Media-shy Cemoi, France's number one chocolate maker, ramps up its image with a new logo, new products and a clear drive to become the number two industrial chocolate supplier in Europe.
"We have big ambitions for the market," Patrick Poirrier, CEO of family-owned Cemoi that posted €700m in turnover last year, told reporters at the company's first ever press conference in its 46 year history.
Currently, the firm uses 3.5 per cent, or 100 000 tonnes of the world's cocoa bean harvest each year, and is the number three supplier of cocoa products for business to business trade in Europe.
"Our objective is to become the number two supplier for industrial use," said Poirrier, the third generation in his family to head up this private bean-to-bar chocolate firm with 3000 employees.
Their objective is within the context of a privately-held firm; not beholden to shareholders the company has a certain flexibility to pursue 'a medium to long term strategy', commented Poirrier.
In a fifty-fifty split, Perpignan-based Cemoi supplies cocoa ingredients for industrial chocolate makers as well as finished products for private label and consumer brand demand.
Cemoi already has a major footprint in the French chocolate market, to a large extent through private label business that remains "a priority for the group, particularly the desire to offer products that have a strong quality to price ratio," added the CEO.
The firm, for example, has a 6 per cent slice of the private label market at Christmas time.
But shaking off the anonymity of a private label supplier, and revealing ambitions for the Cemoi brand itself, at the conference on Thursday the firm presented its new range of own brand chocolate, rubber-stamped as organic and fairtrade.
In a six set series, three of the bars use cocoa sourced from Equator, with the remaining three sourcing beans from Sao Tome. Beans from Equator, according Cemoi, give a specific 'aromatic, floral note' while chocolate made from the Sao Tome cacao beans proffers a 'sweet and fruity' aroma.
Further launch activities in 2009 will see Cemoi roll out a new, own brand premium chocolate range with an artisan flavour for Christmas 2009, signed off by chocolate chef Philippe Urraca.
In addition, children are in sight for its 'little hedgehog' product launched this year, while their new 'chocotines' - small, round, crunchy chocolate nibbles - target the cafe and coffee culture.
The hook? French savoir-faire
The launches have a common theme, french savoir-faire.
"France has a strong gastronomic heritage, and chocolate is part of this. We want to make the consumer understand french savoir-faire," said Cemoi marketing director Marc Baraban.
Contributing to this aim, the company has subtly amended its logo. The logo text has simply changed from 'Cemoi chocolatier' to 'Cemoi chocolatier francais'.
Baraban explained to ConfectioneryNews.com that the move also reflects a stronger feeling of nationalism captured by two recent events in France: the 2006 world football cup, and latterly, the French elections that saw both Nicolas Sarkozy from the right, and Segolene Royale from the left, waving the country's tricolore flag during the campaign.
"We're a French firm, with nine factories in France, and we want to communicate our brand to the consumer," added Baraban.
In addition to the French plants, Cemoi has factories in Ivory Coast, Germany, the UK and Poland.
Pleasure versus health
When asked by ConfectioneryNews.com if Cemoi had plans to enter the emerging market of health and chocolate, or if the market could expect to see a Cemoi product in the same vein as Barry Callebaut's acticoa or Mars' Cocovia, the CEO replied: "I think the principal value of chocolate is pleasure: we're in the taste, the pleasure, the gourmandise."