Reindeer or smelt fish chocolate anyone? Premium Nordic chocolate brand seeking Asian expansion

By Lester Wan contact

- Last updated on GMT

Taiga chocolates use Nordic ingredients such as lingonberry, bilberry and sea buckthorn berry (pictured) but also unusual ones such as smelt fish and reindeer ‘crisps’.
Taiga chocolates use Nordic ingredients such as lingonberry, bilberry and sea buckthorn berry (pictured) but also unusual ones such as smelt fish and reindeer ‘crisps’.

Related tags: Confectionery, Chocolate, Premium chocolate, Nordic naturals, Asia, unusual

A Finnish brand of premium handmade chocolate with a penchant for off-the-wall ingredients is looking to expand sales into Asia.

The Taiga brand, which prides itself in its “happy and healthy”​ chocolates of mainly the dark variety, uses Nordic ingredients such as lingonberry, bilberry and sea buckthorn berry but also unusual ones such as whole smelt fish and even reindeer ‘crisps’.

“We rely on the unique taste and aroma created by Northern nature, its unsurpassable freshness, crispness and originality,” ​Tanja Davidov, Taiga’s sales director, told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

According to the company, the bilberries and lingonberries are sourced from the wild in Finnish forests, while the sea buckthorn berries are from the coast.

The smelt fish is also from the wild, in the rivers in the North of Finland. The reindeer is also local but farmed in the Lapland area.

“Dried fish is quite a typical snack for Asians. We expect the combination of dried fish and dark chocolate to have favourable reception in Asia. It will be interesting to see how consumers will react to reindeer chocolate,”​ said Davidov.

Healthy and happy chocolate

Unusual ingredients aside, the company calls the berries it uses ‘Nordic superberries’. High in Vitamin C, the sea buckthorn berry especially is said to be filled with antioxidants that help to strengthen the immune system.

The company also claims the berry has carotenoids and flavonoids that help lower cholesterol, platelet aggregation, blood pressure and blood sugar, among various other health benefits.

The special NatureDry freeze-drying technology that Taiga employs retains up to 97% of the nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants of the berries. It also maintains the colour and texture of fresh berries.

Asian expansion

Taiga plans to start sales in selected areas in Asia by Q1 2019. Currently, sales to Asia are mainly on Finnair flights flying to cities in the region, as well as a small amount through cross-border e-commerce in Hangzhou, China.

“Our main targets for now are Singapore, China and Hong Kong,” ​said Davidov.

“We are already negotiating with several associates about the business opportunities in Asia.”

Depending on import restrictions, not all of the flavours may be available in all the markets in Asia-Pacific. Nonetheless, Taiga told us that there will be new chocolate products in the future, and with Asia-Pacific market tastes in mind.

“Some totally new and exciting flavours are in the pipeline,”​ said Davidov.

She added that healthy food and superfoods were fast-growing trends, especially in Asia, and that they would continue to develop premium chocolate products for health-conscious consumers.

As Taiga is premium, quality chocolate, the plan is to retail in speciality stores, tourism outlets, hotels and restaurants.

“The Asian market is so huge and we are manufacturing handmade chocolate; we need to be careful that we will keep the quality throughout the process,”​ said Davidov.

Taiga’s chocolate production is located in Finland and in Estonia.

Sales of Taiga chocolate officially began a year ago, in August 2017. Each bar costs €8.90.

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