France’s Cémoi said its industrial chocolate production has increased by almost 30% over the past two years. It now represents 45% of the group’s total output which in 2005 totalled 158,000 tonnes of chocolate.

The family-owned Perpignan-based firm, which is France’s leading producer of retailers’ own brand chocolate bars, has invested EUR8m (US$10.03m) in a new plant in Dunkirk which offers production capacity of 20,000 tonnes of liquid chocolate and 9,000 tonnes of cocoa powder.

The group has indicated its readiness to accompany its customers in their development in eastern Europe and if deemed necessary to set up production plants there.

Cémoi is also eyeing growth in the added-value seasonal chocolate segment which currently accounts for around 15% of its production.

In order to deliver in optimum conditions at Easter and at Christmas goods produced and stored throughout the year, the group has invested EUR6m in a 12,000 sq.m warehouse, equipped with temperature-controlled facilities, located in Arras, in northern France A second warehouse of similar type is to be situated at Mâcon, in eastern France with construction earmarked to begin in the first quarter of next year.

Cémoi, whose central strategy is to be present at all stages of the chocolate processing chain, also runs a cocoa bean trituration plant in Abidjan, in the Ivory Coast, which has a capacity of 70,000 tonnes.