Chupa Chups is to focus its international expansion in the fast-growing Russian confectionery market and will freeze plans to muscle into China, a company official has confirmed to just-food.

The Barcelona, Spain-based lollipop maker sees Russia as an oxygen tank in its strategy to return to profitability after posting a €5.5m (US$6.6m) net loss in 2004. Chupa Chups’ Russian and French units were the only ones that made a profit last year, with Russia earning €5m, the official said.

Russia’s 140 million inhabitants and its burgeoning confectionery market present “a huge growth potential” for Chupa Chups, the official noted, adding that Chupa Chups also plans to expand in Ukraine, where it has opened an operating subsidiary.

The spokeswoman would not disclose Chupa Chups’ earnings targets in Russia, its biggest international market and where it runs a factory in Saint Petersburg.

Chupa Chups is less zealous about growth in China. Last year, the company liquidated its Chinese franchise Chupa Chups Shanghai and could eventually cut ties with commercial partner Tingyi, although no decision has yet been made, the official added.

Chupa Chups is synonymous with sugar confectionery in Spain. The company makes a popular range of lollipops and sells the Smint confectionery brand.