CHOCO­LATE

WHAT TOP PLAY­ERS ARE SERV­ING

Hospitality News Middle East - - FRONT PAGE - emf-me.com

Do you em­ploy brand am­bas­sadors to pro­mote your of­fer­ings?

We have brand am­bas­sadors for each prod­uct line, whose mis­sion is to trans­fer their choco­late knowhow and tech­niques to other crafts­men in or­der to sup­port the devel­op­ment of new prod­ucts, con­cepts, pack­ag­ing, recipes and train­ing work­shops. Their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties also in­clude en­sur­ing qual­ity, cre­ativ­ity, knowl­edge of in­gre­di­ents and process lead­er­ship. Choco­late tech­nol­ogy, choco­late bon­bons, en­tremets, desserts by the plate, sculp­tures and dec­o­ra­tions are some ex­am­ples of what they are able to per­form.

What are the ma­jor chal­lenges you are fac­ing?

Chal­lenges are what feed the busi­ness mind by push­ing it to go be­yond just achiev­ing a cer­tain tar­get. The gen­eral chal­lenge we con­stantly face is not only to main­tain our lead­er­ship in the choco­late busi­ness, but to prop­erly main­tain the ser­vices we ex­tend to our cus­tomers and part­ners, while con­stantly in­vest­ing in re­search and devel­op­ment (R&D). EMF and Barry Calle­baut tackle this chal­lenge with con­stant in­vest­ments in prod­uct de­vel­op­ments through tech­ni­cal sup­port, choco­late acad­e­mies and train­ing cen­ters. This also al­lowed the cre­ation of var­i­ous spe­cialty choco­lates to meet the in­creas­ing de­mand for ‘health­ier’ prod­ucts, such as choco­lates ‘with no-sugar-added’, ‘rich in anti-ox­i­dant and good for blood ves­sels’, ‘lac­tose free’, ‘tooth friendly’ and oth­ers.

What are the cur­rent top trend­ing themes in choco­late?

Con­sumers nowa­days want unique, au­then­tic fla­vors for a match­less ex­pe­ri­ence. This is where, for in­stance, the con­cept of Calle­baut and Ca­cao Barry’s ‘sin­gle ori­gin choco­lates’ comes into play, which is very much in vogue. These choco­lates are pre­pared from co­coa mass with co­coa beans from a sin­gle ge­o­graph­i­cal area, coun­try or even plan­ta­tion, while all tra­di­tional choco­lates are blends. Ad­di­tion­ally, chefs are lean­ing to­ward set­ting them­selves apart through their prod­ucts and per­son­al­ized recipes by us­ing un­con­ven­tion­ally ex­otic and lo­cal fla­vors in their choco­lates, such as pas­sion fruit, rasp­ber­ries, cream cheese, ti­ramisu, pep­per, chili, karawiya, ous­malliya and oth­ers.

In terms of fu­ture di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, what do your plans in­clude?

Our tac­tic is to use the re­ces­sion and po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity as a tool for ex­pan­sion by be­ing more ac­tive, cre­ative, risk-tak­ers and more ag­gres­sive than the com­pe­ti­tion. Con­sid­er­ing the po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity in the ma­jor­ity of the 16 coun­tries we op­er­ate in, the only way to sur­vive and grow is through di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion by tar­get­ing dif­fer­ent mar­ket seg­ments and ex­pand­ing our op­er­a­tions in the re­gion.

What would you say are your key strengths and how are you play­ing to those?

When it comes to the Mid­dle East, our phi­los­o­phy is to in­vest in time, re­sources, man­power, in­ter­na­tional net­work­ing and knowl­edge of the mar­ket in or­der to skill­fully sup­ply and rec­om­mend the right prod­uct to the right cus­tomers. In­no­va­tion, spe­cial­ized tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance, ded­i­cated train­ing, cer­ti­fied man-power and train­ing cen­ters are some of the many ser­vices avail­able at our dis­posal. Af­ter all, suc­cess comes from ed­u­ca­tion, ded­i­ca­tion and del­e­ga­tion.

What is cur­rently in sea­son and what is in vogue?

