Barry Callebaut knows chocolate, consumers and how to leverage up and coming trends both in confections and food and beverage in general.
Typically, the company shares this knowledge at trade shows, at seminars and meetings, and through individualized interactions with stakeholders. But this year, as trade shows are canceled due to the threat of coronavirus and social distancing has put a damper on face-to-face meetings, Barry Callebaut is doing something different, Laura Bergan, the company's director of brand marketing, told Food Dive.
Next week, the company will host three 40-minute webinars through its new BC Live platform. The sessions, during the lunch hour, will introduce manufacturers and formulators to the newest trends for consumers that would use chocolate ingredients. Chefs will also provide ideas on how to incorporate some of these trends and Barry Callebaut's chocolate into products.
Bergan told Food Dive the company was already exploring different ways to share this information with its customers before the pandemic began. But with cancellations like Sweets & Snacks Expo that was scheduled for May, Barry Callebaut looked more seriously into hosting webinars.
"[We] still didn't want to lose that touch point with our customer base, so that's really the foundation of why we're moving forward next week with our webinar series," Bergan told Food Dive. "Under our new BC Live platform, it's going to be really a way to communicate out to our customers new news, solutions, trends that we can bring out. Ultimately, we want to just continue to be a valuable partner to our customers."
The week begins with a Monday webinar titled "Centennial Chocolate Trends" that focuses on millennial and Gen Z consumers and how their preference for better-for-you and sustainable food is shaping the market. Tuesday's webinar is "Chocolate Solutions for Eating Lifestyles," and takes a look at adapting ingredients to fit dietary choices like vegan and keto. And it closes out with "New Chef Concepts LIVE," a kitchen demo focused on taking these trends and making them into products.
Before the coronavirus pandemic upended the traditional way of doing business, Bergan said Barry Callebaut had selected many of these topics to present to its customers this year. While the topics and messages weren't necessarily shaped by coronavirus, Bergan said health and wellness are likely to be more top of mind in the months to come for consumers hoping to boost their immunity. Manufacturers wanting to launch products that are both indulgent and better-for-you should be able to get ideas from the series, Bergan said.
Bergan said Barry Callebaut doesn't just provide ingredients. It also does detailed consumer research and works with manufacturers to develop products. The webinar series will highlight those aspects of its business, she said.
"I think it's the whole story we bring, and that ultimately makes us unique," Bergan said. "It's not one perspective, it's a journey, and we're along that whole journey as one of our customers actually launches a new product."
The webinars, which the company says will be the most useful to manufacturers in the United States and Canada, have attracted both existing Barry Callebaut customers and drawn new ones, Bergan said. They have attendee limits, and as of Wednesday afternoon were at 80% of their capacity, according to the company.
If the webinar series is successful, Bergan said it's likely Barry Callebaut will continue using this format for customer education, even when people can come to in-person events.
"I think this has opened our eyes and made us think outside of the box a little bit on ensuring we have the right touch points to communicate real-time solutions and ideas to customers," she said.