Big Interview: Sofie De Lathouwer

Sofie De Lathouwer, CEO of Gudrun Group, talks to Editor Caitlin Gittins about what ‘planet-based’ chocolate means at Gudrun; which includes upcycling in their scope 

Please introduce yourself and what you do? 

I am a chocolate lover. My entire career revolves around chocolate. I’ve gained valuable experience at Barry Callebaut, the worldwide company in chocolate manufacturing. Having worked there for many years in sales and marketing, my last role as general manager in one of the most premium divisions of the group was an eye-opener. It showed me how premiumisation is answered by the many manufacturers. I stayed at Barry Callebaut until 2021 when I got the opportunity to lead Gudrun Group toward new success stories.  

Apart from chocolate, I have a genuine passion for people, bringing them to the next level and inspiring my team members to work towards a common goal, in which creativity and sustainability play an important role. 

What are some of the trends and innovations that you predict for chocolate this year? 

More than ever, chocolate will focus on sustainability. I like to call it ‘planet-based’, instead of plant-based chocolate. Everyone is looking for solutions that treat our planet with respect. And I am not just talking about initiatives such as sustainable sourcing of cocoa. It goes far beyond that. Think of sustainable packaging and valorising waste streams. 

Especially in the food industry, we deal with a lot of waste. That’s why we recently started exploring the potential of upcycling. It means that we look for wasted materials in the production process that can be upgraded and become valuable ingredients in our chocolates. Our first creation, for example, is a chocolate with a filling that uses the white pulp that surrounds the cocoa bean. It has a great taste and becomes a real delicacy in our chocolate. So why should we throw it away? I believe that upcycling can be an important factor in a sustainable chocolate industry. 

Of course, in addition to the increased focus on sustainability, indulgence, the true pleasure of enjoying, will remain important. Taste and texture will always win. But this can go hand in hand with responsible and sustainable production and consumption. 

You mention that your chocolates are made with an ‘eye towards sustainable growth’. Can you tell us more about this?  

It means that we are not going for opportunistic sales. We believe in strong partnerships. Every day, we work together with our team and stakeholders, from idea to execution. 

We are also convinced that we need to give younger generations a voice. They have buying power and will be the main buyer of our products. So, we need to evaluate and redefine our products to meet their expectations. Think of packaging, messaging and even ingredients. 

On top of that, you must always respect your classics… I may sound like an old granny now, but never forget your evergreens. Give them an extra twist. Don’t go for less, go for different…

Read the full feature in our magazine.

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Media contact

Caitlin Gittins
Editor, International Confectionery
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 920

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