Mexicans have a sweet tooth and love their candy! With a wide variety of traditional, imported, and artisanal sweets to choose from, candy is a popular treat and gift item in Mexico. But what are the top-selling candies that Mexicans can’t seem to get enough of?
The Most Popular Candies in Mexico
Some of the top-selling candies in Mexico include:
- Pulparindo – A chewy tamarind candy with chili powder.
- Pelón Pelo Rico – A chewy candy with a sweet milk caramel flavor.
- Tamarindo – A tangy, sour tamarind candy.
- Dulces de leche – Caramel candies made with sweetened condensed milk.
- Mazapán – Peanut candies often shaped into figures for Day of the Dead.
- Ate – Fruity cups made from condensed milk.
- Duvalín – Chewy, chocolate-flavored candy.
- Almendrados – Almond candies made from almond paste.
- Obleas – Thin communion wafers sandwiching sweet fillings.
- Chicles o Gomas de Masticar – Chewing gum, especially imported brands.
These traditional Mexican candies have been popular treats for generations. Brands like Pelón Pelo Rico, Dulces Vero, Coronado, and Mazapán de la Rosa are among the top-selling candy producers in Mexico.
The Origins and History of Pulparindo
One of the most iconic and beloved candies in Mexico is Pulparindo. This chewy tamarind candy has a cult following across Mexico. It is produced by the candy company Barcel and has been popular for over 50 years.
Pulparindo gets its name from the two main ingredients – tamarind pulp and chili powder (“pico de pimiento” in Spanish). The origins of Pulparindo date back to the 1960s when Barcel began experimenting with tamarind, a tropical fruit grown in western Mexico. Tamarind had been traditionally used in agua frescas drinks and candies like Pulparindo were an innovative new format.
The Barcel company was founded in Mexico City in 1963 by Antonio Barceló Cámara and his wife. Their goal was to produce high-quality candy at an affordable price. At first, Barcel made simple hard candies. But in the mid-1960s, they developed the chewy tamarind Pulparindo candies that would become their trademark product.
Pulparindo quickly became popular thanks to its unique combination of sweet tamarind, subtly spicy chili powder, and chewy texture. The candy’s mascot of a happy man with a huge cowboy mustache made the product stand out on store shelves. Pulparindo was an instant hit and over the decades has become a classic candy in Mexico. Even as Barcel expanded into other candies and snacks, Pulparindo remains its most iconic, nostalgic, and best-selling candy.
Regional Variations in Candy Preferences
While Pulparindo is popular across all of Mexico, different regions of the country have their own local candy specialties that are top sellers in those areas. Here are some examples:
- Northern Mexico – Garapiñados candy made from sugar, peanuts, and piloncillo is a common treat. Regions like Chihuahua are also known for their licorice.
- Central Mexico – Candy from towns like Celaya, Amecameca, and Toluca are famous. These include obleas, jamoncillos, and lechuguillas.
- Southern Mexico – Candies flavored with tamarind, mango, chili powder and other local fruits are popular. Puebla is known for chimayo candies.
- Gulf Coast – Coconut candies and dulce de leche made from goat’s milk caramel are regional favorites.
- Yucatán Peninsula – Habanero chili, honey, and local citrus fruits flavor their candies like dulce de cochinita pibil.
So while certain candies like tamarind Pulparindo are best-sellers across Mexico, local candies and traditional treats remain popular in their native regions.
The Influence of Holidays and Celebrations
Candy sales in Mexico spike during certain annual holidays and celebrations. Some of the key events that drive candy consumption include:
- Day of the Dead – Candy skulls, chocolate, and marzipan are popular gifts for altars.
- Christmas – Chocolate cajeta fudge and bocolanos cookies are in demand.
- Valentine’s Day – Chocolate truffles and candied figs become best-sellers.
- Independence Day (September 16) – Spicy tamarind Pulparindos in the colors of Mexico’s flag are very popular.
- Día de los Niños (Day of the Child) – Kids get candies and chocolates as gifts.
- Piñatas – These are filled with candies to split among children at parties year-round.
Candies like mazapán and obleas are also purchased for sacraments like first communions and baptisms. So Mexican candy sales tend to rise and fall depending on the calendar of religious and civic holidays.
