Belgian chocolate maker Godiva wants you to think of it when you want a breakfast sandwich, a lunch salad or an afternoon pick-me-up coffee and cookie.
The 93-year-old confectioner on Thursday opened its first cafe in the U.S. in New York’s Midtown East, featuring many firsts of their kind for a brand known for its collection of premium chocolates. For example, for the 1,200-square-foot cafe, Godiva created and even trademarked the Croiffle, or a croissant pressed into a waffle iron; designed its own signature coffee and teas, such as black tea with Godiva cocoa nibs; and created dark chocolate lava and white raspberry oatmeal cookies inspired by its chocolate flavors.
“We want to be more engaged with our customers throughout different occasions and through different day parts,” Godiva CEO Annie Young-Scrivner said in an interview. “One of our ideas is to think through, how can we go beyond chocolate? How can we stretch our brand? Everything we’ve done (at the cafe) is with our Belgium heritage and chocolate roots.”
While Godiva already has about 50 cafes in Asia, the Middle East and Europe that it opened over the past five years, as well as a pop-up cafe inside New York’s Penn Station that it opened in January, Young-Scrivner said the new permanent New York cafe’s concept and menu were the result of a 13-month effort that involved consumer research and taking the best practices and insights from the company’s existing cafes around the world. Some 85% of the New York cafe’s menu is new, a company spokeswoman said.
Why so much focus on this new cafe? Godiva sees it as a model that can be replicated and expanded to 2,000 cafes worldwide in six years, including 400 in the U.S., Young-Scrivner said.
The combination of the growing cafe business and the company’s signature chocolate gifting and chocolate packaged goods distribution business in supermarkets, department stores and other locations will increase Godiva sales fivefold over the next six years, with cafes representing two-fifths of the company’s total business, she said, adding that Godiva has 800 stores globally.
Young-Scrivner, a former Starbucks executive, declined to give any specific financial information about the privately held company, which was sold by Campbell Soup to Turkish conglomerate Yildiz Holding for $850 million in 2008.
The global chocolate market is fragmented but growing at a faster pace than the overall confectionery market, according to data from market researcher Euromonitor. In a sign it may still have plenty of growth potential, Godiva held a share of about 0.8% of the $110 billion global packaged chocolate confectionery market last year, ranking it No. 17, compared with the 5.2% share held by No. 1 Cadbury.
In the U.S., Godiva had a 1.8% share of the $20 billion chocolate market, placing it in 14th place. Hershey’s Reese’s and Mars’s M&M’s each had about 13% of the U.S. market in 2018, landing them in the top two slots, Euromonitor data shows.
The global chocolate category “is growing,” Young-Scrivner said. “What’s growing faster is the super-premium chocolate segment that we are in.”
Godiva’s ambitions also reflect the growing trend of many traditional packaged food brands expanding or opening their own cafes and restaurants as they seek to cultivate better direct interactions and communications with consumers while responding to the growing desire for experience. Hazelnut spread maker Nutella, cereal maker Kellogg and pasta label Barilla are just some examples of brands that have opened their own cafes or restaurants. Meanwhile, Young-Scrivner’s former employer, Starbucks, is expanding its coffee-museum-like Reserve Roastery concept.
“We can figure out what’s working or not, get direct feedback and change quickly,” Young-Scrivner said. “When you look at many consumer packaged goods companies, they (still) don’t have a direct interaction with customers.”
So how does the new Godiva cafe aim to stand out from a growing crop of competition?
“What really drives the menu is Belgium heritage,” Thierry Muret, Godiva’s executive chef chocolatier, told me. “It’s all about chocolate and waffles. We are pressing the croissant into waffle makers and incorporating waffle shapes and flavors into the menu. We fill those croissants with things American consumers understand, but we also have the milk chocolate and dark chocolate Croiffle. That’s very Belgium.”
It’s not surprising, then, that the cafe menu includes Belgium’s signature liège waffles.
The demands of millennials and other younger customers also aren’t lost on Godiva, which is “entertaining” mobile order-and-pay and delivery services, Young-Scrivner said.
“Consumers are time starved,” she said, adding that grab-and-go choices are a big focus of the cafe for increasingly on-the-go consumers. “They don’t have time to cook at home. We want to make sure we meet the needs of consumers and be a meaningful part of their lives.”
And that means opening the doors much earlier than its traditional stores, at 6 a.m.
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