SWEET SUCCESS

Lebanon 2019 | RETAIL | INTERVIEW

The Patchi chocolate brand is famous across the region and owes its success to the unique blend of international savvy and know-how.

Nizar Choucair
BIOGRAPHY
Nizar Choucair was born in Beirut in 1941. He pursued his finance and accounting studies in Beirut. A hardworking person who believes in integrity, family, and the people whom he works with, Choucair is an active chairman of Patchi and never fails to speak to seniors and juniors alike. In 2016, his biography was published under the name of “A Success Story.”

How was 2018 for Patchi in terms of performance?

2018 was a successful year; we saw an uptick in the number of clients compared to previous years. The reason is because Patchi remains consistent in terms of taste and quality, and we were able to attract new customers. The difficult economic crisis impacted customers' purchasing power; however, Patchi, being an extremely powerful brand in the Middle East, with 82 outlets in Saudi Arabia and 34 boutiques in the UAE, was able to maintain its size and growth. There were many developments within the brand in 2018. First, we opened a new concept that would take the brand from being a destination for chocolate gifts to being the home of the finest chocolate. In 2018, Patchi expanded its business to F&B, namely desserts. The new retail concept introduces an unwrapped chocolate line, chocolate blocks, and a list of macarons. In addition to all the desserts created at Patchi kitchens, with our secret recipes, the F&B arm also offers a list of sorbets, hot chocolate drinks, fondues, granitas, and a list of teas and fresh mocktails. Our top selling item is the Cabosse dessert. The concept—just like any other creation—was launched in Beirut to be rolled out in the GCC by 2019, starting with Saudi Arabia and then the UAE. We also expanded within existing countries without the need to tackle new ones, such as Morocco, Oman, and others. There is development on the retail level in all the countries where we previously opened our outlets. 2018 was a successful year, and in addition to new clients and our new concept, we paved the way for a great 2019 with other projects in store for Patchi.

Where do you stand on fair trade and the environmental issues caused by such production?

Such trade is delicate and subject to extreme fluctuations. The prices of cocoa mass or butter have doubled. I always buy a year ahead and acquire my ingredients in a way that respects the source and provides Patchi with enough raw materials for the longest time possible. There are no environmental issues when it comes to our production, which is far away from residential areas, and we produce the best quality without causing any leakage or impact. We even have environmental officers who keep a watchful eye over our production to prevent any mishaps. Moreover, 2018 witnessed the kickoff of works on our largest production facility in the Middle East, in the UAE. It will be located within the industrial zone and will cover 111,000sqm. It will be in line with all of Dubai's rules and regulations, including on green energy, solar systems, and so on. We decided to relocate there because of such regulations and are due to open by 3Q2019.

Do you plan on expanding into other items?

Our expansion will be in all things related to and go well with chocolate. Trends are changing, and if at some point coffee becomes the perfect companion to chocolate, then we might branch out. Patchi is a proactive brand and keeps an eye on trends and changing market needs. Depending on demand, we may adapt as long as it is aligned with the business core, namely chocolate. We will go with the flow, which is a must in order to be future-proof.

What is your outlook for 2019?

We are extremely content with our model, namely being a chocolate manufacturer and retailer that only sells its products at its own boutiques. Thanks to our business model, strategy, and the team behind the business, Patchi owns today a network of more than 200 boutiques spread across several countries around the globe. We have online stores for key markets such as the US, UK, Canada, and Lebanon. We have been one of the top-three chocolate brands at Harrods London for three years in a row and have opened a pop-up store at the Twelve Oaks Mall in Michigan. We are a family business that operates similarly to multinationals, with a centralized office that caters to the entire brand and business demands, be they owned or franchised.