Barry Callebaut is hoping to strengthen relationships within the industry and build its business in North America with the opening of a chocolate academy in Chicago.
The new academy, the 10th to be opened by the cocoa and chocolate company, will provide a training centre for professional users and encourage the exchange of technical expertise in the handling of chocolate between professionals.
The academies are clearly proving successful in reaffirming the company's presence across the entire industry it serves - from food manufacturers to artisan chocolatiers to global retailers.
A spokesperson told ConfectioneryNews.com: "Barry Callebaut can offer hands-on demonstrations of new methods and products and work to create a new generation of artisan chocolatiers and pastry chefs that will learn from some of the best pastry chefs in the world.
By helping build a customer base that has worked with Callebaut products in the past, they are likely to seek our premium products in the future."
The Swiss confectioner has been steadily expanding facilities in the Americas, where sales volume was shown to increase 12.9 per cent in Q1 of this year, compared with the same point the previous year.
This was as a result of increasing numbers of North American confectionery companies outsourcing chocolate production, the company said.
Last December, Barry Callebaut closed the acquisition of Food Processing International's cocoa factory in Philadelphia, increasing its factory network and supply chain in North America.
The spokesperson said: "Barry Callebaut is committed to expanding its presence in the confectionery market in North America. We've already shown our commitment to North America by establishing the chocolate factory, research and development facility and academy in St. Hyacinthe, Canada, and establishing the headquarters office for our North American operations in Chicago."
In July it signed a long-term supply agreement with Hershey, for it to provide 80,000 tonnes of chocolate per year. The deal came with production equipment and was said to propel it into the number one slot as industrial chocolate supplier in the region.
Barry Callebaut already nine runs academies in Europe, Canada, Singapore, China and India.
In each academy, about 500 chocolatiers, confectioners and chefs gather each week, for demonstrations, theory classes and workshops.
The spokesperson added: "By bringing in members of the Barry Callebaut Ambassador's Club to pass on their skills to chocolate artisans in the US, Barry Callebaut is not only helping create a new generation of skilled pastry chefs and confectioners, we are bringing our products directly to the people that use them most -- the artisan chocolatiers.
"The Chocolate Academy will help them bring out the best of their abilities, thus bringing out the best of Callebaut products."