Chocolatier Theobroma is expanding to the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Singapore, having already launched in five other markets, bucking the trend of struggling chocolate chains.
Theobroma – a chocolatier, café and bar franchise – initially established a presence in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia before launching in the United States, China and India this year.
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Now the chain has set its sights on the UK, confirming it will open stores in Birmingham and central London early next year, while other UK locations are in the pipeline.
According to franchise and operations manager Wayne Wright, Theobroma has also signed new franchisees for Saudi Arabia and Singapore.
“We have had an extensive year in 2012, with many stores opening… We are set for an even more exciting year in 2013,” Wright said in a statement.
“The lack of quality chocolate and café products available was one of the main things that compelled us to bring Theobroma to the rest of the world.”
“With our experience in quality coffee, chocolate and food products, we decided to fill the void with a high quality world alternative.”
The company is now looking for interested franchisees to join its growing system.
“If you’re passionate about food, beverage, chocolate or quality service, then Theobroma may be the right choice for you,” it said.
Theobroma’s expansion plans are in stark contrast to the fate of other industry players, namely Darrell Lea, which collapsed earlier this year after nearly 85 years.
Meanwhile, the founders of chocolate retail chain Planet Chocolate recently sold the business, citing the tough retail climate as a key factor in the decision.
But according to IBISWorld, there are still opportunities in the chocolate industry, providing new entrants determine their market position from the get-go.
“In the premium high end – fine chocolates made experientially by expert chocolatiers – that market has been growing by about 14-15% a year,” IBISWorld analyst Naren Sivasailam told StartupSmart in July.
“Fair trade chocolate is the biggest growth segment – it has experienced growth of about 11,000% in the last five years but that’s going off a base close to zero.”
“It doesn’t mean it’s premium, but it’s appealing to certain ethical stances of consumers. Consumers care about this, and producers will lose out if they don’t tap into it.”
Sivasailam said the rise of chocolate cafés highlights the importance of creating a meaningful retail experience for consumers.
“The idea of experiential retail has been around awhile. It’s not as prevalent with chocolate but a lot of retailers are trying to get retailers through their doors,” he said.