The company moved into the confectionery industry in 2010 with Mu-Mu, (milk caramel spread), Neugebauer (Brazil’s first chocolate factory, founded in 1891) and its own candy division, where it produces Mumuzinha and Baboom.
Six production lines
The 30,000m² factory in Arroio do Meio, State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, has six production lines: Two for manufacturing bonbons, two for chocolates bars and two for assorted chocolate dragées.
Bruno Folharni, export manager, Vonpar, told ConfectioneryNews, the idea was to have everything on one site to be more cost efficient.
“When we decided to step in a new direction we had a project of 10 years of investment ahead of us and we knew we would have to build it up slowly if we were to be financially sound,” he said.
“We are growing well and working towards a plan. The chocolate business is the most important for us and has to grow slowly. We want to be strong in the southern part of Brazil and we also have operations in the State of Santa Catarina, and São Paulo, which is necessary because most of the supermarket chains are based there.
“You have to grow in volume with logistics and it is better to be concentrated in certain parts of the country. The mistake a lot of companies make here is spreading themselves across the country trying to cover the whole of Brazil, but it’s too big.”
Folharni added, when the company acquired Neugebauer its facilities were so old they could not be used for production so it had to first invest in infrastructure with a good site, good technological knowledge, and then redevelop the product formulations.
“It doesn’t make sense to do the same old chocolate when you have the latest technology available,” he said.
Competing with Nestlé & Mondelēz
“The second step was to redevelop the formulation of the product and look for good quality. We know we don’t have the highest price in the market and brand awareness, so we looked at what’s the best quality that we can have at the best price competing with Nestlé and Mondelēz. We believe when a consumer tastes the product they notice the difference in quality.
“The third step was image, everything had to be completely changed so we invested a lot in packaging and redesigning the layouts, trying to be different from what we saw in the marketplace, especially when you look in a supermarket and competition is tough you have to stand out on the shelf.”
As a result, Vonpar relauched Neugebauer in an orange color and decided to invest in ‘hot colors’ because ‘Brazilian consumers love that, and its doing well’.
The fourth stage of planning involved sales and distribution, improving and redoing the way it approached the market, who it wanted to deliver to, and what sort of channels it wanted to target and which were the most affordable.
“Selling and making a stand in the marketplace takes time, working on that on a daily basis needs to be consistent. We don’t want to gain one month and lose the next, that costs us too much with the losses. We want to do it slowly and consistently,” added Folharni.
Dragées Bib's, Stikadinho, Amor Carioca, 1891
The factory’s main feature is the flexibility of the plant machinery which has opportunities for product innovation, flavors and formats, providing higher brightness and more authenticity to the chocolate and ingredients’ flavors.
Among the main products are the traditional chocolate dragées Bib's, with over 30 flavors, Stikadinho, Amor Carioca and the Premium line 1891; Minis in a pouch and the traditional chocolate Refeição.
Neugebauer's products can be found all across Brazil, as well as international markets and it exports candies to approximately 20 countries, mainly in Africa and the Middle East.
Last year, it launched its own store, in Porto Alegre selling its complete chocolates’ lines and Bib's dragées flavors.
Flavio Venturini, R&D manager at Vonpar, said the firm uses Brazilian cocoa.
He said Vonpar's main export market is South America due to the proximity of the culture, and knowledge, and it trades a lot with the countries nearby, such as Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, and its number one client for ‘tongue painter’ lollipops is Ghana, in Africa.
“We are using 50% of our total capacity at the moment and we have a lot more to grow,” added Venturini.
“We started our chocolate operations in 2013 and in 2015 for Mu-Mu.”