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French invasion: Cémoi set to win US premium chocolate eaters with $5m sales

By Douglas Yu contact

- Last updated on GMT

Jean-Christophe Radouan is the president at Cémoi North America. Pic: Cémoi
Jean-Christophe Radouan is the president at Cémoi North America. Pic: Cémoi

Related tags: Chocolate

Premium chocolate maker Cémoi will push French pride further this year – all the way across the US – after its home country claimed victory at the 2018 World Cup.

The company, known for its single-origin dark chocolate bars, has said it is building more distribution and retail partnerships, such as KeHe, to make its products more available to US consumers.

Dark chocolate is Cémoi’s DNA

Cémoi started selling its products through several distributors in the US almost 20 years ago.

It set up its first sales office in New York in 2012 to develop its North American business, and officially began manufacturing out of a Pittsburg factory in Pennsylvania in 2017.

“[Previously,] we had everything made in France, and our Jacquote brand is still produced in Europe. These are two separate businesses. We mainly target grocery and drug stores, but we are also strong in private label and co-manufacturing,”​ said Jean-Christophe Radouan, president at Cémoi North America.

He added dark chocolate is Cémoi’s DNA because it represents 40% of the total confectionery consumption in France.

“There is nothing more than cocoa in our traditional French products,” ​said Radouan. “Jacquote, on the other hand, also has nice ingredients in its cocoa dusted truffles, including raspberry, mango and lemon.”

He noted $5m annual sales from the US market is achievable for Cémoi by the end of 2018, even though the company only accounts for a small part of the overall chocolate category.

“It’s a small start for us, but we want to do our business with the right partners. We are always open to working with new retailers and distributors,”​ said Radouan.

‘Good relationship’ with Peeps maker

ConfectioneryNews recently learned Just Born Quality Confections quietly divested Cémoi​ about a year and half ago.

The Peeps maker became the company’s US sales force in 2016.

The partnership termination was later confirmed through Radouan. He said: “Both companies have changed their marketing strategies quite a bit since we formed the joint venture.

“Cémoi introduced a new line of premium chocolate, which is very gift stores oriented, and they (Just Born) has always focused on seasonal products and their Mike and Ike items.”

“We don’t play in the same category, but we still have a good relationship with Just Born,” ​added Radouan.

Investing $2.5m in fermentation program

Cémoi also recently invested $2.5m in a fermentation program through its sustainability division Transparence Cacao to develop chocolate with better value.

Radouan said: “We have many universities and R&D associates that help create unique cocoa flavors – almost like how they make wine here in France.”

He added Cémoi has been in the field working with cocoa farmers directly for the last 35 years, but it came up with the name 'Transparence Cacao'​ in 2015 to show its beans are of good quality, and it is involved in training farmers to better their plantation in countries, including Côte d’Ivoire and São Tomé.

So far, the sustainability program has partnered with organizations such as World Cocoa Foundation and Rabobank to ensure the quality of its work, according to Radouan. It currently works with 21,000 global cocoa farmers, and it is expected to reach 60,000 farmers in the near future.

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