The Rise of Artisanal Mexican Candy
While many major candy brands like Barcel dominate sales in Mexico, there is a growing artisanal candy market. Creative new candy makers are bringing back old styles and inventing new Mexican candies.
Some examples of popular artisanal candies include:
- Candy made from exotic fruits like guava, mango, and prickly pear cactus.
- Candied nuts like pecan pralines.
- Effigy candies for Day of the Dead made with intricate designs.
- Candies flavored with ingredients like chapulines (grasshoppers).
- Gourmet chocolates made from Mexican cacao.
- Craft tamarind or chili candies.
- Candy made with cajeta dulce de leche or goat’s milk caramel.
These upscale candies appeal to foodie culture in Mexico and also make good gifts. Boutique candy shops are gaining popularity in hip neighborhoods of Mexico City, Guadalajara, Oaxaca and tourist destinations like San Miguel de Allende. The emphasis is on unique artisanal candies using local and seasonal ingredients.
The Influence of U.S. Candy Brands
Mexico also has a sweet tooth for American candy brands. Imports of U.S. candy have grown, especially gum, chocolate, and old-fashioned sweets. Some of the most popular imported candies in Mexico include:
- Milky Way
- Hershey’s Kisses
- Bubble gum
These candies have gained popularity due to exposure through American pop culture and movies. Their availability in stores and from street vendors has also increased access to imported candy brands. This reflects Mexico’s tastes expanding beyond traditional candies to embrace global confections.
Factors Driving Candy Consumption in Mexico
There are several socioeconomic factors that help drive high candy consumption in Mexico:
- A large young population – About 27% of Mexicans are under 14.
- Rising incomes – More discretionary spending is available for small luxuries like candy.
- Urbanization – City dwellers have access to more candy outlets and vendors.
- Snacking culture – Candy is an affordable snack between meals.
- Street food stalls – Candies are impulse purchases at these popular stands.
- Convenience stores – Chains like Oxxo are major candy distributors.
- Inexpensive prices – Domestic candies remain an affordable treat for most.
- Gift-giving culture – Candy is given for birthdays, holidays, events.
As Mexico continues to develop economically, the trend towards greater candy consumption is expected to persist. Candies – both traditional and imported – will likely remain a popular treat across age groups.
Health Concerns Over High Candy Consumption
While Mexico’s love of candy is deep-rooted, the high level of sugar consumption has health experts concerned. Mexico has the world’s highest per capita consumption rate of sugar-sweetened beverages. Candy is an extension of the sweet tooth developed through soda pop and aguas frescas.
High candy intake is connected to Mexico’s rising rates of:
These public health issues disproportionately impact lower income Mexicans who rely on cheap industrialized food and candy. Activists argue that candy marketers specifically target children from poorer families.
In response, policies like sugar taxes on soda have been implemented. Some schools have banned junk food and candy sales. But domains of high candy consumption like festivals and street vending have been harder to regulate. Getting Mexicans to cut down on candy remains an enormous health challenge.
Importance of Supporting Mexican Candy Makers
While candy consumption comes with health concerns, Mexico’s candy makers and artisans reflect the country’s vibrant food culture. Small batch candy producers face challenges competing with corporate brands flooding store shelves. Many traditional candies are also at risk of being forgotten if not continuously produced.
Conscientious consumers can support local confectioners by:
- Seeking out regional and artisanal candies while traveling in Mexico
- Buying directly from candy makers at markets and ferias
- Choosing ethical producers who source good ingredients
- Sampling innovative new candy flavors and styles
- Ordering candies online or internationally to try at home
- Learning about regional candy styles and traditions
This encourages candy diversity, helps small businesses, and preserves beloved Mexican candy traditions. While enjoying sweets in moderation, consumers can thoughtfully support Mexico’s many talented candy artists.
Mexico’s long-standing love affair with candy is interwoven into its culture. Traditional candies like tamarind Pulparindos have iconic status across generations. Regional candy variations showcase Mexico’s geography and flavors. Festivals and celebrations fuel seasonal candy crazes. While health advocates caution against excess sugar, candy remains an integral part of life’s milestones and a small but beloved indulgence. Mexico’s candy makers continue innovating with new flavors but stay grounded in enduring classics loved since childhood. By supporting these small confectionery businesses, consumers can thoughtfully celebrate Mexico’s sweet tooth and rich candy heritage.