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Swiss firm develops a taste for China
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Swiss cocoa and chocolate products maker Barry Callebaut AG moved its Asia Pacific headquarters to Suzhou in Jiangsu Province from Singapore and made Shanghai a frontline sales center in China, senior company officials said yesterday.


The move comes with the inauguration of Barry Callebaut's first chocolate factory in China, in Suzhou Industry Park.


With an investment of up to US$20 million, the 15,000-square-meter plant has an annual capacity of 25,000 tons. It is the company's 38th chocolate factory.


"The kickoff of our production in China is a strategic move that showcases our long-term commitment here," said Andreas Jacobs, chairman of the board of Barry Callebaut. "With the presence in China, we are a truly global company."


The firm plans to produce 10,000 tons of chocolate in the Suzhou plant this year, of which 6,000 tons will serve the local market and the rest be exported.


It expects to raise production to the full capacity of 25,000 tons in four years after China's chocolate consumption picks up.


"China will be our key target market in Asia for the next coming years. Today's consumption per capita here may be low and may expand only slowly in rural areas. But the development speed of urban areas along the belt from Beijing to Shanghai and to Hong Kong is breathtaking," said Patrick De Maeseneire, chief executive officer of Barry Callebaut.


"There alone, we are talking of about 500 million potential chocolate consumers, who are open to novelties including new foods and who have enough disposable income to buy premium chocolate products."


The company aims to grow its sales generated in China by six times by 2012.


However, Barry Callebaut won't produce chocolate with its own brand in China. It will serve primarily as a supplier for industrial customers such as hotels, restaurants and other chocolate brand owners.


Founded in 1996 through the merger of Belgian chocolate producer Callebaut and the French chocolate company Cacao Barry, Barry Callebaut aims to be the number one in all major world markets.


Barry Callebaut, listed in SWX Swiss Exchange, posted sales of more than US$3.5 billion in the last fiscal year ended August 31.


(Shanghai Daily January 10, 2008)

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