Choco­late pro­fes­sion­als are get­ting in­spired by their trips to Asia. They try to in­clude strong Asian fla­vors that are mostly sour, like Matcha green tea, Miso and Wasabi in their truf­fles and bon­bons, us­ing caramel to make ev­ery­thing go well to­gether. Turmeric is tak­ing over choco­late lab­o­ra­to­ries and kitchens. Given its ben­e­fi­cial prop­er­ties, it is a fa­vored spice among health-ori­ented brands. It pairs in­cred­i­bly well with dark choco­late, some­times giv­ing it a yel­low color, de­pend­ing on the quan­tity used.

Although car­damom isn’t new to the choco­late scene, it’s pop­u­lar in both dark and white choco­late ap­pli­ca­tions. This herb has a very dis­tinc­tive fla­vor that sharply di­vides con­sumers into lovers and haters. Figs are a sweet fruit that in­tu­itively pairs well with choco­late and black figs seem to be the va­ri­ety cur­rently pre­ferred by many chefs.

Do you em­ploy brand am­bas­sadors to pro­mote your of­fer­ings?

Val­rhona is a choco­late brand avail­able for all choco­late lovers and gas­tron­omy pro­fes­sion­als. In or­der to imag­ine the best in the trans­mis­sion of fla­vor and ex­per­tise, our four schools in Tain l'her­mitage, Paris, Tokyo and New York are wel­com­ing ev­ery year Écoles Val­rhona over 15,000 pro­fes­sion­als across the world. Our 30 pas­try chefs are sup­port­ing our clients on a daily ba­sis in our in­di­vid­ual and group tech­ni­cal con­sul­tancy, as well as in our over­ar­ch­ing ap­proach that aims to con­stantly en­cour­age pro­fes­sion­als’ cre­ativ­ity. We are also hon­ored to wel­come ex­clu­sive guest chefs from all over the world to share their knowl­edge and bring their own per­sonal tech­niques and unique twists to spe­cific classes. L’école Val­rhona helps our part­ners to de­velop their iden­tity thanks to tar­geted classes that are adapted to all ar­eas of ex­per­tise, in­clud­ing choco­late, pas­try, bak­ing, ice cream and plated desserts.

What are the ma­jor chal­lenges you are fac­ing?

We are now an in­ter­na­tional com­pany, mak­ing it nec­es­sary for us to adapt to lo­cal speci­fici­ties. Our launches need to take into ac­count each cul­ture and taste. We are go­ing global, but need to act lo­cally for our brand im­age and recog­ni­tion. We are also fac­ing some chal­lenges in cer­tain coun­tries when it comes to prod­uct reg­is­tra­tion.

What are the cur­rent top trend­ing themes in choco­late?

It is said that peo­ple in the Mid­dle East like milk choco­late. Ac­cord­ing to our find­ings, that is not en­tirely true and tastes are pri­mar­ily coun­try cen­tric. In the UAE, for ex­am­ple, our best­seller is a dark choco­late (Gua­naja 70%, cre­ated in 1986). Lo­cal peo­ple travel a lot and they be­come in­creas­ingly ed­u­cated in term of taste. They know what they are eat­ing and have higher ex­pec­ta­tions, which is good for the in­dus­try, but chal­leng­ing for the chefs.

To ac­com­mo­date this broad range of tastes, Val­rhona launched, in Jan­uary, a new in­no­va­tion, rather than a tra­di­tional line, called IN­SPI­RA­TION, which is fruit based, al­low­ing the chefs to think about pas­try dif­fer­ently. In Septem­ber, straw­berry in­spi­ra­tion will fol­low, then pas­sion fruit, all of which have been made to en­hance the ways we can use fruit in choco­late, pas­tries and ice creams. The IN­SPI­RA­TION range will give chefs the pure, nat­u­ral fla­vor of fruits, com­bined with the unique tex­ture of choco­late.

In terms of fu­ture di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, what do your plans in­clude?

Val­rhona has a pres­ence in more than 70 coun­tries. At Val­rhona, we are con­fi­dent in our abil­ity to face to­mor­row’s chal­lenges, which is why we are im­ple­ment­ing a cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity (CSR) plan called ‘Live Long’, aimed at build­ing a sus­tain­able busi­ness model, pro­mot­ing gas­tron­omy pro­fes­sions, halv­ing our en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact by 2025 and work­ing closer with the co­coapro­duc­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

What would you say are your key strengths?

