Barry Callebaut China managing director George Zhang (left) believes there is strong room for growth in China if companies combine chocolate with local flavours. © FBIF
There exists an “enormous” potential for growth in the Chinese chocolate market, according to the managing director of Barry Callebaut China, George Zhang.
Speaking at the Food & Beverage Innovation Forum in Hangzhou, Zhang detailed the cocoa producer’s strategy in the country, as it aims to take advantage of shifting consumer tastes.
While chocolate consumption per capita in China is relatively low compared to other economically developed countries, Zhang believes there is strong room for growth if producers combine chocolate with local flavours.
“We’re not expecting Chinese to all of a sudden be eating as much chocolate as the Swiss,” he said. “Having said that, chocolate, if combined with local food, has a lot of potential. Pairing with bakery, cakes, pairing with ice creams, with all the local food together, chocolate does give you a lot of potential to grow.”
Last month, Barry Callebaut opened a new chocolate academy in Beijing in a move to extend distribution to second-tier Chinese cities, which the company views as “key growth areas”. The facility will enable the firm to better save the tastes of Chinese consumers.
Zhang said: “China and this part of the world have some unique preference of how chocolate would appeal to them. First of all, Chinese doesn’t have as sweet mouth as some other countries. Chinese does like things less sweet. That’s one part of it. The other side of the issue is Chinese are very tuned into the chocolate flavour together with nuts. Pairing with nuts is a great popularity here in China. Of course, also Chinese like some non-traditional ways of chocolate taste. Chinese are very open to white chocolate with different flavours, but at the meantime Chinese, particularly premium consumers, really go for dark chocolate.”
Barry Callebaut is also planning increased promotion of ruby chocolate in China over the coming months and is looking into a developing an ice cream made with the chocolate.
Since launching in late 2017, ruby – which is described by Barry Callebaut as the fourth type of chocolate and “the biggest innovation in the chocolate industry in the past 80 years” – has been used for a range of applications such as Nestlé’s KitKat and Les Recettes de l’Atelier bars. The chocolate was made available for the Chinese foodservice industry in September last year.
“We see a lot of excitement,” said Zhang about the chocolate variant. “There is an awful lot more potential to be explored with ruby. Even ourselves, we’re learning how to work with this type of chocolate.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019