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Interview

At The Table With: Valrhona

21 July 2022 by Food&HotelAsia

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What sets Valrhona apart from the competition?

At Valrhona, we have devoted ourselves to a mission: using good food to make the world a better place. This is more than just a slogan – it is backed up by action in terms of the way we source products, process food and pass on skills, but it is also backed up by people. When we talk about sourcing, we’re really talking about producers. Valrhona strives every day to ensure the cocoa industry is built to last, as we’re a big enough company to ensure our decisions and actions have a positive impact on the entire supply chain. Transformation is all about Valrhona’s teams and their expert ability to constantly improve our work and enrich our aromatic palette even further. Our company has a social conscience and it is just the right size to be able to take care of our colleagues’ well-being. Teaching is all about our customers. We guide and support these professionals because we know how demanding and difficult food professions are. Valrhona does its utmost to support craftsmanship and give its customers the resources they need to take their art to the next level. At Valrhona, we firmly believe that we have the power to co-create a sustainable model for our industry together with everyone who works in it. Every one of us will benefit, from our producers to our colleagues, chefs to chocolate lovers, as we find the means to respect and protect the planet. To make the best chocolate, we must be our best selves.

Could you share with us the journey of how Valrhona evolved over the years and the celebration of 100 year anniversary.

For 100 years, Valrhona has shaped chocolate’s history with its boundless creativity.

Starting in 1922, founder Albéric Guironnet, a pastry chef that explored, tried new things, and invented new flavors, giving all the different nuances the chance to shine.

In 1986, we created the world’s most bitter chocolate – GUANAJA 70%. We were the first to talk about cocoa in terms of a percentage. In 1990, Valrhona launched its first Grand Cru de Terroir: MANJARI 64%. A chocolate created from a single cocoa origin: Madagascar. 8 years later, 1998, GRAN COUVA became the first chocolate made from a single plantation in Trinidad and inventing the estate-based chocolate product segment. A few years later, Valrhona set up a team of sourcing staff around the world and launched the “Cuvées du Sourceur” range.

In 2004, when chef Frédéric Bau forgot his white chocolate in a bain-marie, he unwittingly invented a fourth chocolate variety. After 8 years of R&D, Valrhona launched a new blond range with blond DULCEY.

In 2015, Mananka 62% and Itakuja 55% emerged out of an innovative double fermentation process, which infuses chocolate with original notes of fruit.

in 2016, INSPIRATION range was presented. This was the very first fruit couverture. It blended cocoa butter’s melting texture with the intense flavor and color of real fruit.

Last year, we created the world’s most concentrated cocoa juice. OABIKA is made from mucilage, the delicious but underused white pulp which protects cocoa beans in their pod.

A special anniversary requires a special creation with KOMUNTU 80%! This Grand Cru has been designed with 100 ethically-minded people, and 100% of the profits earned during Valrhona’s 100th birthday year will be donated to cocoa producers.

How has the company evolved to meet the challenges of today in terms of sustainability and innovation?

Valrhona has always been focused to answer sustainability challenges faced by our profession. In 2020 we were very proud of being certified B CORP. This certification is granted for 3 years and will be re-evaluated by professional auditors from B Corp. Few examples: After reducing 57% of our environmental footprint, our objective is to continue to reduce our impact.

Our chocolaterie factory is carbon neutral since the end of 2020. By the end of 2025, it’s our whole value’s chain that we want carbon neutral – from the plantation to the plate. We are opting for insetting inside our own creation of value’s chain, associating to the action our producers, for instance through reforestation actions and forest protection. We reduced by 30% the weight of our packaging, although we haven’t found yet a recyclable material that would guarantee an excellent conservation and by so, an excellent chocolate quality. With our suppliers, we are actively looking for a sustainable and responsible material. Meanwhile in France, we are trying a new way of delivering our products with a project called “la consigne”, without packaging, instead returnable and reusable containers.

We also try to include even more our clients, by offering tools and trainings allowing them to launch their own committed approach. In collaboration with Food Made Good (the world’s most recognized sustainability program from the Sustainable Restaurant Association), we developed unique tools for gastronomy professionals to guide them towards more sustainable practices.

Valrhona, everywhere in the world, will continue to support communities around its activities. Whether that will be with the Graines de Patissier in France, giving underprivileged young people access to bakery and pastry trainings or with the “Food Recovery network” fighting against food waste and hunger in the US, Valrhona must and will continue to reinforce its actions locally.

Having a sustainable approach is also at the heart of our R&D – a good example is our latest innovation OABIKA. By transforming cocoa pulp, we help to reduce the waste created from cocoa production by 40% and help producers generate additional income through the sale of this joint product.

What are the key trends in Asia and how has the Asian market evolved over the years?

