Chupa Chups, the lollipops licked by everyone from Britney Spears to Russian cosmonauts, are about to make the giant leap from sweet shop to stock market. The Catalan confectioner, which has towered over the global lollipop market for 44 years, is planning to float a chunk of the business.
The family-owned company sells 3.8 billion multi-flavoured lollipops a year to 170 countries, but is looking for a way to finance a series of planned acquisitions, possibly in the US.
Although only a minority stake would be floated, food analysts estimate the issue could raise as much as €2bn (£1.25bn). Founded in 1958 and with a logo designed by Salvador Dali, Chupa Chups has made billionaires of the Bernat family, who are now hoping to give the lollipops an even higher profile. One of the company's chief goals is to conquer the US market, which is not currently its strongest area.
American sweet-buying is dominated by Tootsie Roll Industries, which presents formidable competition. However, the past five years have produced stellar growth for the Chupa Chups group, with sales almost doubled to an annual €414m over the period. Some of that has been generated by the group's popular range of Smint products – a range of mints and vitamin sweets that has achieved cult status and an enormous internet fan-base.
One major driver of Chupa Chups' revenue growth has been the excellent lolly sales in Russia, but the group has also benefited from being very publicly sucked by such celebrities as Madonna and Giorgio Armani.
To keep itself in the full media glare, Chupa Chups employs a team of "Chupa Chicks" – scantily-clad lovelies who make sure lollies are handed out to film stars and pop divas attending awards ceremonies.