Set against a background of higher inputs, from ingredients to packaging to logistics, pouring cash into R&D and new product development is a challenging move. But, food industry observers, as well as industry participants, maintain that innovation is an essential buffer against an economic downturn.
"As a market becomes more difficult, so innovation is increasingly necessary," Xavier Terlet, CEO of trend tracking agency XTC, told FoodNavigator.com.
Family-owned French company PCB Creation, that specialises in food decorations for confectioners and patisserie makers, has its eye on innovation.
This year, the firm's customised dark chocolate pieces were selected by SIAL's trend and innovation committee – that handpicks, and showcases at SIAL, about 240 innovative food products – for its premium concept.
Slotting neatly into the growing trend for sophistication, the product is comprised of chocolate tablets that the customer can personalise with a motif or words in a glittering gold, silver or bronze colour.
Launched in April this year, the 'sur mesure' range fits into a portfolio that the firm refreshes in pace with the market and overarching design trends.
"Each year we launch two product ranges: one to target spring/summer trends, and the second nearer to the end of year to embrace halloween and christmas markets," the company's artistic director explains to ConfectioneryNews.com at the firm's achingly trendy, white-padded SIAL stand.
Inspired by all that is linked to style - from fashion to fabrics – the team of eight designers in the firm's studio create a product line that aims to keep their fingers on the pulse. In addition, the team creates bespoke products for their customers.
"We have about 30 to 40 requests per day from customers, that include private label and small businesses," adds the PCB artistic director, Veronique Weltz.
Indeed, about 80 per cent of their business hails from customised solutions: "We know how to respond rapidly to a customer's demand, and work on 48 hour delivery," says Weltz.
For the manufacturing process, the Alsace-based firm with a staff of about 180, uses bulk chocolate, not liquid, "developed to our recipe by our supplier", although some clients will ask to use their own chocolate.
In addition, to the 'sur mesure' range highlighted by SIAL's judges, different forms and colour have driven innovation this year, claims the firm. PCB introduced a range of three-dimensional chocolate products that include pink sparkly balls, miniature dolls, and faberge-looking eggs. Further, they launched 'The Velvet Spray', an aerosol can containing butter, cocoa and specific colours – not natural because they are "less stable" – for confectioners to spray colour on their products.
The firm's portfolio also includes sugar confectionery elements, such as diamond-like sugar diamonds and flat pebble-like discs, as well as transfer sheets or rolls, blisters to fill, printed or neutral moulds.