Josiane Kremer told ConfectioneryNews.com said that the plant is an exciting new venture for the company. Like many other chocolate multinationals, Barry Callebaut is eager to cash in on a burgeoning taste for chocolate in this region, driven by increasingly globalised eating habits as well as higher consumer power in the area. The Suzhou plant will cater for local trade buyers from the food industry, hotels and restaurants, and will initially manufacture up to 25,000 tonnes of chocolate a year. The company is optimistic about the market, designing the unit for a possible threefold expansion if required, Kremer said. However, this is not Barry Callebaut's first foray into Asia, as last year the company announced it was moving into India as part of plans to increase the share of sales generated outside Western Europe and North America to 20 per cent by 2010 from 11 per cent presently. Other companies keen on the region include Cadbury, which this year increased its hold with the acquisition of Japan-based candy company Sansei Foods, while Hershey is in the process of tailoring US products to Asian tastes, by reformulating products such as Reese's cups with almonds and hazelnut. According to market analysts Global Business Insights (GBI), the Asia Pacific region is currently one of the hot spots for confectionery New Product Development (NPD), as well as more traditional 'European style' treats. In 2007, 30 per cent of new confectionery products were launched in the area, second only to Europe, where just over 35 per cent of new products were launched, GBI said. Surprisingly, this figure was found to be way above the US's new product market share, recorded as just over 20 per cent, with more new chocolates and sweets launched in Asia than in Latin American and the Middle East combined. Flavours popular for new confectionery launches in Asia include goji, salt, pomegranate and eucalyptus, said GBI analyst Helen Lewis.