Cobden and Brown eyes expansion after 100% cocoa bar launch

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

Cobden and Brown launched 100% cacao chocolate, and it's ready to expand its business to the Republic of Ireland.
Cobden and Brown launched 100% cacao chocolate, and it's ready to expand its business to the Republic of Ireland.

Related tags Chocolate

Northern Irish chocolatier Cobden and Brown has plans to enter southern neighbor the Republic of Ireland after recently introducing a 100% cocoa bar, according to the company’s founder and CEO, Caroline McArdle.

The company's  first 100% cacao bar is aimed at consumers looking for sugar-free sweets. The main distribution channel is direct sales by McArdle herself to delis and confectionery stores in Northern Ireland. The 100 g bars retail at around £3 ($3.66) each.

“The cacao bar in particular is the result of extensive market research and product development over the past few months,”​ McArdle said.

Sugar free trend

So far, Cobden and Brown’s new cacao bar has elicite

Cobden + Brown Oct 16

d a “very favorable”​ response from consumers, especially those in health stores, according to the company.

“Sales are really encouraging,”​ McArdle added. “People are increasingly being driven by healthier products that are reduced sugar. Cacao is sugar-free and natural. There’s also been a growth in darker chocolate products which are also perceived as being healthy.”

According to a recent Euromonitor survey, 47% of global respondents look for foods with limited or no added sugar.

This site previously reported that the global “war on sugar”​ has created a change in the type of ingredients used in snacks. In 2015, global sweeteners use in conventional snacks amounted to 15.5 million tons, while in comparison, new snacks included less than a fifth of that amount at three million tons of global sweeteners used.

Meanwhile in the US, the total sugar-free chocolate candy is worth around $115m, with Russell Stover making up the largest market share in the category, according to the most recent IRI data for the past 52 weeks ending Oct. 2, 2016. However, Lily’s Sweets, which is valued around $2m, leads the category growth with a 11.85% dollar sales increase compared to last year.

Expanding into the Republic of Ireland

Currently, all Cobden and Brown’s business is in Northern Ireland, but McArdle is keen to expand into the Republic, she said.

Euromonitor previously said in a report that the recent Brexit is “unlikely to have a dramatic effect on confectionery sales… Per capita consumption is likely to continue to decline, and this would be particularly accentuated by a ‘disorderly’ Brexit.”

“Given that value sales would see a larger decrease in this event, it seems that disorderly Brexit may see consumers move to lower-priced confectionery, reversing the current popularity of premium chocolate,”​ the market research firm added.

However, speaking to Sky News, the former deputy prime minister of the UK, Nick Clegg, warned that the prices of packaged goods, including chocolate, will increase sharply if Britain heads towards a “hard Brexit”.

He predicts tariffs on UK chocolate exports to EU markets will be around 38%.

“My strategy is to expand my profile as offering consistently high quality chocolate in my target market for growth – the Republic of Ireland, especially in the Greater Dublin area,”​ McArdle said. “The weaker sterling gives me a price advantage.”

She told ConfectioneryNews that Cobden and Brown currently enjoys year-over-year growth, and said prospects for the next 12 months look promising, especially if sterling continues to remain weak.

Gluten-free roots

Cobden and Brown is an artisan manufacturer with all chocolates are handcrafted by McArdle herself. Many years ago, McArdle decided to start making chocolates and desserts when her son was diagnosed with celiac disease.

As soon as Cobden and Brown was established, the company launched its first range of gluten-free chocolates in 2011 made with cocoa directly sourced from Ghana. “In addition to being gluten-free, the chocolates are free from wheat and eggs,” ​McArdle said. “The company’s dark chocolate is also dairy-free.”

A key feature of Cobden and Brown’s products is that it does not use any processed ingredients, she added, and the chocolates are fully tested as being gluten free by a fully accredited laboratory.

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