The younger generation, in particular, is ushering in a new penchant for chocolate, and people are enjoying it for themselves more regularly, according to Jean Marc Bernelin, head of Barry Callebaut’s Chocolate Academy in Shanghai.
“It’s no longer surprising to hear of a Chinese consumer buying chocolate for themselves,” he said.
Market research firm Ebrun reported sales of chocolate were valued at about 20 billion yuan ($2.9bn) in 2015, forecast to grow to 40 billion yuan ($5.8bn) by 2020.
This is big news for the relatively small but growing confectionery industry in a country that boasts a population of around 1.3 billion people. It is also already having a major impact on China’s bakery sector, which is booming.
Popular in bakery
Bernelin told BakeryandSnacks chocolate is being used more frequently in baked goods.
He noted that, while the quality of chocolate used for bakery often varies – with some goods dipped in real chocolate, while others are dipped in a compound chocolate – generally the taste is the same.
“People are getting used to the taste of chocolate and becoming more discerning.
“However, it must not be too sweet,” added Bernelin, noting that Callebaut has launched Velvet Chocolate – a white chocolate with a reduced sugar content – that is proving to be popular among Chinese consumers.
The Swiss confectioner – the world’s biggest maker of chocolate for commercial customers – is firmly set on expanding its production in China and is eyeing the growth potential of the mammoth market.
It presently supplies chocolate to retail brands, bakeries and restaurants on the mainland through its factory in Suzhou, which has a current annual capacity of 250,000 tons.
Yin and yang
“What I play around with a lot is white chocolate, because the Chinese consumer likes a creamy cake,” added Bernelin.
“The creamy cake is a bit difficult to do with dark chocolate, but when you play with a white chocolate mousse, then you can have a lot of combinations and you can still add fruits.
“There isn’t a dessert culture in China. Originally, dessert would be a piece of watermelon, melon or orange. Fruits are considered as cooling, that’s why they are often served at the end of a meal, to cool down your body.
“Cakes [on the other hand] are considered as heating, [however] their acceptance is changing and people are now enjoying a piece of cake with their coffee,” he said.