Luker Chocolate prepares for a key appearance at the World Confectionery Conference

Colombian Luker Chocolate is set to make a welcome return to the World Confectionery Conference, as editor Neill Barston chats with his European sales manager, Paul Morris, ahead of his appearance at the event

With our second World Confectionery Conference fast approaching, the event is rapidly coming together to represent all spheres of our rapidly evolving industry.

Certainly among the most important areas of policy-making are the due diligence and environmental legislation surrounding the cocoa supply chains that are taking shape within the EU. (See our exclusive video interview with Paul Morris for the conference here).

Although this is primarily aimed at making progress in critical West African countries, including Ghana and the Ivory Coast, the measures proposed to the European Commission aim to set renewed global standards.

Notably, among those that have long been hailed as setting a benchmark for best practice is Colombia’s Luker Chocolate, which is waiting to play its part for our second World Confectionery Conference – you can still register for the this Friday’s event in Brussels here if you haven’t done so yet. already done.

The family-owned manufacturer, whose history dates back to 1906, began its remarkable journey in the industry by creating hot chocolate for a domestic market that viewed the bar market as a luxury.

However, its gradual expansion over the past decades has earned it a solid reputation in the B2B world for the quality of its export chocolate ranges.

As Paul Morris, head of European sales for the ethics-focused company, explains, sustainability, under the guise of its ‘Chocolate Dream’ of ethically engaging with local farmers, is at the core. of its operations for decades.

So, the opportunity to share his company’s market insights with inspiring personal stories is an opportunity he greatly anticipates.

“We’re really excited about the WCC, it’s nice to be face to face with people in the industry again – friends, colleagues and competitors, and just chat about what’s going on in the industry. It had been a long time since we were all in the same room. A lot has happened in the world and the industry is facing a lot of challenges,” he notes, adding that this is an opportunity to sit down with industry colleagues around the world. a coffee that should not be underestimated after more than two years of existence. unable to do so in the midst of the pandemic.

Earlier this year, Confectionery Production met the sales manager at the 2022 edition of ProSweets in Cologne, and although the event was subject to strict Covid-19 rules, it actually kicked off. sending for a return of live events this year. .

The event allowed Luker to showcase its latest line of Oat Mi!k chocolates for the B2B market, which the company says is already making a difference. As the company notes, last year the healthier and healthier chocolate category in the United States was valued at $1.3 billion – with consumers demanding chocolate with less sugar, which is kinder to the body, but still delivering a tasty treat.

This continued through 2022, with the company seeing a 50% increase in demand for healthier option lines, which in turn is fueling broader innovation within the segment.

Globally, the sugar-free chocolate market is expected to grow 5.7% by 2028, to reach a value of US$621.5 million, creating huge potential growth opportunities for companies looking to develop products on the market “better for you”. space.

In addition, it has also just developed a new range of couvertures, including erythritol & stevia, in response to growing customer and consumer demand for chocolate with no added sugar and fewer calories. These new offerings complement the company’s current maltitol-sweetened options.

As Paul explains, meeting customer demands is more critical than ever given the magnitude of the broader tests facing the industry, including rising ingredient prices, logistical challenges and the backdrop of a ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Despite these challenges, he says there is a lot of optimism within the company.
“Our plant-based range, led by our range of oat milk chocolates, has been well received and is part of the broader shift in consumer demand around this desire for products that care for the planet. and are better for you.

“There has also been a huge increase in alternative sugars and sweeteners – everything is changing so quickly, so it’s important to listen to customers and what’s happening in the market, and be ready to innovate and react the as soon as possible,” he said. said, noting that there has also been a significant phenomenon of challenger brands entering the confectionery space, which he says continues to create some kind of buzz in the segment.

As he notes, the company has a long history of innovation, with its first chocolate manufacturing dating back to around 1906 in Colombia and having trained more than 35,000 farmers in its sustainability-focused practices.

“We have been working in Colombia sustainably for more than 50 years and we are cocoa farmers ourselves. We are therefore very close to what is happening on the ground and the challenges faced by farmers. It gives us a unique position to be part of the full value chain,” he says of his approach, which creates an atmosphere that is very much like that of a family business.

“We hear a lot about the context of cocoa farmers in West Africa – Colombia is very different and I hope to be able to show at the conference how these farmers are dealing with the challenges they face,” says Paul, who reflects it’s the company’s relatively compact size that allows it to react quickly to situations by providing support to farming communities.

As he reveals, the company – which has been exporting chocolate for at least two decades, has found that its UK market remains one of its main destinations.

Significantly, he says, the UK market has actually set the tone for changing many flavors and other food trends, including vegan offerings and alternative sweeteners, often paving the way for wider European markets.

Facing market tests
While there are clearly encouraging signs when it comes to its continued product development, the pressures on the company in its global operations are pretty clear. How did he actually deal with broader turmoil in international economies?
“We weren’t immune to challenges – we are close to most of our suppliers, we have a strong supply chain. I think the whole industry is being tested right now – with issues such as salmonella in the industry, which most will be aware of.

“So based on the number of phone calls and emails I get daily, there will be a lot of chocolate manufacturers in Q4, if they even have ingredients for their products.

In terms of reacting to the situation, we need to do everything we can to ensure there is still chocolate on the market for people who need it – so now is the time to come together as an industry , he concludes, explaining that the rest of the year will see other releases from the company.
This includes coffee-based chocolate with arabica beans and caramelo, a variety of caramelized milk), as it seeks to continue to maintain its established place in the market.

Latest offer
As a company, its latest offering, 33% Caramel Chocolate couverture Chocolate combines Aroma’s signature Cacao Fino de Luker and sustainability practices with one of the world’s most popular confectionery flavors.

Its development is part of the company’s ongoing work with challenger chocolate brands around the world to create high quality cocoa products grown in an environmentally responsible way.

Caramelo 33% is the latest offering from its new range of “Sensación” gourmet products. This new fine chocolate couverture highlights the unique aromatic notes of Cacao Fino de Aroma with a balanced caramel flavor
Clearly, delivering such ranges is indicative of a company keen to push its creative boundaries and respond to a rapidly changing global market, always on the lookout for new flavors, styles and product innovations through

“Keep your eyes peeled, as we will continue to innovate,” Paul adds of his proactive approach to new product development which has seen the company’s growth model continue on a healthy curve despite the broader challenges of the market.

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