What are the primary challenges you face in the chocolate space and how are they overcome?
As a manufacturer of premium chocolate couvertures and finished products, Luker Chocolate is always looking to develop innovations that are better for people and the planet. But at the same time, deliver the superior taste characteristic of our fine chocolate, using single origin Cacao Fino de Aroma. This, however, is always a balancing challenge.
The chocolate industry is constantly looking for a sustainable and uniform supply of quality cocoa for its products. Today’s markets are far more specialised and consumers more demanding. They are willing to pay more for healthy, natural products which are organic or ‘free from’. Luckily, as Luker Chocolate is able to craft chocolates at origin, we have direct control and an understanding of the single origin cocoas we use. This means we have a developed knowledge of how we can best provide unique flavours, even when developing healthier attributes by pairing with more functional ingredients.
In evidence of this, Luker Chocolate just launched a new portfolio of sugar free and natural sugar alternative chocolates. This includes allulose and erythritol-stevia sugar free options or, panela, maple, coconut and agave as sugar alternatives. These formulations maintain those unique characteristics of Luker Chocolate’s Fino de Aroma cocoas while offering a sweet balance with the added health benefits.
Panela, in particular, is interesting as it is a natural, unprocessed sugar, commonly produced by farmers in Colombia and for years has been included in chocolate. By including it in our own chocolates, we can offer a product that is completely sourced in Colombia and offers a taste of our origin as well.
How do consumer demands differ? For example, are the same people interested in single origin dark chocolate also seeking out more accessible milk varieties?
We have found that consumers’ tastes differ significantly taking into account their geography, age range and even their lifestyle choices. For example, the new generation of fine chocolate consumers are showing more interest in darker chocolates. Due to health benefits such as sugar and diary reduction, specific sustainability claims and even differences among specific origins.
Lifestyle choices play a big role too. A clear example is the growing demand for vegan-friendly options. This is driven by a more conscious consumer looking for options that are better for the planet and healthier. This consumer is also not willing to sacrifice taste, so it is important to find milk alternatives that deliver in both directions.
Are trends skewing in a particular direction in terms of premium/artisanal versus more mainstream varieties?
Overall, Luker Chocolate is seeing more growth in the premium segment, where consumers are willing to experiment with bolder flavours and place more value in craft alternatives and finer flavour profiles. This trend has been accelerated by private labels making premium chocolate more accessible to consumers. The health-conscious trend is also a driver as consumers are looking for dark chocolate options with less sugar and with no artificial ingredients.
How does taste interact with other sensory components like texture and temperature? How is this taken into account?
The sensory experience of chocolate remains the main driver, particularly in the premium segment. With less ingredients to compete with the pure chocolate taste, the consumer is now able to experience the unique attributes of each chocolate and even explore other ways to enjoy it (i.e. pairings with wine or coffee).
Contrast in texture is also quite relevant in the overall chocolate experience as consumers are willing to explore inclusions like quinoa or cocoa nibs, to provide crunch or discover new tastes like tropical fruits.
How is the chocolate arena changing? What has been the biggest change in the last ten years, and what do you expect to see in the future?
We see three key changes that are sure to shape the future of chocolate globally:
Growth of chocolate participation in other categories besides confectionary. Particularly in healthy snacking, baking ingredients and hot beverages.
More availability and accessibility of differentiated premium chocolate alternatives with opportunity for single origin, differentiated flavours and ingredients and functional claims.
A more conscious consumer looking for sustainable chocolates far beyond certification labels; interested in traceability and impact.