Much of USA's Valentine's candy came from Mexico

Much of the chocolate in the U.S. comes from across the border.

ByABC News
February 12, 2009, 7:09 PM

TOLUCA, Mexico -- Nothing says Valentine's Day in America like the chocolates, candy hearts or red jelly beans you'll be giving your sweetheart this year. (Right?)

Yet these days, the odds are pretty good that the candy comes from Mexico.

From jellied hearts to chocolates, Mexico's candy exports to the United States have more than doubled since 2002 as cheaper labor and sugar draw U.S. candymakers south of the border.

The latest arrival is Hershey, which is building a 1,500-employee factory in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey to replace plants it closed in the USA and Canada. It's following the lead of companies ranging from Brach's Confections, famous for its caramels, to Ferrara Pan Candy, the maker of Red Hots and Jawbusters.

Confectioners say they're trying to survive in a difficult business climate, but U.S. unions bemoan the loss of candymaking jobs. "All these companies want to make it cheap overseas somewhere, then bring it back and sell it to our people who don't have any jobs to buy it," said Dennis Bomberger, business manager of Chocolate Workers Local 464 in Hershey, Pa.

The move to Mexico began several years ago with makers of hard candy, said Bernard Pacyniak, editor of Candy Industry magazine. Many of them cited high U.S. sugar prices, which have been propped up for decades by government subsidies. "It's multinationals just trying to contain their costs," Pacyniak said.

Companies with new Mexican operations include:

Brach's Confections, which closed its Chicago factory in 2003 and moved to a new factory in Linares, Mexico.

Bobs Candies of Albany, Ga., a leader in the candy cane business, which moved the last of its production to Reynosa in 2005.

Sunrise Confections, which opened a plant in Ciudad Ju?rez in 2001 to make candies for U.S. grocery store brands. For Valentine's Day, it churns out jellied hearts, cinnamon hearts and pink-and-red jelly beans. It has 1,000 Mexican employees and is one of the biggest candymakers on the continent, said Beth Podol, the company's marketing manager.