Venchi eyes Australia as part of APAC expansion

r first Jakarta store and our first Taipei Store, completely remotely, thanks to our great local partners,” Marco Galimberti, managing director of Venchi Asia Pacific, told Inside Retail

“In 2021, we will increase the pace and we aim to open 29 doors across Asia Pacific, where 13 will be in Mainland China and seven in Japan.”     

Among these is a store at Shanghai Hongqiao airport which will open mid-year, and there are plans for entering new and old markets. 

“We will be finalising our partner selection for re-entering Korea and plan also the roll-out of stores in Australia, which of course depends mostly on the global resumption of international travels,” Galimberti said. 

The retailer is also planning to upgrade its Hong Kong store network. Earlier this month Venchi opened its 13th Hong Kong store at Lee Garden, after a busy 12 months exploring the China market.

The new store includes novelty designs features such as a chocolate display, a marble floor directly imported from Rome and a chocolate bar wall, to showcase the brand’s 30-plus SKUs. 

“It’s a very bright and cozy boutique,” Galimberti said of the latest store. 

Venchi APAC MD Marco Galimberti (centre) opens the Lee Garden store. Image: Supplied.

Market highs and lows

Despite the initial impact of Covid in China, Venchi’s China stores have been “really overperforming” since then, covering the initial loss of the lockdown in February “almost entirely”, according to Galimberti.

“Japan and Hong Kong, notwithstanding intermittent lockdowns throughout the year, have proven to be very resilient. At Christmas, we performed even better than 2019,” he said. 

“Singapore has been challenged by the most severe lockdown in H1 but had a great year end. But the cherry on the cake was the reception of the brand in Indonesia and Taipei: results were absolutely unexpected!”

Italy and Europe have been slow for the brand but Galimberti said the US is showing great signs of recovery due to the vaccine roll out. 

Digital overhaul 

While many businesses saw exponential growth in e-commerce sales throughout the pandemic, online growth for Venchi APAC was slower due to the nature of chocolate often being an impulse purchase. 

E-commerce has grown but not enough to offset the loss of lockdowns of partial interruption of business. Unfortunately the pleasure of gelato is mostly an offline pleasure,” Galimberti said. 

“That said, the delivery platform did increase especially in Hong Kong, Singapore and Europe. In Europe the growth has been massive.”

This year the brand is focusing on a digital overhaul to improve the online shopping experience for customers.

“We are actually undergoing a massive roll-out of a new and cutting-edge fully integrated ERP which is going to boost our digital activities at all levels: e-commerce, CRM, marketing and operations. This will take us further in terms of competitiveness.” 

Consumer challenges

With consumers increasingly health conscious and more ingredient-savvy than ever, chocolate manufacturers have had their work cut out for them in recent years. The demand from consumers to reduce sugar and cater to vegan and dairy-free diets has brought additional challenges for the industry, but Venchi was quick to adapt. 

“I believe we moved a long time ago into this direction, offering a fully gluten-free product and having a very wide range of dark chocolates, which are mostly vegan,” Galimberti said. 

Venchi’s value proposition has always been about creating an authentic Italian experience and producing “good things that make you feel good”. 

But by adjusting its portfolio in line with the “better for you” movement, Venchi has been able to create products that deliver on all fronts. 

“The consistent decrease of sugar content, the lack of chemicals, colourants and other densifiers, together with the heavy use of typical Italian dry fruits such as hazelnut, pistachios, almonds and extra virgin olive oil aims to deliver a product which is [an all-rounder], both within chocolate and gelato,” he said. 

The Venchi MD hinted at plans for “a very important product launch” in October 2021.