Swiss chocolate maker Barry Callebaut said it was seeing a gradual recovery and confirmed its mid-term guidance, after the COVID-19 pandemic hit sales volumes in the three months to the end of November.
Chocolate makers are grappling with a slowdown in global demand as the COVID-19 pandemic reduces impulse purchases, out-of-home consumption and gift giving.
Barry Callebaut's sales volumes fell 4.3% in the company's first quarter to November 30, the same rate of decline seen in the previous quarter, the Zurich-based group said in a statement.
"In the first quarter of the fiscal year, we are pleased to report resilient results in a still challenging environment," said Antoine de Saint-Affrique, CEO of the Barry Callebaut Group. "The overall improving chocolate performance and the continued recovery in Gourmet show that we keep building momentum quarter to quarter."
The company said sales volumes in the chocolate business had improved and its gourmet unit that supplies restaurants and chefs was also recovering, while cocoa sales declined, partially due to lower cocoa bean prices.
'In still volatile markets, we continue to find new ways of doing business and seize opportunities while maintaining strict cost discipline. We see a gradual recovery,' said the company that supplies chocolate to big groups like Mondelez and Hershey.
It confirmed its target for average volume growth of 5% to 7% per year for the current and the next two fiscal years.
Last week, Barry Callebaut has launched its 'oneBC' diversity and inclusion strategy.
Through the initiative, the cocoa processor and chocolate manufacturer aims to improve gender balance and diversify senior talent.
The group aims to achieve more progress in gender balance at senior level, pledging to have ratios of 40% women at director level by 2025, as well as more diversification in the origin of talent at senior level, committing to 50% of directors being local talent in countries of origin and emerging markets.
Isabelle Esser, chief human resources officer of the Barry Callebaut Group, said the business has to"commit to time-bound targets focusing on a few business critical challenges".