Alfred Ritter is looking at plans to cultivate its own hazelnuts, the second-largest commodity for the Germany-based chocolate maker.
The privately-owned business has its own cocoa plantation in Nicaragua which it says brings more stability and transparency to the supply of its number one raw material.
Moreover, one country, Turkey, dominates the global output of hazelnuts, with its share of production estimated at 70-80%, potentially making food manufacturers vulnerable to changes in supply and therefore prices.
In recent years, multinational chocolate manufacturer, Ferrero, has invested in hazelnut production, buying, for example, Turkish hazelnut processor Oltan Group in 2014.
Speaking to just-food, Olaf Wilcke, Alfred Ritter’s international sales director, said the company was likely to look at bringing some of its hazelnut requirements in-house to diversify its supply base and was weighing up a range of supply countries.
“Yes. We are thinking about that. We are doing this as the following step to what we have done in Nicaragua for cocoa. We will also go and do that for hazelnuts as well. Hazelnuts will come,” Wilcke said.
“We are thinking about South America, Europe [but] this is still a thinking process. If you go into another continent, for example, they have another harvest time. The product becomes fresher. Turkey has 80% of [production]… but [the harvest] is happening in September/October. If you are in South America, it comes in our spring time. It’s fresher.”
Asked if Alfred Ritter could make an announcement next year, Wilcke said: “It has to be confirmed. We are working hard on [the plans]. We believe we need it.”
The family-owned Alfred Ritter markets its products in more than 100 countries, shipped from its single plant in Waldenbuch, south-west Germany.
The company is guarded about its finances and does not release figures on its profits. However, Wilcke said the group’s annual sales are “roughly EUR500m (US$594.1m)” and revealed it is targeting EUR750m by 2025.
The owner of the Ritter Sport brand has recently opened an office in Singapore, its first in Asia, to build on its positions in the region.
“We see the potential there that you cannot build out of Waldenbuch. We have to be in the market, we have to listen to local people,” Wilcke said.