NOTHING VENTURED

Belgian Sweets from Dubna

Chocolate, candy, sweets - adults love these treats just as much as children. For us, these treats are a reminder of our childhood, when we thought there was nothing more delicious in the world than sweets and chocolate! What is the secret behind our love for sweet things? Belgian chocolatier Thierry Pete, who opened an ALEXANDRA Le Chocolat chocolate plant in Dubna, certainly knows the answer to this question.

Back as 2009, Thierry decided to open his own chocolate plant in Russia. “I visited Moscow and Dubna in September of that year. I looked around the local shops and assessed business development opportunities and, of course, tried to do research on trends and consumer behavior in the capital,” he says.

Not long before this, Thierry opened his own business in Prague, but, due to low demand, was not able to make the business profitable. The chocolate that Thierry offered across several stores in Prague never found its customer niche. “Back then, I realized that the Moscow market would give my business way more opportunities for growth and development,” he continues, “Moscow is a huge city with tremendous potential in terms of demand, which allowed me to successfully start my business here and continue growing even during the crisis.”

Of course the Russian capital is a city of great opportunity for different types of business people and entrepreneurs. However, these huge opportunities often require a big investment, as opening your own business in Moscow is an expensive endeavour.  Thierry decided to open the plant in Dubna, outside of Moscow, in order to save money.

“In 2010, I opened a small company here called ALEXANDRA Le Chocolat,” he says, “At first I imported small chocolates with our logo here from Belgium and sold it to hotels. Some time later, I started to make chocolate here. I made Orangettes and Mendiantes.”

To paraphrase great minds: it is important to set ambitious goals for yourself. When opening his business in Russia, Thierry initially targeted the premium segment. This decision was motivated by his desire to make the highest quality chocolate. It’s almost impossible to meet these parameters when you produce big volumes. This is why Thierry’s chocolate plant, along with his other projects, produces small volumes while stressing high quality. The secret to good quality lies, among other things, in the quality of the raw materials, as well as in the professionalism of the plant’s employees. Thierry purchases the majority of ingredients from local producers, both Russian and Belgian. He is very picky about partners. Some of the ingredients are shipped from Belgium. Aside from this, some of the chocolate for the Russian ALEXANDRA Le Chocolat company is partially imported from Belgium, where it is made in accordance with recipes that take into account the specifics of the Russian market. By the way, the head of production at ALEXANDRA Le Chocolat, along with all employees that take part in the chocolate production process, went through a training program in Belgium.

Here, the process of making chocolate is almost entirely manual labor that requires a thorough understanding of technology, a lot of practical skills, as well as strict quality control. Putting together the recipe also requires a lot of skill. Thierry points out that the recipes were created in Russia and take into account the preferences of local consumers. “Starting a chocolate plant in Russia was not an easy task,” Thierry points out, “It has always been difficult to find good employees who are not only experiences chocolatiers but also pour their hearts and souls into their work. Another challenging point is cultural differences. In Belgium, for example, chocolate is practically a national treasure. Making chocolate is Belgium’s traditional occupation. There is no such tradition in Russia, which is why we have to cultivate a culture of chocolate consumption in our clients and customers.”

ALEXANDRA Le Chocolat produces a wide range of sweets with different kinds of fillings, along with chocolate figurines and its own trademark chocolate. One of the product’s unique features is beautiful packaging, which has a unique design.

Thierry is a foreigner who sees Russians as a people with a unique personality. Over the years, Thierry has made  friends in Moscow and Dubna. He is impressed by the Russian knack for big, grandiose celebrations and the ability to form friendships, along with the values behind the idea of friendship. “You have the ability to find joy in the smallest things and events. This capability for wonder is worth a great deal,” he says.

In spite of the challenging business conditions in Russia, ALEXANDRA Le Chocolat has not altered its goals. “Like before, we seek to make premium class chocolate that is unforgettable after just one bite,” Thierry says, “We are distributing our chocolates in luxury and premium shops and we are planning to open shops in future. In general, my goal is to make the name ALEXANDRA Le Chocolat widely known in Russia, develop my business and expand my network of shops.”

 

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