* Q1 sales volumes up 19.5 pct, below expectations
* Co cites capacity constraints in W. Europe
* Sales revenue of 1.515 bln CHF vs 1.496 bln forecast
* CEO sees overall chocolate market picking up
* Confirms mid-term guidance
(Adds CFO, CEO comments, analysts, shares)
By Caroline Copley
ZURICH, Jan 15 Demand for chocolate is picking
up, boosted by strong sales of gourmet products, the world's
biggest supplier to the industry said on Wednesday, as it blamed
capacity constraints and a lull in outsourcing deals for slower
growth in its sales volumes.
Barry Callebaut, which makes chocolate for the
likes of Nestle and Mondelez, said on
Wednesday consumers in the Americas in particular were flocking
to premium chocolates.
That echoed comments from Swiss chocolate-maker Lindt &
Spruengli, which beat full-year sales forecasts on
Consumer trends consultant Nielsen has said the global
chocolate market grew 3.4 percent in volume from September to
November, accelerating from 1.1 percent in the same period the
year before, as economies recover in Europe and North America.
Barry Callebaut, the world's largest maker of chocolate and
cocoa products, said its sales jumped 21.4 percent by value in
the quarter - the first of its financial year - to 1.52 billion
Swiss francs ($1.7 billion), beating forecasts and helped by
higher prices for cocoa beans, cocoa butter and milk powder.
However, its sales volumes rose 19.5 percent, below the 21.1
percent forecast by analysts, and excluding the Petra Foods
business it bought in December 2012, volumes were up just 4.6
percent, down from 8.3 percent the same time the year before.
The Swiss-based company blamed the slowdown on a tough
year-on-year comparison, as well as fewer new deals to make
chocolate for third parties. Bottlenecks in western Europe also
weighed on growth in the region, though it said these were being
J. Safra Sarasin analyst Patrick Hasenboehler said the
company's volume growth was "slightly disappointing" and kept a
"reduce" rating on the stock, citing a stretched valuation.
But Vontobel's Jean-Philippe Bertschy said the slower volume
growth reflected a drive by management to focus on higher-margin
Shares in Barry Callebaut, up almost 30 percent since the
end of August, trade at 20.5 times forecast earnings, above
Nestle's 18.6 times, according to Thomson Reuters data.
The stock was down 1.0 percent to 1,106 francs by 1015 GMT,
underperforming Europe's food and beverages index.
Outsourcing, such as a 2012 deal with Unilever
to supply chocolate for ice creams such as Magnum, has
helped Barry Callebaut to outpace generally sluggish growth in
the global chocolate market in recent years.
Some analysts have suggested that growth from outsourcing
agreements may start to slow.
However, Chief Executive Juergen Steinemann said the company
had a "full pipeline" of outsourcing deals.
The company confirmed its mid-term forecast for 6-8 percent
volume growth on average.
Barry Callebaut saw quarterly volumes rise 1.5 percent in
Europe, 10.3 percent in the Americas and 7.4 percent in the
Asia-Pacific. Its cocoa unit performed particularly strongly
with sales volumes up 91 percent driven by the Petra Foods deal.
($1 = 0.9008 Swiss francs)
(Editing by Mark Potter)