“Sharing and snacking continue to drive [the chocolate] category growth and product innovation in 2016 and Lily O’Brien’s has identified this as a key opportunity for growth with the launch our 80 g tablet range for the premium category,” managing director of the company, Eoin Donnelly, told ConfectioneryNews.
To appeal to adventurous consumers, Lily O’Brien’s adds basil to dark chocolate in their new Peppermint Crunch, and puts sea salt to Caramel Crunch, as well as Bergamot in its Orange Chocolate Ganache, according to Donnelly.
Lily O’Brien’s has grown market share by 30% in 2015, according to Donnelly. The company is now the third largest premium inlaid boxed chocolate brand in the UK.
“This is no small feat for a family chocolatier from Ireland,” said Donnelly.
Loyal Irish consumers vs. competitive UK market
Lily O’Brien’s is known for operating in the gifting category, which not only includes chocolates, but also, champagne and flowers, according to Donnelly, even though Irish consumers are less open to gifting private label than their UK counterparts.
However: “A clear loyalty and appreciation of Irish-made products in the Irish market” makes Lily O’Brien’s brand withstand, despite international chocolate brands becoming more commonplace in Ireland, he suggests.
“In general, Irish consumers do identify Irish brands with quality and will generally pay a premium for Irish-made gifts.”
In contrast, the UK market seems to be more competitive and diverse, which makes it difficult for smaller brands to penetrate into mainstream market and compete against multinational companies, Donnelly said.
“It’s about proving yourself as a brand on a small scale and then gaining momentum to broaden distribution and reach a wider audience,” he continued.
Strategic priority: UK market
Even though Lily O’Brien’s is still a relatively small brand in the UK, it has seen the launch of its chocolate tablets as an opportunity to increase its brand awareness and broaden its demographic.
To further grow brand awareness and distribution across the UK market is Lily O’Brien’s strategic priority this year, said Donnelly.
“We’ve listened carefully to the needs of Irish & UK premium bar consumers through qualitative and quantitative research and have honed our offering to create a new range of bars that meets their need-states and desires.”
For the coming 12 months, Lily O’Brien’s targets 40% growth driven by UK consumers.
Asked about the specific plans for targeting UK consumers, Donnelly said, “By investing in online media and PR, Lily O’Brien’s aims to engage with UK consumers in a meaningful way and encourage loyalty in what has become an increasingly brand-promiscuous environment.”
'Comfort food' trend drives flavor combination
With traditional recipes being given a modern twist by incorporating soothing flavors, such as green tea, vanilla, rose and chai, Donnelly said, the “comfort food” trend continues to drive flavor combinations and development.
In addition, Donnelly said equally flavors, which have been around for quite some time, such as chilli, are now being married with energizing flavors, including fruit to add balance and enhance the overall taste experience.
“Chilli with mango or peach and chilli with earl grey tea are just some of the flavor combinations coming through this year.
“We monitor trends, talk to consumers and work closely with retail and food service partners across the globe to ensure we are ahead of the curve on new developments in our category.”