The Italy-based chocolate firm said it will also launch its range of premium private-label chocolates in the US, focusing its attention on organic and single-origin concepts.
The firm had been selling organic chocolate to industrial food manufacturing companies through an importer for some time, which allowed it to gain insight into the North American market.
Bruno Montesano, general manager of ICAM (North America), said the US sales office in California was chosen on the basis that the manufacturer had observed that “major chocolate trends in the US specifically tend to start in the West and spread East”.
The manufacturer notes increasing US consumer demand for premium products that can offer health and wellness benefits and that meet environmentally friendly production standards.
There is an increasing amount of supporting evidence from scientific studies conducted in the past few years that flavanols in cocoa have health benefits, such as the ability to lower blood pressure and boost heart health.
The company does expect however, stiff competition from a “very vast…highly sophisticated, highly developed” North American chocolate market.
Montesano told ConfectionaryNews.com that organic chocolate is more expensive to produce due to more labour intensive farming techniques and costly organic certification.
The farming of single-origin chocolates itself is no more expensive, he said. But what drives up cost is the limited supply. A single-origin cocoa will produce a very exclusive yield of beans and by the very nature of being a product with beans from just one location or - in the case of single estate, from just one farm - that limited supply naturally drives up trading costs.
ICAM sources the majority of its beans from the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru and Madagascar.
The firm supplies premium chocolate for many private label brands in Europe, particularly in the UK, and all global sales except North America are handled out of the company headquarters in Lecco, Italy.
ICAM added that it also has plans to launch selected ingredients, such as cocoa powder and cocoa butter, in the US in the third quarter of this year.