Venchi began its chocolate-making journey back in 1878. Nearly 150 years later, it has more than 135 stores, dubbed ‘ChocoGelaterias’, where customers can taste its Italian gelato, freshly made everyday, and discover the latest chocolate recipes made with natural ingredients. It also operates five e-commerce websites in Europe, US, China, Indonesia and Japan, more than 8000 wholesale locations and a range of corporate gifting initiatives, and it’s looking to further accelerate its gl
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global expansion in the years to come.
“2023 has started really strongly all over Asia, including China, which has hit a record high in terms of sales. It’s been quite unprecedented, as we were caught a bit off guard in terms of manpower and staffing,” Venchi CEO Marco Galimberti told Inside Retail.
The business is also seeing strong sales figures in markets like Taiwan, SIngapore and Hong Kong, which have proven to be quite resilient throughout the pandemic.
“We will add two important milestones in 2023 with our foray into Malaysia and Australia. We want to bring a piece of Italy to every part of the world. Asia Pacific is a huge market for us, and we aim to bring the best of our tradition and heritage to customers in this region,” he added.
The APAC marketplace
Galimberti hopes to surpass the 100 store mark by year end in APAC. In mainland China, the brand has 41 stores, while in Japan it has 14 stores. It has five stores in Taiwan, 16 stores in Hong Kong, five stores in Singapore and Indonesia, and will have two stores in Malaysia and Australia by the end of the year.
Interestingly, for the Venchi brand, digital sales accounted for seven per cent of its total global sales in 2022. Galimberti hopes to grow this to 10 per cent in 2023, though logistical issues could be a challenge.
“The investments we have made in the digital side have really paid off. Especially in China, we’ve been very strong. We are investing in e-commerce operations in Taiwan and Singapore. Hong Kong and Taiwan e-commerce operations are also being upgraded,” he noted.
Sales have been brisk in Hong Kong, and the company is leveraging WhatsApp, TikTok and Instagram and tapping into delivery platforms like Foodpanda, Deliveroo and Grab to reach new customers and ensure they receive products in a timely manner.
“Our gelato deliveries during the pandemic were a major source of revenue for us and we had no idea how important this was for us then. All the delivery platforms really proved to be a massive boost for our business at the time,” he added.
A niche space
In APAC, Galimberti said that the Japanese market, Indonesian and Chinese markets are all very different in terms of customers’ needs and wants. He feels the brand’s point of distinction is that it brings best practices in gelato and confectionery to a new level.
“There is huge potential for us to grow in a market that has been traditionally dominated by the Belgian, French and Swiss. The advantage we have is our low-milk and low-sugar formulations that have a very high quantity of cocoa mass as well as nuts and this is popular in China,” he noted.
Interestingly, consumers in the US and India prefer more sugary varieties. He noted that customers in Japan also tend to have a sweet tooth, and the brand tailors its offering accordingly to keep its customers satisfied.
Gen Z and Millennials
Like most brands, retailers and marketers, Venchi is also trying to court the attention of Gen Z and Millenials. The company is developing video content on TikTok and using CRM tools to tap into this demographic.
In China and Hong Kong, the brand has been running workshops to invite customers in to sample the products, experiment with recipes and educate them on the finer side of things in the confectionery space.
“This year, we have plenty of local, small events, where we will be inviting VIPs and the younger generation, especially in China, and just like last year, these events were proven to be very successful. Everybody found it super engaging,” he added.
The brand is investing heavily in creating more dark chocolate varieties for the gelato and confectionery side of things and also looking towards more water-based gelatos in trying to reduce the milk content in its offerings.
“Indulgence is still a big part of what makes our brand special. The world has gone through a lot in the past few years, so we are always innovating but making sure our products are still regarded as treats for those who want something special,” he concluded.