Asia is a market with very high level of expectations, both in term of pastry techniques and in term of taste. Currently we are seeing an acceleration of ‘local’ focus both in term of ingredients (pastry chefs tend to use more and more local ingredients when it’s relevant and work on variation, optimization & revamping of local pastry recipes such as Mooncakes in Hong Kong, Pavlova in Australia, Bingsu in Korea, etc…

The Vegan trend has been emerging for quite some time now even if traditional techniques and ingredients remain most popular.

‘Home Baking’ has also been an important emerging trend especially since Covid-19.

What is your favourite chocolate dessert? And why?

Opéra! Invented in 1955 by pastry chef Cyriaque Gavillon for the Maison Dalloyau Tea Room, for me it perfectly mixes great pastry techniques with simple and delicious ingredients! Perfect with our Iconic Guanaja 70%!

 

There is currently a strong demand for chocolate in Asia and what are the driving factors.

Yes, chocolate consumption in Asia has been growing steadily. Driving factors are a combination of  desserts getting more and more popular for family events, gatherings such as banquets and weddings, or to be consumed during a break or at a quality time in ‘Cafes’ & ‘Desserts Cafes’ and or in a fine dining restaurant for example, fine chocolate getting more popular as well with a bigger interest in selecting the finest origins, high percentage of cocoa, and consuming the products from premium retail shops for own consumption or for home baking.

Are there any new product launches and what is Valrhona’s plans to strengthen the presence in Asia.

Innovation is part of Valrhona’s DNA. Over the past 5 years we have been introducing breakthrough innovations:

– Inspiration, available now in 5 flavors: Passion Fruit, Strawberry, Raspberry, Almond and Yuzu.
– Amatika 46%, vegan milk and single origin from Madagascar
– Millot 74%, 100% organic and single plantation from Madagascar
– Ground Chocolate range, with 2 single origin (Grenada & Ghana) perfect for chocolate beverage.
– Oabika, called the ‘Gold of the pod’ which is an amazing cocoa fruit juice concentrate bringing additional revenues to our planters and pushing new creative ways for chefs.

Finally, soon to be launched:

– Komuntu 80%, to celebrate our anniversary. From cocoa-producing partners to suppliers, co-workers and customers (including 7 APAC Chefs), a group of 100 people has worked together to create this unique blend.

What are you doing to add value to partners as part of the 100 year anniversary or moving forward?

Our mission statement, “Together, good becomes better”, conveys the strength of our commitments.

Over 100 years, our determination to deepen our knowledge of cocoa ever further and support communities has been confirmed time and time again thanks to long-term partnerships with producers averaging terms of eight years.

For 100 years, we have been sharing our expertise, which has found its passionate culmination in L’École Valrhona on several continents. After Tain l’Hermitage, New York and Tokyo, a L’École Valrhona school was inaugurated in the heart of Paris, in the Marais district, on May 2, 2022! As well as being a showcase for its chocolate- and pastry-making know-how, L’École Valrhona is a powerful training facility promoting creativity conducive to meeting new people, learning and passing on new gastronomy techniques and trends. We have also been determined to promote craft professions by helping to launch our profession’s key initiatives such as the Pastry World Cup.

This special milestone requires to launch an iconic product! Komuntu 80% evokes the strong link that binds our collective together, giving a sound and a rhythm to the meaning behind our work. Komuntu is a combination of “Komunumo”, which means “community” in Esperanto, and “Ubuntu”, an African word encapsulating the idea that “I am because we are”. Komuntu is the physical embodiment of our commitment to a fair, sustainable chocolate sector and creative, responsible gastronomy, during our 100th anniversary year we are redistributing all the profits made to cocoa producers.

 Our 100th anniversary is also the opportunity to celebrate together! Valrhona APAC is organizing 4 events in Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul and Sydney to thank and celebrate with everyone who is part of and contributes to this beautiful adventure! They will embark on a journey throughout the story of Valrhona celebrating and retracing our commitments, our passion and our products. These celebrations will be featuring delicious creations from L’Ecole Valrhona, our latest innovations, exclusive tastings, moments of togetherness with our community and many more surprises!

How are you preparing for FHA and what can our buyers look forward to?

FHA is a very important Trade Show for us and for the region. This year is quite special as it will bring back together most of our regional partners and customers for the first time in almost 3 years.

We will be delighted to welcome them on our Stand booth, not only to introduce them our last Valrhona innovations but also to showcase our last categories & new brands: Chocolatree (Decors), Republica Del Cacao (Most sustainable chocolate in Latin America), Norohy (Organic Vanilla from Madagascar & Tahiti), Professional Premium ingredients with SOSA and Adamance, our new fruit puree.

What can you share about the road ahead for the brand?

Continuously bringing our Valrhona moto to life: ‘Together good becomes better’, which means always providing the best ingredients to serve & inspire our chefs from the current & next generation while working to deliver a sustainable model hand in hand with everyone who works in the chocolate industry.

 

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