Consumer Foods: strong rebound

After the recovery started in late 2021, the rebound of the Consumer Foods business gained speed in 2022, resulting in an increased order intake of 21.6% to CHF 710 million and an improved turnover of 13.6% to CHF 578 million. Resumed travel and social events, as well as demand for snacking and gifting, stimulated consumer buying behavior, and this resulted in increased investments into processing lines by customers. The main drivers for this upward trend came from the chocolate areas, whereas in the baked goods business (Wafer and Biscuit), investments were taken more cautiously. Market volatility along with the developments in Russia and Ukraine impacted the European business, which usually counted among the strongest regions for Consumer Foods. In 2023, Bühler plans to integrate Consumer Foods into the Grains & Food business.

The Chocolate & Coffee, and Confectionery business units of Consumer Foods reported strong activity, specifically from the North America, Middle East Africa & India, and Asia regions. After two years of moderate investment due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the need to secure production capacities and new business opportunities for customers triggered many projects for chocolate mass and moulding processing lines. Major players, including Barry Callebaut, Hersheys, and Mars, invested in increasing capacities to meet the continued growing demand for chocolate. 

In the baked goods area, especially in Europe, investment behavior was more cautious due to volatile raw material prices (flour and sugar) and increasing gas prices, which impacted the purchase of gas ovens. Energy savings and independence from gas was a major topic for many customers, and interest in sustainable solutions, such as the electrification of ovens, gained momentum. Opportunities to retrofit gas ovens from gas to electric were especially high in Europe, but the trend also picked up in North America. Despite the slowdown, the Biscuit business unit still won several key projects, including a new Danish Butter Cookie line for Jacobsen Bakery in Denmark, and a cookie line for Smuckers, US. 

A key differentiator for Bühler is integration on two levels: first the ability to offer fully integrated lines from bean to bar; and complex solutions across Bühler’s businesses. Best Biscuits Maroc, a leading player in the Moroccan biscuits market, added two wafer lines and two moulding lines, including mixing equipment for producing wafer bars and chocolate fingers with wafer. Ferrero North America added a chocolate mass line and moulding line and purchased a three-year service contract. 

A second important distinguishing feature for the Consumer Foods business is the capability to test and develop innovative ideas for consumer products together with customers in Bühler’s network of Application & Training Centers in 23 countries – and afterwards to engineer and implement the respective integrated solutions. This is not only within the Consumer Foods segment, but also in combination with technologies from the Grains & Food business, starting from grain handling and logistics to milling, sorting, and protein processing. The Application & Training Centers were heavily utilized for product development during 2022.  

In all Consumer Foods business units, the ability to lower energy consumption and CO2e emissions has become a top priority, along with reducing the risks associated with potential gas shortages. To meet this increasing market demand, new electric ovens were launched, including the SWAKT-E wafer baking oven and the Meincke Turbu E electric tunnel oven. To safeguard investments in the existing asset base of customers, retrofit kits to electrify the gas-powered ovens were developed and customers opted to retrofit their Turbu ovens. This was an important trigger for the Consumer Foods service businesses, which developed nicely in 2022. Additionally, customer interest in the Total Care service offerings increased, and so too did their willingness to engage in long-term service agreements. 

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