Chocolate may be a go-to comfort food for many but Swiss chocolate giant Barry Callebaut said Thursday that sales tumbled during its latest quarter when many consumers were confined to their homes as part of measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Sales at the world's top manufacturer of high-quality chocolate and cocoa products slumped 14.3 percent by volume in its third quarter that ran from from March through May.
“As anticipated in April, COVID-19 lockdowns across the globe impacted our sales volume in the third quarter,” said the firm which supplies major confectionery makers such as Nestle, Unilever and Mondelez.
In the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, sales tumbled by 17.1 percent during that period when most European countries were under lockdown.
Lockdowns have seen some consumers spending more on groceries as they ate more at home, but not all food products have benefitted, and gains at supermarkets have not always compensated for sales lost through other channels.
“The out-of-home and impulse consumption was particularly impacted, as restaurants, hotels and most shops were closed,” said Barry Callebaut, with volumes dropping by nearly half in the division that deals with chocolatiers.
It noted that sales volumes have picked up in areas where lockdowns have been relaxed, with the Asia Pacific regions flat in the third quarter where there was speedy recovery of demand in China and Japan.
“We are confident we should rapidly regain momentum as markets are gradually reopening,” chief executive Antoine de Saint-Affrique said in the earnings statement.
The firm did not provide sales revenue figures for the third quarter alone, but for the first nine months of its fiscal year they were flat in local currencies and down by 4.4 percent when converted into Swiss francs.
And Barry Callebaut was optimistic about the future, raising its forecast for sales volume growth in coming years, saying the experience of working closely with clients to ensure operations were able to continue during the coronavirus crisis has given them insights in how to better serve its customers going forward.