By Khadiza Begum
In an exclusive interview with Qatar Today, chocolate chef Jean Galler provides an insight into the confectionery market of the country.
At the young age of 16, Jean Galler knew that chocolate would become his enduring passion. As he progressed along the pathway towards becoming a master confectioner, he trained under top confectionery tutors in Basel, Switzerland and at Gaston Lenôtre in Paris, France. His youthful ambition was matched only by his dedication to what would become, for him, an art form that would demand creative imagination, skill and dexterity.
The young chocolate chef soon discovered that he possessed a flair for innovation and this, coupled with his youthful enthusiasm and a willingness to adapt, change and learn enabled him to bring his own unique style to the world of Belgian chocolate. In 1974 he was elected the “best bakery/pastry chef apprentice in Belgium” – a remarkable accolade, but his confectionery adventure truly began in 1976 when he founded his very own chocolate workshop in his home city of Liège, Belgium. This gave him his own space within which to work his own particular brand of confectionery and entrepreneurial success.
“It is fair to say that Doha truly is a ‘chocolate capital’. The consumers in Qatar are educated in quality and are very discerning.”
The iconic Belgian chocolatier recently opened their first boutique and tea room in the GCC in the Mall of Qatar, the country’s signature retail mall, writing the latest chapter in the brand’s successful history by providing the country’s first truly world-class venue for gourmet chocolate aficionados. Galler says that Qatar, like so many other countries in the region, has an affinity with chocolate and that Doha is home to a wide variety of chocolate shops.
He adds: “It is fair to say that Doha truly is a ‘chocolate capital’. The consumers in Qatar are educated in quality and are very discerning. They are more receptive to high-end international chocolates, such as Galler for instance, because we produce top quality Belgian chocolate and offer the full taste experience through a collection of exclusive artisan recipes in original shapes and eye-catching colors.
“Since 1974 we have also become a brand renowned as a symbol of high-quality chocolate, primarily because our products are made without preservatives – with only cocoa butter and no other vegetable oil.”
Upon visiting the Galler Qatar boutique it becomes quite obvious that the chocolates are works of art in themselves. The colourful confections are displayed in a way that encapsulates the founder’s passion for unique style and artistic achievement.
“Demand for dark chocolate is currently on the rise, perhaps because its consumption makes people feel less guilty.”
Over the past 20 years food consumers have gained a vast range of knowledge regarding the origins and sources of the ingredients in their food, and this discernment is particularly evident in the world of chocolate. Customers are increasingly selecting products where style is accompanied by substance. The use of organic ingredients, often locally sourced and seasonally selected, is key to the success of master chocolatiers like Galler, who pride themselves on using only the best quality ingredients to produce the ultimate in artisan handcrafted confectionery creations. Through constant research, Galler is always examining the latest industry trends and customer needs.
“Demand for dark chocolate is currently on the rise, perhaps because its consumption makes people feel less guilty, and also because of the proven health benefits of small amounts of dark chocolate. However, that rise in demand conversely increases demand for and consumption of milk and white chocolate, because they remain products of indulgence.”
Galler adds: “More broadly, we are observing several different consumption trends developing in the Qatar market compared with the rest of the world. For instance, a sense of ‘the natural’, coupled with nostalgia or going ‘back to their roots’ has resulted in the expression by customers of a desire to reconnect with more ‘real’ tastes. So the purity of ingredients – their organic credentials – has become vital to consumers who want a more natural product created in a sustainable way.”
Galler believes that people increasingly want to know what they eat and are more conscious and selective regarding chocolate products whilst still craving luxury and indulgence. “The trend of ‘happy’ chocolate (less sugar, less fat, reduced calories) concerning mostly dark chocolate remains niche because it contradicts the primary driver of the market – indulgence.”
Innovation is key
Innovation is key to delivering relevant, compelling consumer experiences as well as building a fast-growing firm in an old-fashioned market. Consumers are hungry for new products, services and experiences, so innovation is seen as being a vital practice at Galler, whether through the creation of a whole new form of chocolate or developing a new way to produce it.
“Innovation has always been a priority and primary focus for Galler. We are continually refining existing recipes to offer new and real experiences in taste and texture, developing different flavours and constantly seeking to innovate in respect of the DNA of the brand. We keep in touch with pioneering trends in marketing, consumer R&D and ethically produced, environmentally-friendly packaging.”
He further says: “You must listen to the market and give people what they want. Galler is confident of retaining a good share in the Qatari market, which is very competitive. However, by remaining coherent and true to the natural identity and values of the brand, we will be well positioned to stay ahead of the curve.
Jean Galler draws strength from his values: a passion for chocolate, a continuing appetite for creativity, and pure perfectionism, and even after forty years in the profession, he remains true to these values. Galler concludes with some tips for those who would like to start their journey into the chocolate business: “Firstly, you must have a real passion for chocolate, and secondly you must acquire the resources to make success possible. Finally, accurate market analysis, constant adaptations of your products, and a focus on trusted partners, product providers and most importantly, trusted employees are key.”