Chocolate On The Road: What Is A Cacao Brand?

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“Ten or fifteen years ago, chocolate manufacturers were reluctant to disclose the origin of the cocoa used in their products… If you are a chocolate maker and you don’t say where you get your beans from, I believe you are doing a producer of cacao a disservice.

-Greg D’Alesandre, Dandelion Chocolate

You would have had a difficult time finding the name of a country of origin printed on the wrapper of a chocolate bar up until about ten years ago. This very day? It is recommended that everyone beginning a chocolate firm follow this technique.

However, the majority of small batch chocolate companies are going beyond simply naming the country of origin of their beans by instead naming the cooperative, estate, or individual producer from which their beans originated. On their end, many of these manufacturers are now concentrating their efforts specifically on the premium market. They are fermenting and drying the beans while keeping the weather in mind, and they are storing their cacao in conditions that are climate-controlled. Careful harvesting of the ripest pods is being done. However, even with all of those additional efforts, do you think it will be enough to attract customers?

In this episode, we talk to four industry leaders about the slow development of cacao brands. These industry leaders are involved in the craft chocolate and cacao industry. Each of them has collaborated directly with farmers to enhance the post-harvest handling of cacao and has witnessed a dramatic increase in the amount of high-quality cacao available on the market as a result of their efforts. The manufacturers of cacao started looking for a way to set themselves apart from the competition, and as a result, they started approaching their product in the same way that chocolate manufacturers do.

To read the article which inspired this episode, click here.

Topics We Cover

  • the meaning of chocolate manufacturers.
  • how volatility in the cacao market may have a short-term impact on farmers, as well as how enterprises are attempting to mitigate this volatility
  • the importance of establishing a strong brand for any company looking to expand inside the cacao market
  • how to get your own chocolate company off the ground
  • farmgate pricing against export prices, and what the difference between the two entails on a personal level for farmers
  • the balance of power between those who grow cocoa and those who manufacture chocolate, as well as everyone in between.
  • how the cacao sector may learn from other businesses, such as the wine industry, to change the power dynamics and growth tactics inside the industry
  • the distinctions between terroir, single origin, and cacao brand
  • the factors that are working against the development of artisanal chocolate

Show Timeline

0:00-1:50~ Episode introduction

1:50-11:30~ Looking at how chocolate makers can help support the cacao producers they source from with Simran Bindra of Kokoa Kamili

11:30-26:45~ Diving into branding 101 and the why behind Maya Mountain Cacao & Uncommon Cacao with co-founder Emily Stone

26:45-40:40~ Discussing historical & current power dynamics between cocoa producers and chocolate makers, and how we can shift these to build a more equal industry moving forward (Greg D’Alesandre)

40:40-48:40~ Looking at how Vincent Morou & his business partner started Marou chocolate, and how they’ve built up the business alongside a bevy of Vietnamese cacao identities

48:40-52:00~ how cacao brands could play into the future of craft chooclate

More About Our Guests

Simran Bindra is one of the co-founders of Kokoa Kamili, which is a cacao producer located in Tanzania’s Kilombero Valley. Visit Kokoa Kamili’s Website, as well as her Facebook and Instagram pages.

Emily Stone is the co-founder of Maya Mountain Cacao and serves as CEO of both that company and the Uncommon Cacao group. Maya Mountain Cacao was established in 2010. Check out Uncommon’s Website, as well as their Instagram and Facebook accounts.

Greg D’Alesandre is the cacao sourcer for Dandelion Chocolate (both in Japan and the US) and gives the occasional lecture on chocolate and cacao. Check out Dandelion Chocolate’s website, as well as their Facebook and Instagram pages.

Vincent Mourou is a co-founder of the value-added chocolate company Marou Chocolate, which was established in 2011 and has its headquarters in the city of Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. Check out Marou’s Website, as well as her Instagram and Facebook accounts.

Additionally, Emily and Simran were highlighted in the documentary Millennials in Chocolate.

Resources Mentioned

  • The beginning of this episode, which also has an interview with
  • The podcast episode devoted to Japan may be found here.