With a window full of colourful gelato cones and an endless stream of chocolate on tap, it’s hard to resist the Venchi store at Cityplaza, Taikoo Place. Surrounded by all things sweet, it’s where we meet Daniele Ferrero, CEO of the Italian gourmet chocolate manufacturer that’s been expanding its footprint in Asia.
“Venchi first arrived in Hong Kong in 2003 through some wholesale accounts,” said Daniele. “We were selling at Seibu and Great Food Hall, and over time we started developing a retail footprint by opening several stores ourselves.”
Hong Kong’s first Venchi store opened at Harbour City in 2012, and now there are 15 stores throughout Asia in Singapore, Korea, China and Hong Kong, which now has five stores in operation.
“Hong Kong customers are very sensitive to new food items especially confectionery,” said Daniele. “They’re always looking for something new, authentic and healthy and this is what we try to provide.”
Founded in 1878 in Turin, Italy, Venchi started as an Italian confectioner making chocolate and nougatine with very traditional recipes. Using “noble” vegetable fats such as hazelnut, pistachio and olive oil, the products are much lighter and healthier than normal chocolates and gelato.
“Our gelato is very healthy because it has a very low fat content,” Daniele explained. “We use all natural ingredients, no chemical additives, no hydrogenated fats, lots of fibre, so it’s good — and good for you.”
Venchi’s health-conscious offering and beautifully packaged chocolates have proven popular in Asia, where the company is planning several more openings next year.
2017 store openings
“We just opened in Festival Walk and are planning two more [Hong Kong] stores in 2017,” said Daniele. Venchi will also be opening two more stores in Korea, one in Singapore and another in Beijing in the coming year.
Every store is designed in the same format as Venchi’s flagship stores in Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan.
“Asians are traveling more and more so they expect to have the exact same experience — in terms of decor, lighting, product and service — that they’d find in Italy, London and anywhere else in Asia,” said Daniele.
On Venchi’s retail concept, he said, “The idea is to have people enjoy a chocolate experience on-site, with the possibility of taking home some of our chocolates to enjoy in a family and friends setting.”
“Customers are looking more and more for a five-senses experience,” continued Daniele, who said the company is currently producing a Venchi perfume to be given out in stores and to clients.
“Smell is very important, especially when you talk about chocolate and gourmet items. So is taste and texture. People like to come and touch things.”
Despite the physical draws of visiting a Venchi shop, Ferrero said that e-commerce does play a role. In mid-2017, the brand will launch on Alibaba’s Tmall for mainland China, and the company is already active with e-commerce in Italy and the UK.
“Online is an extension of the same experience,” he said. “There are great synergies between the two. People come here for the experience and maybe they travel far away where we do not have a store. If they want to keep a relationship with the brand, they can buy online. The two go hand-in-hand.”
Find your nearest Venchi store in Asia here: www.venchi.com