In Focus
MENU INNOVATIONS | Staff Reporter, Australia

In a changing dessert scene, San Churro finds its sweet spot through an “offensive approach” in innovation

After finding success in introducing the famed ruby chocolate to Australia, find out what's in store for the Spanish-style chocolateria brand.

2018 was a pivotal year for San Churro. Because of its exclusive deal to launch ruby chocolate for the first time in Australia, the brand made history as among the first few to offer the newly-discovered treat in the world.

Ruby chocolate, which its Belgian-Swiss makers Barry Callebaut desrcibe as having "a tension between berry-fruitiness and luscious smoothness", comes with a natural pale, rosy hue. It is the fourth natural chocolate, alongside milk, white, and dark.

After being made available to Japanese and South Korean consumers early last year, it soon came to Australia through San Churro’s Ruby Chocolate Menu. Treats like Ruby Pavlova and Ruby Shake were included in the line-up, as well as new twists on the brand’s signature offerings, like traditional Spanish churros paired with Ruby chocolate, a selection of artisan-designed Ruby truffles, bars, and Ruby Rocky Road.

“This deal was a major coup for us and we felt very privileged to have the opportunity to introduce it to the Australian public,” Tarran Grummisch, San Churro National Marketing Manager, explained to QSR Media in an exclusive interview.

It was met with massive success. As part of the launch, San Churro hosted the limited edition Real Ruby Chocolate Experience, a one-hour, two-part, dine-in experience includes a walk through the ages of chocolate history and an education on the subtle tasting notes of dark, milk, white and ruby chocolate varieties.

Grummisch said the experience gave the brand the rare opportunity to interact and engage with their market closely and designed it to “heighten” their customers’ senses of touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight.

“The in-store experience was certainly the first of its kind from a scale perspective, and we were extremely surprised and pleased with the customer response-- we sold over 1,000 tickets before the product even went live,” she said.

The feat is all the more impressive amid the backdrop of how chocolate, along with other sugary treats, is struggling in the battle of public perception worldwide. According to a 2018 report by market research firm Euromonitor International, growing health consciousness among consumers is causing a drop in cocoa prices in the global market.

The growing number of consumers concerned over the ethical values and sustainability of farmed chocolate, and are making purchasing decisions based on those values, is also causing some challenges.

Constant brand assessment, “heavy” internal investment
As one of Australia’s biggest dessert brands, offering a chocolate-inspired menu with real couverture chocolate, San Churro knows those issues well. In Australia, where the trend of healthy eating is in full swing, the fight for market relevance is tantamount to survival.

“At San Churro we are constantly assessing our position in the market and evolving our approach to adapt to changed market conditions,” Grummisch said, adding that in the past twelve months or so, the dessert and cafe scene has been in constant flux due to noticeable changes and consolidations among their competitors.

“The market is no less competitive, however, and brands need to take an offensive approach in order to survive. It is also important we place heavy investment internally to ensure our success long-term.”

In this, San Churro once more is taking cues from the global market. As consumer attitudes tastes continue to change, many multinational firms in the chocolates and confectionery industry are forced to think outside the box to retain old consumers and attract new ones. The rush to reformulate or rebrand to pursue a healthier image or offer a more premium product have led to the development of innovations like smoother dark chocolate bars, protein bars with chocolate, sugar-free chocolate and single-origin chocolate.

And for now, according to the latest industry reports by Euromonitor, they are working. Innovation is key.

“The importance of innovation has never been higher as customers expectations soar, as does their brand transience,” Grummisch said. “We also cannot ignore the prominent role social media now plays in the consumer's purchase cycle. It is a double-edged sword that we must harness as brands in order to secure our future.”

The brand proved the importance of innovation and community last year, when it became the first dessert chain in the country to introduce a comprehensive vegan menu. The launch became one of the most successful and most talked about in San Churro’s history, owing much to the positive reception among the Australian vegan community.

“The vegan community has been very responsive and our partnership with PETA has also aided us in spreading the word in these communities. They have been extremely supportive and continue to play an important role from a partnership perspective,” she said.

San Churro plans to keep the string of innovative successes this year. Towards the end of January, the brand launched its new Tapas category, which takes inspiration from its original Spanish roots. The new range offers customers an authentic shared dining experience with 18 dishes to mix and match; including Bunuelos (traditional Spanish doughnut balls), Crema Catalana (Spanish-style Creme Brulee) and other treats.

To build on the relationship the brand has built with the vegan community in 2018, half of the new tapas dishes are also vegan-friendly. Grummisch said that vegan and other dietary preferences will continue to be a major focus for the brand in 2019.

“As for the rest of the year, we will continue to innovate in the chocolate and churros spaces; delivering new and exciting ways for customers to enjoy a shared dessert experience,” she said. “We were living, breathing, (and eating) Ruby chocolate for the larger part of 2018, but we are excited to now have some new focuses for 2019.”

Photo credit: San Churro Facebook

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