M&M/Mars hopes to take a bite out of market for baking chips

December 26, 1992|By George Lazarus | George Lazarus,Chicago Tribune

M&M's, a $1 billion-plus sales juggernaut, now wants to do a big number on the baking and decorating business.

Corporate parent M&M/Mars has begun marketing a mini-size, semisweet version of its plain and peanut candies.

That's the first move into the baking-chip and ingredient category for M&M's, a candy that debuted 52 years ago. The family-held, privately owned Mars Inc. has $12 billion in annual sales.

The mini-M&M's -- about a third the size of regular candies -- are going head-on against Nestle, which for years has owned the chocolate-chips-and-morsels category. Nielsen Marketing Research measured the category as a $252.5 million business for the 52 weeks that ended Sept. 12.

Nestle owns 59 percent of that business, with the next biggest brand, Hershey, having an 8 percent share.

The trouble with the category, however, is that sales slipped 4 percent for that recent tracking period. Nestle Toll House chip sales declined by that same percentage.

Why the decline? With time pressures everywhere, people aren't baking from scratch as much.

But that could change. At least that's what M&M's is banking on.

One big plus for new semisweet M&M's is that they come in the same candy coatings as the regular candy. That is, red, green, orange, yellow and brown with the traditional white M inscribed on each.

"We've had an amazing sell-in" with the grocery trade, says a spokeswoman for Hackettstown, N.J.-based M&M/Mars.

Watch for national distribution of the line early in the spring.

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