Val­rhona aims to im­prove the world of gas­tron­omy. Our strengths are our ca­pac­ity for in­no­va­tion, which runs in par­al­lel with our ex­per­tise through­out the whole co­coa value chain. We are planters, sourcers, pro­duc­ers and cre­ators. Our sourcers travel the globe in search of the finest co­coa beans, which will al­low us to make ex­cep­tional choco­late. We build long-term part­ner­ships with farm­ers. In 2013, we ce­mented our com­mit­ment to a sus­tain­able sup­ply chain by rolling out our Buyer Code of Con­duct and our Sus­tain­able Pur­chas­ing Char­ter. We want to make the best choco­late in the best way pos­si­ble.

What is cur­rently in sea­son and what is in vogue?

The chefs will soon start think­ing about their cre­ations for Christ­mas. In turn, we will present them with our new range of choco­late, as well as our dec­o­ra­tion range. Chefs love to sign their cre­ations, they also love to add an ex­tra de­sign that will make their cre­ation unique. Val­rhona Sig­na­ture is a dec­o­ra­tion of­fer, which al­lows them to cus­tom­ize their desserts.

Do you em­ploy brand am­bas­sadors to pro­mote your of­fer­ings?

Bano, as a whole, is the brand am­bas­sador of all its prod­ucts. It plays di­verse roles in mar­ket­ing, sales, tech­ni­cal demon­stra­tion and cus­tomer ser­vice to de­liver a seam­less brand im­age.

What are the ma­jor chal­lenges you are fac­ing?

With­out ex­ist­ing chal­lenges to tackle, the mar­ket will re­main stag­nant. How­ever, our ma­jor chal­lenge has al­ways been to com­pete through of­fer­ing the high­est qual­ity prod­ucts and the price range to match, be­cause we be­lieve that we de­liver no less than ex­cel­lence in all cat­e­gories.

What are the cur­rent top trend­ingth­emes in choco­late?

The choco­late in­dus­try is a di­verse one based on the co­coa bean, so trends are in­tro­duced by choco­late lovers who in­dulge them­selves in the dif­fer­ent choco­late fla­vors that best suit their tastes. The real Bel­gian choco­late called Bel­co­lade, which is the only choco­late still owned by the Bel­gians, con­tin­ues to de­velop and pro­duce ex­cep­tional choco­lates, which ex­cel and ex­ceed ex­pec­ta­tions.

In Europe, the dom­i­nant trend that has been mak­ing the rounds for the past cou­ple of years is the Bel­co­lade ‘Ori­gin’. It comes in dark, milk and white choco­late ver­sions, each of which has a very dis­tinct fla­vor based on the coun­try it was orig­i­nally sourced from. These in­clude Uganda, Pa­pua New Guinea, Venezuela and Congo. How­ever, the Arab world has not yet reached that level of ma­tu­rity, as our so­ci­ety tends to stick more to the clas­sic selec­tion of co­coa-based choco­lates.

In our re­gion, how­ever, the trend in choco­late has be­come a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of 'Cho­co­lat au Patis­serie', hav­ing the fla­vors that are known in pas­try to be cre­ated as fill­ings for choco­late; fla­vors such as, brown­ies, crème brulee, salted but­ter caramel, baklava, specu­loos, etc…

In terms of fu­ture di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, what do your plans in­clude?

The sky is the limit as cre­ation and in­no­va­tion never stop, nor does the learn­ing process.

What would you say are your key strengths and how are you play­ing to those?

Bano’s role re­lies on the con­stant search for the best in­gre­di­ents and equip­ment to el­e­vate the lo­cal and re­gional mar­kets. Our per­se­ver­ance and con­fi­dence in this in­dus­try are key to our strength and suc­cess.

What is cur­rently in sea­son and what is in vogue?

