Swiss chocolate producer Barry Callebaut has set ambitious financial targets for the next four years after a robust 12 months.

The company has had a busy year, signing outsourcing agreements with the likes of Cadbury Schweppes and Hershey and expanding its presence in territories including the US and Russia.

This morning (6 November), Callebaut revealed that full-year profits had risen by 9.8% to CHF324m (US$283m) for the 12 months to the end of August. Revenue jumped 10.6% to CHF4.1bn, as growing customer demand boosted volumes.

"We grew more than twice as fast as the global chocolate market," said CEO Patrick de Maeseneire. "Food manufacturers continued to be the driving force for volume gain."

De Maeseneire warned that its "cost environment" would remain "challenging" due to ongoing high raw material prices.

Nevertheless, Callebaut was bullish about its mid-term prospects. The company has forecast annual top-line growth of 9-11%, and operating profit growth of 11-14%. Callebaut also sees net profit rising by 13-16% a year.
 
"We have built a strong basis for accelerated growth in the future. This is why we have increased our financial targets for the four-year period 2007/08 through 2010/11," de Maeseneire said.

"Despite a challenging cost environment amid high raw material prices and uncertainties from the currency and financial markets, I am confident that we will continue to outpace the global chocolate market and further improve our performance."