Chasing China: Ferrero says freshness and flavours key to ensure lasting power for chocolate brands

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Ferrero believes that freshness and flavour variety are key factors for chocolate brands to ensure long-term lasting power in the China market. ©Ferrero
Ferrero believes that freshness and flavour variety are key factors for chocolate brands to ensure long-term lasting power in the China market. ©Ferrero

Related tags China Ferrero

Chocolate giant Ferrero believes that freshness and flavour variety are key factors for chocolate brands to ensure lasting power in the China market, with product innovations needing to be both diverse and unique.

Ferrero has been operating in China since the 1990s and is arguably one of the most successful international chocolate brands to have penetrated and survived in this market.

According to Ferrero China Marketing Head Larry Xia, this somewhat rare success can be attributed to strong local investments which ensure product freshness and food safety, as well as ensuring flavour variety according to local tastes.

“In China, dark chocolate has been around for a long time but here dark means dark and this is usually 90% and above in terms of cocoa content – there is no upper limit to how dark dark chocolate in China can be made,”​ Xia told the floor at the recent Food and Beverage Innovation Forum (FBIF) 2024 in Shanghai, China.

“The common issue here is that what seems to have happened along the road to developing these high-cocoa dark chocolates is that the emphasis on cocoa content has led to an imbalance and neglect of what a chocolate should taste like, which is not right as at its core chocolate is meant to bring enjoyment and indulgence to consumers.

“In response to this, we launched our Rocher Origins dark chocolate range in conjunction with the worldwide 40th​ anniversary of the Rocher brand a couple of years back, and China was selected as the first new pilot market for this range.

“This range is a balance of ‘darkness’ and indulgence, and the cocoa used for this is also all single origin as an added specialty point – there is a Ghana 70% dark, an Ecuador 65% dark and a Cote d’Ivoire 80% dark, all of which have different flavour profiles to meet different taste preferences here.

“This range of different flavours is very important here in China as variety is definitely a big driver, and we are very optimistic about this line as we know that it is very suited to the palate of all types of local Chinese consumers.”

Product freshness also emerged as a strong driver in this area, particularly due to the premium category that Ferrero positions itself in – and to ensure the best possible freshness and closest distance to consumers here, the firm invested over CNY2bn (US$275.4mn) to build a state-of-the-art factory in Hangzhou.

“The Hangzhou factory is Ferrero’s largest in North Asia, and was built specifically to bring Ferrero products that can reach consumers at maximum freshness, as the fresher the chocolate in this case means the better it tastes,”​ Xie added.

“It does not only supply to China though, but also exports to many markets such as Australia, Mexico and more [which is possible because] it is the firm’s only factory with full ISO certification [and also houses] our national food safety laboratory which can further ensure quality and safety by testing for things such as microorganisms, physiochemicals, allergens and more.”

Health in chocolates

Ferrero has also opted to emphasise portion control as its main healthier consumption strategy, and has relied strongly on its packaging to implement this.

“We have analysed our products and found that some 86% of our entire portfolio is around 130 kcal per serving, which is equivalent to a slice of toast or a banana,”​ he added.

“Every product we sell in China has individual packaging, whether this is a Ferrero Rocher or a Kinder Hippo, and we have found that although this method of individual packaging is somewhat costlier, it is effective to help consumers to control consumption and form better habits.

“This is further emphasised by indicating the individual calories of each individual item, which then has a stronger impact on consumers.”

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