MEXICO CITY — Searching for a film that keeps candy from unwrapping has led a firm from a small town in one of Mexico's richest dairy-producing areas to export markets around the world.
Grupo Montes SA de CV has made caramel candies for more than 30 years. Many of the 140-plus varieties it offers are penny candy on sale at the corner store — chewing gum, caramels or Mexican-style sweets that mix tamarind fruit powder with a touch of chili.
The candy is exported around the world — Miguel Avalos Mendoza jokes that the few markets it does not reach include Cuba, Russia and most of Africa.
Avalos is general manager of Extrusiones and Conversiones de México SA de CV (Excomsa), a film wrapping company and printer owned by Grupo Montes. As Montes' exports have increased, Excomsa's role has become more important to ensure that the individual candies — produced in Poncitl n, Mexico, near Guadalajara — stay wrapped while being transported, Avalos said.
Exports started 15 years ago, ``but have been more intensive for the last five years,'' Avalos added.
Excomsa has produced film and wrappers for Montes since 1986, when the firm installed its first blown film extrusion line. It added a second line, doubling capacity, in 1993.
Cellophane wrappers sometimes were difficult to obtain and as prices rose, Excomsa found an alternative at a Guadalajara trade fair: substituting cellophane with K-resin styrene-butadiene copolymer produced by Phillips Chemical Co. mixed with polypropylene and other additives.
``This makes a cost-effective film wrap that permits the candy to stay wrapped with a good twist,'' Avalos said. Montes caramels now are sold with a small cellophane barrier to reduce moisture, but the company is doing tests on how to eliminate all use of cellophane.
The product has become so successful that Excomsa currently is negotiating with potential customers in Turkey and Spain. Avalos would say only that the talks center ``on supplying them with a great quantity of film and products.''
``Tests are under way right now, and a decision should be made by the end of the year,'' he said, adding that, if successful, production will increase significantly.
Excomsa currently wraps 14 million candies a day, backed by two film lines each producing more than 450,000 feet of film per day.
``These lines run 24 hours a day, and only stop once every six months for a week's worth of maintenance,'' he added. The company has 120 employees devoted to the film operations.
Excomsa's other main activity is printing the candy wrappers. By the end of 1997, the firm expects to add a Serutty eight-color press, which will double its printing capacity by April, he said.
The company generated 1996 sales of $4.3 million, up from about $3.4 million in 1995. Avalos said even though its results for 1996 were affected by economic crisis, they were better than the average for the graphic arts industry.
About 50 percent of Excomsa's production is exported via Montes to an unlimited number of countries, Avalos said in a July 16 telephone interview from Poncitl n. The candy is exported throughout the Americas from Canada to Brazil, plus China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Australia, Spain, France, England, and two countries in Africa, he said.
Alicia Olascoaga, plastics sales representative at Phillips Mexicana in Mexico City, said Excomsa currently is the only Mexican firm using K-resin as a cellophane replacement. In a telephone interview, she said that other companies are evaluating the product.
Olascoaga also said K-resin has a great potential in Mexico, such as for fresh produce wrap, which is used in the United States.
``Due to a worldwide shortage, current production is oversold,'' she said. But she added that relief is on the way, with Daelim Industrial Co. Ltd. soon to begin production at an 88 million-pound-per-year plant in Yochon, South Korea. That plant will use Phillips' technology, and Phillips will help market Daelim's K-resin.
Montes received ISO 9001 quality-systems certification in December, while Excomsa has just begun the process and hopes to earn certification by year-end.