The Swiss firm – that expands in step with its customers – has invested about €30m in the new industrial chocolate facility, based at Monterrey in the north-eastern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon.
"Chocolate confectionery in Mexico is expected to grow on average by 6.5 per cent per year in value terms over the next five years," said Patrick De Maeseneire, CEO of Barry Callebaut, citing figures from market researcher Euromonitor.
At a time when chocolate consumption in the US and Europe is falling due to the economic crisis, the chocolate industry is pinning hopes on emerging markets such as Mexico, Russia, India and China to bring a boost to the bottom line.
With an annual capacity of around 100,000 tonnes, Callebaut’s new Mexican facility will supply Central and South American chocolate markets previously fed by the firm's facilities in North America.
Sourcing some cocoa from Brazil, but also from Africa, the supply needs will "depend on the recipe of the customers, who are a mixture of international and local players," Josiane Kremer from corporate communications at Barry Callebaut told ConfectioneryNews.com.
"An industrial chocolate plant, no consumer products will be produced at the Mexican facility, this type of product will continue to be imported from North America and the EU," she added.
With the new Mexican plant now online Zurich-based Barry Callebaut currently has about 40 facilities - including cocoa processing and chocolate facilities - worldwide.
The Monterrey factory was built in about 15 months, a timeline that was "really quick, particularly for its size," said Kremer.
The facility, added the firm, is designed to manufacture industrial chocolate – liquid and moulded chocolate – as well as compound.
Barry Callebaut expects capacity utilisation at the plant to rise rapidly and reach 60 to 70 per cent by the end of fiscal year 2009/10, aiming for full capacity to be reached within five years.
The chocolate industry is generally buoyed by the notion that in times of recession consumers continue to be tempted by small chocolate indulgences, enabling chocolate players to weather an economic downturn.
But earlier this month the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO) suggested the economy’s impact on chocolate consumption in the coming year would be difficult to predict.
It said: “Indeed, uncertainty prevails on the degree of resilience on the chocolate market to the deterioration of the global economic environment.”
And in its latest cocoa market report, Barry Callebaut commented that “uncertain sales in light of the economic crisis will probably lead to a lower demand for cocoa products in 2009.”