Singapore-owned chocolate producer, Aalst is making its way into China's highly competitive chocolate confectionery segment where major players like Mars and Hershey are also fighting to maintain their market dominance.
Aalst chocolate products have been brought to China’s retail stores and e-commerce channels via a Shanghai food importer, Nenglong Foods. According to Nenglong's CEO Zhong Wang, he discovered Aalst at a recent trade show in May 2017 and was impressed with Aalst nice packaging and high quality ingredients. He said, “We are hoping to use their 61% chocolate bar as an ‘ice-breaker’ and a better-for-you option to attract Chinese millennial consumers… We’re also going to introduce more varieties in the future.”
Aalst is best known for its 61% dark bar. Founded in 2003, Aalst sources cocoa beans from all over the world, and blends them based on its “proprietary recipes”. It also manufactures single-origin chocolate bars for customers who prefer regional characteristics of cocoa. Aalst success can be seen with its annual production jumped fourfold from 7,200 tonnes in 2004 to 30,000 tonnes in 2017.
Zhong Wang previously helped Hershey expand its distribution in China, and he is confident that it will be an easier task to get Chinese consumers to familiarise with other Asian brands. “We had many imported chocolates in the past, like Dove and Hershey, and they all tried to be assimilated to look like domestic brands," he said, adding that “Aalst’s products don’t taste as sweet, so they have a natural advantage among our shoppers who want to eat less sugar.”
Aalst’s launch in China will be supported by a comprehensive digital marketing, and the brand has introduced seasonal gift boxes right before Chinese New Year festive period.