People who like hard candies in the United States often may be eating sweets made by the Argentine company Arcor without knowing it.
Arcor’s hard candies appear in the large dispensers at food stores and theme parks that sell by the pound, are sold by the bag in retail stores under different labels and are provided to customers at Bank of America branches.
“We are the largest producer of processed foods in Argentina, and the world’s largest maker of hard candies, with a daily production capacity of 3.5 million pounds,” said Andrés Alarcón, Arcor’s Miami-based vice president for the U.S. and Canada.
“We import these candies in bulk and sell them either directly to retailers or distributors,” Alarcón said. “Sometimes they are sold in bulk, and sometimes they are bagged and sold under different brands. You can find our products in many large chains — like Kroger and H-E-B [in Texas] — but you can’t tell, because we package them under private labels.”
Arcor, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, has 40 production plants in Latin America and sells a range of food products to customers in 120 countries. “Arcor makes over 2,000 items, and we import and sell about 80 in the U.S., including hard candies, chocolates, cookies, crackers and marmalades. The U.S. market offers great opportunities for Arcor.”
Arco sells hard candies, chocolate-filled mints, soft butter toffee, assorted fruit-filled candies with real fruit pulp and “Bon o Bon,” a chocolate bonbon filled with peanut cream, a favorite in Latin communities. Another popular product is its Argentine-style alfajores, typically chocolate-covered cookies with a dulce de leche filling. It also offers a range of chocolates in different shapes, including milk, dark, white, with nuts and crunchy.
The company sells some of its products here under its own Arcor and Bagley brands, but is principally a private-label producer, making products for retailers like Aldi, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, Office Depot/Office Max, Sedano’s, Navarro pharmacies, as well as for Costco. Arcor’s own brands are also available online.
“We sell to Latins and to the general market, and we reach most of the country either by direct sales to chains or through distributors,” the Arcor executive said. Private label sales to chains like Walgreens and CVS are mostly seasonal, when the stores want novelty candies for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, etc.
The company’s biggest sellers across the U.S. are red-and-white banded Starlight Mints and Fruitfuls. “Our fruit candies — like Fruitfuls — are actually filled with real fruit pulp,” Alarcón said with pride.
About 40 percent of Arcor’s North American sales are private label, while 30 percent are branded and the remainder bulk. Arcor’s largest sales of branded candies (Arcor, Bagley) are in Florida and its biggest clients are the dollar stores, which operate nationwide.
Arcor is part of the privately owned Arcor Group, which has about 20,000 employees and logged sales of $3.2 billion in 2014. In addition to Miami, it has regional offices in Europe, Asia and Africa, and strategic associations with Danone (dairy products), Bimbo (baked products) and Coca-Cola.
The group is vertically integrated, producing food from its agricultural operations, processing food at its plants throughout Latin America, and manufacturing its own product labels and containers (for its own brands and for private-label clients), as well as all the boxes used by the company.
Its own brands are Arcor and Bagley (candies) and La Compagnola (processed foods). Its Cartocor subsidiary makes boxes and the Converflex unit produces packaging for foods and beverages. The company exports all over the world.
Arcor was founded in 1951 as a small-confections factory in the Argentine city of Arroyito, in the province of Córdoba. Its name was formed from the first letters of Arroyito and Córdoba.
The founders, who came from families of Italian immigrants, expanded their domestic operations and acquired other food companies, building the company into Argentina’s largest processed food producer and an international exporter. Arcor stresses its commitment to sustainable operations and to environmental and social responsibility. In 2014, for example, the company donated $7 million to social welfare causes.
Born and raised in Chile, Alarcón has worked with Arcor for 18 years. He took over the Miami office in 2001 and became head of the North America region in 2011.
Arcor made it first sale to the U.S. in the mid-1960s, when it shipped products to a distributor in New York City. In 1993, the company opened its first office in the U.S. in Miami, and later made Miami its regional headquarters.
The Miami regional headquarters has 10 employees handling administration, finance, marketing and logistics. Arcor currently imports all the products it sells in the U.S. and Canada through Miami, from its production centers in Latin America.
The market for confections in the U.S. is highly competitive, but Arcor has identified a niche market — private label — and is simultaneously advancing sales of its own branded lines, which have enjoyed success in many international markets outside Latin America.
Private label chocolates, for example, represent only a tiny sliver of the $17 billion U.S. chocolate market, dominated by Hershey and Mars. But with production centers in Latin America, Arcor has an advantage in shipping private label chocolate products to the U.S., since travel time from the large private label competitors in Eastern Europe is longer, so Arcor products are fresher when they arrive and have a longer shelf life.
“Arcor’s production capacity for hard candies, for example, is an important advantage for our exports,” Alarcón said. “When companies ask us for bids, we have to be able to supply the volumes they need, with high quality and competitive prices.
We are working to expand our presence in the U.S. market and our size is a key factor. But most important is the consistent, high quality of our products, and consumers appreciate quality.”
Business: Based in Argentina, Arcor is that country’s largest producer of processed foods and a major international supplier of candies, cookies, marmalades and other food products, reaching markets in 120 countries. With 40 production facilities throughout Latin America, Arcor makes more than 2,000 food products and is the world’s largest producer of hard candies. Arcor opened its first office in the United States in Miami in 1993. It is part of Arcor Group (Grupo Arcor), a vertically integrated company that makes processed foods, packaging materials and cartons for all its retail products and owns a large agricultural division.
Corporate headquarters: Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Headquarters for U.S. and Canada: 6205 Blue Lagoon Dr., Miami.
Founded: In 1951 in Córdoba province, Argentina.
Regional management: Andrés Alarcón, vice president for the U.S. and Canada.
Employees: About 20,000, mostly in Latin America; 10 in Miami.
Ownership: Privately owned.
Revenues: $3.2 billion in 2014.