by Martina Fuchs
GENEVA, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- With Christmas around the corner, Swiss chocolate giant Barry Callebaut sees China as an exciting market as more consumers there seek out a more sweet appetite, its chief executive told Xinhua.
"China is a very exciting market for us," said Peter Boone, CEO of Barry Callebaut Group, which is one of the world's leading chocolate makers. "The Chinese eat much less chocolate than the people in Switzerland ... we expect them to start to enjoy within a croissant or within a cake, more and more chocolates."
The company, which makes chocolate for big food groups like Nestle and Hershey, is confident about the growth potential in China, where confectionery consumption has traditionally lagged behind, and clients are developing new appetites.
"In general, we see much more acceptance of our innovations. And we are therefore investing strongly in China," Boone said.
Barry Callebaut has been active in China for 13 years, with its first factory inaugurated in 2008. Since then, China has become the group's largest gourmet chocolate market in the Asia-Pacific region.
The company has a full Chinese management team with four offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Suzhou respectively, as well as three Chocolate Academy Centers to train professionals.
"We have three chocolate academies where we bring the world of chocolate to alive. We have already three factories there, and we have a very strong management team, a full Chinese management team driving our business," Boone said.
According to the Association of Chinese Chocolate Manufacturers, per capita consumption of chocolate in China is only around 70 grams per year.
Zurich-based Barry Callebaut Group is one of the world's leading manufacturers of chocolate and cocoa products, and it runs more than 60 production facilities and employs more than 12,500 people worldwide, according to its website.
According to the Association of Swiss Chocolate Manufacturers, the average annual chocolate consumption in Switzerland fell below the 10 kg per person mark last year for the first time since 1982.
On average, a Swiss resident munched 9.9 kg of chocolate last year, 6.9 percent less than the year before as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
However, Boone stressed that the love of chocolate would continue for festive occasions as well as all year round in both Switzerland and China.
"Of course, chocolate fits the food culture here in Switzerland, so we expect again a strong kind of consumer pool on our products which is exciting and will make a great Christmas," Boone said.
"We see in China chocolate not having that strong position yet in the festive season, but we expect that to grow," he said.
The company said that its sustainability targets include lifting 500,000 cocoa farmers in its supply chain out of poverty, eradicating child labor from its supply chain, becoming carbon and forest positive, and having 100 percent sustainable ingredients in all its products by 2025.
"We see consumers who want to know more about how they put chocolate within a balanced diet. We see a lot of trends on plant-based, sugar-reduced, a lot of new things happening and therefore a lot of innovations from our side," Boone said.
He said the joy factor of consuming chocolate would live on through the good times and bad and into 2022.
"The good news is that we all need our moments of pleasure and moments of joy," Boone said, "so consumers still keep eating chocolate." Enditem