In the food sec­tor, there are al­ways new and chang­ing mar­ket trends which de­pend on the chang­ing needs of the con­sumers. And what's in sea­son is 'clean la­bel' prod­ucts with no ar­ti­fi­cial preser­va­tives or col­ors or ad­di­tives, giv­ing cus­tomers high qual­ity nat­u­ral prod­ucts. In choco­late, the 'real' choco­late in­clud­ing no preser­va­tives or hy­dro­genated fats. Also, the malt choco­late, con­tain­ing con­tain­ing 'malti­tol' re­plac­ing sugar. One of the ma­jor trends Bano has launched is the sour­dough bread mixes and fla­vors, which pro­duces sig­na­ture breads and mouth-wa­ter­ing crusts that con­sumers love.

What are the ma­jor chal­lenges you are fac­ing and how are you go­ing about over­com­ing these?

The chal­lenges to­day come in many dif­fer­ent waves. In the past, you could split the de­mand be­tween clients who were cost con­scious and clients who were qual­ity con­scious. In to­day’s en­vi­ron­ment, chefs are right­fully re­quest­ing the cor­rect for­mula be­tween a cus­tom­ized recipe which is of a high stan­dard and a low price point. To achieve this, it’s no longer pos­si­ble to pur­chase com­modi­ties from one source be­cause ev­ery­thing, from weather con­di­tions to the po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment, can af­fect sup­ply and prices. The ad­van­tage of Benoit is that the same recipe is sourced from var­i­ous re­li­able sup­pli­ers around the world to en­sure we al­ways achieve sta­bil­ity on both lev­els. The most im­por­tant as­pect of what Benoit of­fers is flex­i­bil­ity; the op­tion to cus­tom­ize your choco­late recipe or fill­ings or cake dec­o­ra­tions and in small quan­ti­ties. This, we be­lieve, is the way for­ward in to­day’s econ­omy.

What are the cur­rent top trend­ing themes in choco­late?

One of the key in­no­va­tions we have re­cently launched is per­son­al­ized choco­late dec­o­ra­tions to be used on cakes and pra­lines. Through the tech­nol­ogy we have im­ple­mented in one of our plants, we are able to of­fer clients a cus­tom­ized, en­graved logo on choco­late in an ef­fi­cient way that has never been done be­fore. Since cus­tomiza­tion is what ev­ery busi­ness is look­ing for to­day, we be­lieve this will be a big hit through­out the re­gion. We have also de­vel­oped and launched a new range of in­no­va­tive choco­late fill­ings, such as ‘Riz b Haleeb’ and ‘Mis­tika’. These have been very well re­ceived in the mar­ket and the range is con­tin­u­ously evolv­ing, even though it has an age-old sense of fla­vor and fa­mil­iar­ity.

In terms of fu­ture di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, what do your plans in­clude?

The brand is al­ready present through part­ners in the UAE, KSA, Qatar, Le­banon, Kuwait, Spain and Canada. How­ever, our main growth strat­egy is based on re­gional ex­pan­sion, which is why we are con­sid­er­ing a pres­ence in Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries of­fer­ing in­ter­est­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in the com­ing year.

What would you say are your key strengths?

The range and qual­ity of our prod­ucts are our strengths as a brand. When we look for a part­ner to dis­trib­ute our prod­ucts, we are of­fer­ing them a di­verse range, from choco­lates and fill­ings all the way through to cake mixes and jams. Such di­ver­sity is in­stru­men­tal when con­sid­er­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties for cre­ation.

What is cur­rently in sea­son and what is in vogue?

The choco­late in­dus­try is con­stantly evolv­ing and try­ing to pin­point the next big thing is go­ing to be is quite a tricky propo­si­tion, es­pe­cially since there are many trends that ap­pear out of nowhere and then fade away af­ter be­ing re­placed by other trends. Specu­loos and red-vel­vet are ex­am­ples of such trends. I think it is im­por­tant to stay tuned to the global mar­ket trends and be ready to act on these as quickly as pos­si­ble.

Sa­lon Du Cho­co­lat Beirut spon­sored by EMF - CALLE­BAUT

Mau­rice E. Feghali CEO EMF Trad­ing Ltd – Mid­dle East Co­or­di­na­tion for Barry Calle­baut

Alioune Diop

Area Man­ager - GCC Coun­tries & Mal­dives Val­rhona

Mo­hamad Hashwi CEO BANO Trad­ing

Bi­lal Ball­out CEO BMB

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