Antoine de Saint-Affrique, its chief executive, said China’s gourmet chocolate market was on track to eclipse all others as more bakeries, hotels, restaurants and caterers move into the segment.
Speaking in Shanghai, he said: “China has the potential to become the biggest gourmet market in the world. The question is not if it will happen; only how fast it will happen.
“That’s why we are expanding our offerings in China for chocolate artisans, pastry chefs and other professional users of chocolate.”
Euromonitor International, the market analyst, has forecast lightning growth in Asia-Pacific’s chocolate market, while China’s US$2.8bn chocolate confectionery category could grow to some US$3.9bn by 2021.
According to George Zhang, Barry Callebaut’s managing director in China, increasing disposable income among middle- to high-income consumers will drive growth in the premium category. This group is increasingly likely to buy expensive chocolates as gifts, while many are in the market for novel forms, he added.
“Consumers are seeking new chocolate trends, for example chocolate with health benefits, new tastes such as green tea flavour chocolate and innovative chocolate forms for a variety of exciting chocolate experiences,” Zhang said.
To meet demand, the Swiss company is planning a “refreshed” range of premium chocolate and cocoa products for professionals under its established European Callebaut, Cacao Barry and Carma brands, alongside its Van Houten Professional range.
The company will target almost a dozen of China’s biggest cities and incorporate a digital marketing platform through the ubiquitous WeChat messaging app to “create a broader community of chefs and chocolatiers across the country, enabling them to upgrade their skills and to network with other professionals,” it said in a statement.
“Our ambition as the global cocoa and chocolate leader is very clear: we need to be the market leader in every place that really matters, and China is clearly one,” De Saint-Affrique added.
Elsewhere in China…
Construction underway for new Firmenich plant in Zhangjiagang
Firmenich has begun construction of a new flavours plant in Zhangjiagang that it hopes will cut supply times for customers in its second-biggest market.
Boet Brinkgreve, regional president of the privately owned Swiss flavours and fragrances major, said the new plant’s increased production will be “critical” for Firmenich’s future in China for a variety of reasons when it opens in 2019.
“This cutting-edge plant is designed to not only increase our operational efficiency, but also to optimise our environmental footprint.”
The plant, which will operate alongside existing manufacturing facilities in Shanghai and Kunming, will allow water recycling on site, and has been designed to recover heat from cleaning water and building ventilation.
"By significantly increasing our flavour production capacity there, we are accelerating our customers’ access to our flavour solutions,” Brinkgreve added.