The premium chocolate maker's general manager Guillame Brochen tells Anna-Marie Julyan how he is working to give the brand broader appeal

Kraft's £11.5bn takeover of Cadbury won't just affect the UK confectioner's eponymous bars. The US conglomerate will also be getting its hands on Green & Black's, which has been owned by Cadbury since 2005 not that the prospect fazes general manager Guillaume Brochen.

It's "business as usual for now", he tells The Grocer on the day the news breaks. "Green & Black's will focus even more on driving performance and growth, showing it's a smart, beautiful company."

A company that over the past couple of years owes much of its success to Brochen. The Frenchman joined at the beginning of the recession and was told an organic, premium brand was not going to weather the storm. "People were asking where we were going to be in one year's time," he recalls.

That was October 2008. One year later chocolate category volumes had dropped 3%, but Green & Black's signature chocolate bars had bucked the trend. Volumes have risen by 5% and value is up 3% to £28.4m [Nielsen MAT 28 November 2009]. The once-niche chocolate brand, which also makes ice cream and biscuits, has grown 2% to £41m in the past year and with a raft of NPD planned for 2010, Brochen aims to grow it a further 10% in the year ahead.

Since joining from P&G France, where he was head of trade marketing, Brochenhas been trying to give the brand broader appeal. He has overseen the launch of Green & Black's Creamy Milk bars and a redesign of its large block bar packaging.

"Investments in our Creamy bar brought half a million people into the brand," he says. "It addressed one of the barriers to growth of Green & Black's that people saw it as very dark chocolate-oriented."

Later this year, he will launch three pieces of innovation, including a new chocolate bar, and take the brand into new categories. Brochen also plans to invest in promoting the lesser-known arms of the Green & Black's portfolio.

"Eighty per cent of the people who buy our large block chocolate don't know we make ice cream and they don't buy our gift packs," he says. "We have to make our customers aware of them."

Although Brochen maintains that his 13-strong team are fairly autonomous from Cadbury, the parent company has certainly helped shield it from the worst of the recession. Some obstacles, however, cannot be avoided. The price of cocoa has skyrocketed in the past year and Brochen admits the high percentage of cocoa in his products means managing costs is his greatest headache. Despite doing everything to avoid passing costs on to consumers, at the beginning of the year Green & Black's was forced to raise the price of its 100g bars from £1.79 to £1.85. Brochen is confident that shoppers won't be put off.

What's more, he believes that the business has plenty of growth potential, though, he stresses, growth won't come at the expense of Green & Black's principles as long as he's in charge. "We believe in organic," he says. "[Co-founder] Craig Sams has established a special relationship with our organic cocoa growers in Belize, so our chocolate has a complexity and richness, but also a soul."

Whether it retains that soul under Kraft remains to be seen. But the Terry's maker is likely to find Green & Black's magic hard to resist.

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