The company recently appointed a dedicated export manager and is eyeing growth in Germany and the UK and hopes to eventually enter the US.
“That’s something that’s not been done in a structural way in the past - we are trying to internationalize by recruiting,” Vanparys CEO Thibaut van Hövell told ConfectioneryNews.
The 125-year old company plans to begin by targeting sales growth in Germany and the UK. "In the mid-term, the US would be interesting because there’s an interest in premium confectionery," said van Hövell.
Vanparys exports account for 15% of group sales. Its main markets are the Netherlands, France, Portugal and Russia respectively, but the US is not yet among its 20 export countries.
Premium brand for small supermarkets
“Currently we are selling in almost all the major supermarkets in Belgium. There we have growth, but we need wholesalers to reach smaller supermarkets,” said van Hövell, who joined the company as CEO in late 2012.
He said he favored smaller supermarkets because the company wouldn’t be required to pay upfront listing fees.
Van Hövell, who also serves as managing director for private equity firm Blue Fount, continued:“We want to position ourselves as a premium brand, but for a wider market. We don’t want to be like Pierre Marcolini, positioned as something that’s expensive and only sold in certain channels – we would like to be premium consumer goods."
Vanparys produces sugar coated Belgian chocolate dragées in different shapes with over 50 colors. The firm also sells chocolate-coated products such as nuts and freeze dried fruits as well as cake decorations.
It has 40 employees, annual sales of €5m ($5.8m) and produces 500-600 metric tons of confectionery per year. The company's products are sold mainly in specialty shops and non-food retail outlets in Belgium.
In the premium dragées segment, van Hövell said that his firm commanded an 80-95% share of the Belgian market, but faced competition from French firms Confiserie Adam and Médicis, Italy’s Buratti and Portugal’s Vieira in the EU market.
Barriers in Asia
We asked why Vanparys planned to focus on developed export markets rather than faster growing confectionery regions further East. “There’s so many barriers in Asia,” said van Hövell.
The CEO said that Vanparys had only recently overcome hurdles to become halal certified in the Middle East and was pessimistic about varying colors legislation in some Asian markets. “An important part of our product is the colors – not all of those colors are accepted in Japan and China,” he said.
According to the Vanparys head, the firm has capacity to double production at its manufacturing facility in Brussels to keep pace with any export growth.
The company will exhibit at the International Sweets and Biscuits Fair (ISM) next month and is looking for export partners.