* Nine-month sales volumes rise 2.4 pct on stand-alone basis
* Barry blames low cocoa price, profitability focus on
* Confirms mid-term targets
(Adds CFO quotes, details)
By Caroline Copley
ZURICH, July 3 Barry Callebaut, the
world's biggest chocolate maker, said on Thursday sales volumes
growth slowed to 2.4 percent in the nine months to the end of
The Zurich-based company, which makes chocolate for Nestle
, Unilever and Mondelez
among others, is benefiting from a trend among big food groups
to outsource chocolate production.
But a lull in outsourcing deals in recent months and a focus
on profitability in Western Europe has kept volume growth at
Barry Callebaut below that of levels seen in earlier years.
Low cocoa powder prices also discouraged aggressive
expansion of production.
"As we continue to focus on increasing our product margins,
we concentrated on selective growth in developed markets," Chief
Executive Juergen Steinemann said in a statement.
On a stand-alone basis, nine-month sales volumes rose 2.4
percent. This was below the group's mid-term target of 6-8
percent per year, and slower than the 3.1 percent achieved in
the first half of the year.
Including the cocoa business acquired from Petra Foods
at the end of 2012 and consolidated since July 2013,
sales volumes grew 15.8 percent.
Chief Financial Officer Victor Balli attributed the slower
stand-alone volume growth to the company's reluctance to push
cocoa powder volumes given the relatively low price levels and a
focus on profitability in Western Europe.
"Another reason why we slowed down a bit was also because we
didn't implement larger outsourcing deals in the last
months, but we have a few upcoming which we will now implement,"
Balli said in an interview, adding the outsourcing pipelines
look "very attractive".
On top of industrial production, Barry Callebaut also
supplies restaurants, bakeries and catering services with
'gourmet' chocolate products, a high-margin business that grew
6.9 percent in the first nine months of the financial year.
Balli said the gourmet business and emerging markets, where
volumes surged 63 percent, would continue to drive growth. In
Western Europe, volumes slipped 0.2 percent as the company
focused on improving product margins.
Barry Callebaut confirmed its mid-term targets for 6-8
percent average volume growth per year and to restore
profitability to pre-acquisition levels by 2015/16.
(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Susan Fenton)