
Baruc Navarro: The association was born out of informal talks between some manufacturers. It was officially founded in 2014, and the first board of directors was chaired by Abraham Rosa (Montes); Victor Franco (Canel’s); and Ruben Herrera (Barcel USA), but of course, there were many more people and companies involved in the project since its inception.
RA: Why did you create the National Hispanic Confectionery Association, and what are its objectives?
BN: We saw the opportunity and need to create an association for the confectionery and snacks industry where members could share experiences and look for joint projects to promote the growth of these categories in the U.S. market. It has always been clear to us at HCNA that there are objectives that, if we work on them as a group, the impact is much greater.
RA: How does the association help Hispanic confectionery companies navigate the U.S. market?
BN: The bond created among the member companies did not exist before. The most powerful thing that has been done so far is the networking we have created between the partner brands and distributors. But we are always looking for new projects in which we can create platforms that facilitate the brands’ access to new channels and markets, leaving each brand to act independently according to its needs and interests.
RA: What benefits do Hispanic confectionery companies have from becoming HCNA members?
BN: We currently have two main events per year, the annual convention in which each brand has private working sessions with the top 25 Hispanic confectionery distributors, and the other is the HCNA Pavilion at the National Confectioners Association’s Sweets & Snacks show.
Right now, for example, retailers are starting to reach out to HCNA because they want to grow their Hispanic candy programs and ensure they have the right assortment of products and brands for their type of store. This kind of thing will be one of the members’ main benefits in the future.
RA: What plans does the association have for growth in the coming years?
BN: Consolidate and improve our current events and find more forums to help partners grow their brand names in more new sales channels.
RA: How has the Hispanic confectionery industry been growing in the U.S.?
BN: Growth has been steady over the last 20 years at least, and this has been key to companies like De La Rosa, Ricolino USA, and Canels, which today are world leaders in confectionery. It has also catapulted the growth of newer companies, such as Dulces Mara, Manzela, and Zumbapica, to name a few.
RA: What categories have stood out the most in the U.S. market?
BN: Tamarind and chili-flavored candies are trending; on the other hand, you have milk products that are easier for other consumers to accept. But the variety of products is enormous if you look, for example, at HCNA’s partner companies, Ricolino USA, BondyFiesta, Broncolin, Canel’s, Cooltoons, Cordialsa, De La Rosa, Dulces Mara, Dulces Gómez, Las Sevillanas, Manzela, Montes, Sonric’s, Técnica Mexicana de Alimentación and Zumbapica, among all these companies the variety of categories covered is broad. They are all very successful in what they do.
RA: What challenges has the Hispanic confectionery industry faced to make itself known in the United States?
BN: Speaking of the mainstream market, the person making the purchasing decisions needs to learn the right products and brands. This often causes no opening to grow the category, and the results are not optimal. As an association, we have to find the proper mechanisms or platforms to collaborate with brands so that the results are the best possible and, as a result, we achieve the growth of the Hispanic candy and snacks category.
RA: Is the Hispanic candy industry ready to make the crossover to the Anglo market, or do you still have enough room to grow in the Hispanic market in the nostalgic products category?
BN: I think they are two things that go hand in hand. The Hispanic confectionery market continues to grow, and on the other hand, the generational change is causing many nostalgic products to make the crossover.