Tell us about Deershop.
Deershop (驯鹿TM in Chinese) was established in 2015. We are a young and dynamic chocolate brand from Hong Kong SAR, China, that offers bean-to-bar chocolate in mainland China. The initial idea of Deershop is due to an insight from company founder Joanne Law, which is that Chinese consumers in general think chocolate is unhealthy and rather intensively sweet, but they don’t know that this misconception is the taste of the mass distribution of confectionary chocolate candies in China.
Therefore, we are devoted to telling the other side of the story, which is that bean-to-bar chocolate made from cacao is a fine chocolate with many health benefits. More importantly, every handcrafted bean-to-bar chocolate has unique aromas and textures which is due to the craft and skill of the chocolate makers. These comprise the big value difference between confectionary chocolate and bean-to-bar chocolate.
Although Law is a Certified Chocolate Maker recognized by Ecole Chocolate, we do not produce bean-to-bar chocolate by itself. Instead, we have spent more than two years collaborating with chocolate makers from North America and Europe to develop different types of single origin bean-to-bar chocolate that is more suitable for the Chinese taste bud. We treasure the craftsmanship of chocolate makers from all over the world and our strategy is to partner with different chocolate makers to research and develop “single origin” and “bean-to-bar chocolate” overseas and imported to Mainland China.
We have a vision to provide Chinese customers a brand-new chocolate tasting experience and educate them about the beauty of chocolate from the perspective of the combination of art and science.
In 2016-17, we started to promote our chocolate through different online and offline channels. Online, we are focusing on all the major e-commerce platforms in China (e.g. Taobao and JD.com); and for offline channels we are mainly collaborating with wine bars, coffee shops, tea shops and five-star hotels where we believe that these special channels share the same target audiences, which is more suitable for promoting bean-to-bar, when compared to the traditional supermarket-distribution channel. In addition, with the rapid development of courier services in China, we are able to deliver our chocolate perfectly to our customers within one to two days across different cities even during the summer.
2018 was an important milestone for Deershop, when we were the first chocolate brand from China to enter the International Chocolate Award of the Asia-Pacific Region Competition. There were more than 700 chocolate entries, and we were honored that our Deershop Colombia Tumaco Dark Chocolate 85% won the bronze prize in the category of High % Plain/ Origin Dark Chocolate Bars (85% and over). This category is the most challenging for fine chocolate in terms of the quality of cacao beans and the craftsmanship of the chocolate makers to develop the maximum of the cacao.
This fabulous result is very encouraging to our local team and overseas partners, and we are dedicated to keep on R&D of more Asian flavor chocolate that is both healthy and delicious! Special thanks to Denise Castronovo who is our amazing chocolate maker of this award-winning chocolate.
What are some of the reasons you wished to join FCIA and what do you hope the association can provide to your business in the future?
Deershop is proud to be the first FCIA member from China, representing bean-to-bar chocolate. Joining FCIA provides us a very good platform and network to connect with different fine chocolate professionals and experts from all over the world. We are particularly interested in the industry’s good practices and knowledge provided from FCIA that we can leverage in our business development. And we are happy to share knowledge of setting up sales point in China for overseas chocolate makers who would like to expand their business.
What do you see as the general trends of Chinese consumers in regarding to fine chocolate? Has this changed overtime? How is the market different from what you have seen in other markets such as the U.S. and Europe?
We found that packaging is very important and highly appreciated in the China market. Due to Chinese culture, packaging is the key driver of purchasing decisions, especially during the holiday season, such as Christmas, Chinese New Year, Mid-autumn Festival and Teachers’ Day. Based on our experience, Chinese consumers do not customize its chocolate as much as the western countries such as the USA and Europe. Chocolate is more of a gift than personal consumption in China. To address our customers’ needs, we offered customized gift package services for them who use our chocolate as birthday, anniversary and wedding gifts to their friends and family. And we have different business customers who would like to customize chocolate gift boxes for their clients, too.
On the other hand, we can also see that there is a demand for healthy food in China. When our customers choose fine chocolate, they are more concerned about the ingredients of the chocolate and they are interested to know the sources of the cacao beans and the process of making bean-to-bar chocolate. Nevertheless, bean-to-bar chocolate portends a new era for Chinese consumers; they are willing to pay more for a healthy single origin chocolate which purely made by single origin cacao beans and cane sugar, than a confectionary chocolate candy.