Luker Chocolate gears up for key World Confectionery Conference appearance
pic: Luker Chocolate
Colombia’s Luker Chocolate is set to make a welcome return to the World Confectionery Conference, as editor Neill Barston discusses with its European sales manager, Paul Morris, ahead of its appearance at the event
With our second World Confectionery Conference almost upon us, the event is rapidly coming together in representing all spheres of our fast-evolving sector.
Among the most prominent areas of policy development must surely be due diligence and environmental legislation surrounding cocoa supply chains that is taking shape within the EU. (See our exclusive video interview with Paul Morris for the conference here).
While this is primarily looking to make inroads into making further gains within critical West African nations including Ghana and Ivory Coast – the measures being put forward to the European Commission are aiming to set renewed global standards.
Notably, among those who have long been hailed as laying down a marker for best practice is Colombia’s Luker Chocolate, which is awaiting playing its part for our second World Confectionery Conference – you can still register for this Friday’s event in Brussels here if you have not done so already.
The family-owned manufacturer, which traces its history back to 1906, began its notable journey in the sector creating hot chocolate for a domestic market that considered the bar market something of a luxury.
However, it has gradually expansion over the past few decades has seen it gain a strong reputation within the B2B world for the quality of its export chocolate ranges.
As Paul Morris, European sales manager for the ethically-focused business explains, sustainability, under the guise of its ‘Chocolate Dream’ of engaging ethically with local farmers has been at the heart of its operations for decades.
So the chance to share his company’s market knowledge insights with some inspiring personal stories is an opportunity that his anticipating considerably.
“We’re really excited about the WCC, it’s nice to be back face to face with people in the industry – friends, colleagues and competitors, and just have a chat about what is going on in the industry. It’s been a long time since we were all in one room. A lot has happened in the world, and there are a lot of challenges facing the industry,” he notes, adding that it’s the chance to sit down with industry colleagues over a coffee that is not to be underestimated after more than two years of being unable to do so amid the pandemic.
Earlier this year, Confectionery Production met with the sales director at the 2022 edition of ProSweets in Cologne, and while the event was subject to some stringent Covid-19 rules, it did in fact fire the starting gun for a return for live events this year.
The event offered the chance for Luker to showcase its latest Oat Mi!k chocolate line for the B2B market, which the business believes is already making a difference. As the company notes, last year the healthier, better-for-you chocolate category in the US was valued at $1.3 billion – with consumers demanding chocolate that has less sugar, is kinder to the body, but still offers a tasty treat.
This has continued into 2022, with the company logging a 50 per cent increase in demand for healthier option ranges – which is in turn fuelling wider innovation within the segment.
Globally, the sugar-free chocolate market is expected to grow by 5.7 per cent between now and 2028, reaching a value of $621.5M USD – creating huge potential growth opportunities for companies looking to develop products in the “better-for-you” market space.
In addition, it has also just developed a new range of covertures, including erythritol & stevia, in response to an increase in client and consumer demand for chocolate with no added sugar and lower calories. These new offerings complement the company’s current options sweetened with maltitol.
As Paul explains, meeting the demands of customers is more critical than ever given the scale of wider tests facing the sector, including ingredients price rises, logistics issues and the backdrop of an ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Despite such challenges, he says that there’s a good deal of optimism within the business.
“Our plant-based range led by our Oat Milk chocolate line has been well received, and it ties in to the broader change in consumer demand around that desire for products that look after the planet and are better for you.
“There’s also been a huge rise in alternative sugars and sweeteners – everything is changing so quickly, so it is important to listen to clients, and what is happening in the market, and be ready to innovation and react as quickly as possible,” he says, noting there has also been a significant phenomenon of challenger brands coming into the confectionery space, which he says is continuing to create something of a buzz in the segment.
As he notes, the company has plenty of its own history in terms of innovating, with its first chocolate making dating from around 1906 in Colombia, and having trained more than 35, 000 farmers in its sustainability-focused practices.
“We’ve been working in Colombia sustainably for over 50 years, and we’re cocoa farmers ourselves –so we are very close to what happens on the ground there, and the challenges faced by farmers. This gives us a unique position to be part of the complete value chain,” he says of its approach, which creates an atmosphere which is very much one of a family-owned business.
“We hear a lot about the context of cocoa farmers in West Africa- Colombia is very different and hopefully I’ll be able to show at the conference how those farmers carry out the challenges they are dealing with,” explains Paul, who reflects that it is the comparatively compact size of the business that enables it to react to situations quickly in offering support to farming communities.
As he reveals, the business – which has been exporting chocolate for at least a couple of decades, has found that its UK market remains among its most important destination.
Significantly, he says the British market has in fact been setting the pace of change on many flavour and other eating trends including vegan offerings and for alternative sweeteners, often paving the way for wider European markets.
Facing up to market tests
While there are clearly some encouraging signs as regards its ongoing product development, the pressures on the business in its global operations are fairly clear to see. How has it in fact coped with wider turbulence in international economies?
“Were not exempt from the challenges – we are close to most of our suppliers, we have a robust supply chain. I think the whole industry is being tested at the moment – with issues such as salmonella in the sector, that most will be aware of.
“So, based on the number of phone calls and emails I have been taking on a daily basis, there’s going to be a lot of chocolate manufacturers in the fourth quarter, whether they will even have ingredients for their products.
In terms of reacting to the situation, we have to do all that we can to make sure that there is still chocolate in the market for people who need it – so now is the time to pull together as an industry, he concludes, explaining that the remainder of the year will see further releases from the company.
This includes coffee-based chocolate featuring arabica beans, and caramelo, a caramelised milk variety), as it seeks to continue to maintain its established place in the market.
As the company, its latest offering, 33%, caramel chocolate couverture chocolate combines Luker’s signature Cacao Fino de Aroma and sustainability practices with one of the most popular confectionery flavours in the world.
Its development is part of the company’s ongoing work with challenger chocolate brands across the world in a bid to create products using high grade cocoa, farmed in an environmentally mindful manner.
Caramelo 33 per cent is the latest offering from its new “Sensación” indulgent product line. This new fine chocolate couverture highlights the unique flavour notes of Cacao Fino de Aroma with a balanced caramel flavour
Clearly, the delivery of such ranges is indicative of a business that is keen to push its creative boundaries, and respond to a fast-moving global market, ever keen for new flavours, styles and product innovation across
“Keep your eyes peeled, as we’ll always keep innovating,” adds Paul of its proactive approach to new produce development that has seen the company’s pattern of growth continue on a healthy curve in spite of broader market challenges.