Australia's desserts sector: a snapshot [part two]

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In this second part of a three part series on Australia's desert sector we'll look at a number of leading brands.

Missed the first part of the series? You can jump back to the first part of the series or jump forward to the third installment.

Dessert franchises Baskin-Robbins and Chocolateria San Churro are changing up their offering in response to changing consumer tastes, which appear to revolve around health consciousness and ingredient quality. 

Baskin-Robbins

General manager David Jordan says the Baskin-Robbins brand is built on desserts and sweet treats – customers can choose from 31 different ice cream flavours as well as sundaes, cakes and even beverages, such as blended ice-coffees and triple shakes.

While the brand operates globally, Jordan explains there are particular products that prove most popular on a local level.

“In Australia, we have some real local favourites, such as Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Cookies and Cream, and Hokey Pokey.”

He adds there’s also a focus on changing the brand’s offering in line with customer demand, and that the company’s Flavour of the Month initiative has proven particularly effective in this process.

“We listen to our guests requests for new flavours, identify new flavour trends and adjust our new product innovation to deliver against these guest insights.

“The Flavour of the Month program has proven to be a highly successful method of introducing new flavour creations into stores, giving guests a new reason to visit regularly.”

Baskin-Robbins’ range of Bright Choices ice creams are further testament to this – they cater to those looking to watch their waistlines.  

“[The range] includes premium no sugar added variants, frozen yoghurts, sorbets as well as frozen ice for the slightly more health conscious guest.

“Some of these products are permanent menu items, others are available for a period creating some new news for our health conscious guests too,” Jordan says.

Baskin-Robbins is confident in the future of ice cream, and as such the brand plans to open 20 new stores in the next 12 months.

“We are listening to consumer demands and providing delicious quality ice-cream based treats that people can afford every day in a place they enjoy bringing their family and friends to.

“Consumers are demanding quality, they want value, they want authenticity, but they also want a great experience,” he adds.

New franchise partners take part in an initial three week training program that covers everything from in-store training and financial management to marketing and cake making, and Jordan explains franchisees receive ongoing training and support.

“We include our franchise partners in forward planning, holding two sessions a year in which the visions and strategies for the future are shared. Several franchise partner development programs are currently underway and these will be on a continuous basis moving forward.

“As part of this we host monthly business building webinar sessions on a variety of topics, including bringing industry experts into these meetings to discuss new areas of interest. We also hold monthly focus groups where interested franchise partners can discuss key topics and strategies, and assist us with strategy creation and implementation,” he says.

There’s also an online university for both franchisees and their staff, and the brand will continue to embrace the virtual realm in 2015 – a digital loyalty program and online ordering platform are set to be introduced throughout the year. 

Customer service is at the forefront of the Baskin-Robbins brand, and it seeks franchise partners with a series of character traits. “In particular we’re looking for franchise partners that are highly motivated and driven and want to inspire our guests and deliver excellence in every part of the Baskin-Robbins store experience,” adds Jordan.

Chocolateria San Churro

Image: San Churro

Churros is Chocolateria San Churro’s signature product, however the chocolate cafe brand offers a range of other indulgent products, including ice creams, sundaes, hot chocolate, chocolate flavoured shakes, cakes and chocolate fondue, says founder and CFO, Giro Maurici.

He says the health conscious trend sweeping the nation was in fact alive and well nine years ago when the brand first entered the franchising realm. 

“At that time the hot buzz words in the franchising sector were health and wellness – we saw the emergence of brands like Boost Juice, Sumo Salad and Healthy Habits.

“It was interesting because target the same customer – they were very much health conscious, but they were also look for those spots of indulgence. They were good to themselves during the week or during the day and so they want to go out and have a place to meet their friends and indulge over something sweet, which is where we fit in,” Maurici explains.

Today, the brand’s primary customer fits that mould. “Our customers aren’t looking for a McDonald’s sundae or something from the supermarket freezer; they are looking for a high quality, authentic and interesting experience.”

He explains people are eating smaller quantities of dessert products, and they’ve shifted their focus to the quality of the foods they eat.

“We aren’t sitting down and having big blocks of chocolate anymore, but we are quite happy to sit down and have a special truffle or a single origin bar – it’s not the volume that it once was but certainly of a much higher quality.”

The brand has its finger on the pulse when it comes to food trends, and Maurici says reality television programs such as MasterChef raise the bar when it comes to product innovation.

“When we rolled out our macarons [which famously featured on MasterChef] we saw an almost five percent increase in sales across the group overnight, just for the trusty macaron,” he recalls.

“In the last year we’ve seen flavour profiles developed, and people are a lot more accepting of Spanish caramel, which comes off the back of everyone loving salted caramel. It’s not only a matter of bringing out new products but also looking at the flavour profiles of what people are jumping on board with as well,” Maurici adds.

He agrees with Karamalis that people are opting to eat dessert foods outside of the traditional restaurant setting.

“We’re finding that customers are more willing to get up after their main course and come and visit us for a coffee and indulgence.

“I think people are more adventurous to do that now – this segment offers an alternative.”

The social aspect is also an important aspect of the San Churro offering, says Maurici. “Yes our product is front and centre, but we are very mindful of the fact that at the end of the day we provide a place for people to socialise.”

San Churro offers a six week training program for all new franchisees, most of which is facilitated at head office and the brand’s recently opened flagship store across the road.

While he recognises passion for the brand is important, Maurici explains franchisees need to be great leaders.

“Running a Sun Churro isn’t just like opening the doors to a small lolly shop with only one or two staff members, the stores we’re opening now are open seven days a week, until 11 or 12pm every night, so franchisees could be managing 20 or 30 staff.

“We are looking for that aptitude, not necessarily that experience but certainly that aptitude to be able to take a leadership role,” he adds. 

Continue on to the third part of the series.

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