Meet Africa’s Emerging Chocolate Entrepreneurs

The chocolate industry is deliciously lucrative. We are talking about a global revenue of 100 billion dollars each year! The appetite for chocolate keeps growing especially in emerging countries. This is great news for chocolate manufacturers. Leading the pack are USA, Switzerland, Belgium, Mexico and Germany – the top 5 chocolate (not cocoa) producers. But what does this mean for cocoa producers particularly in Africa? Unfortunately, not much because we do not make chocolate at any meaningful scale even though  4 West African countries alone produce 70% of the world’s cocoa beans! In this blog, I feature dynamic young entrepreneurs from cocoa producing countries who have decided enough is enough. They are changing the status quo and producing homegrown African chocolate.

Ruth Amoah, a project manager turned chocolatier, is the creator of Moments Chocolate. She is one of Ghana’s pioneers in artisanal bean-to-bar chocolate making. Moments Chocolate is handmade in Ghana from cocoa beans sourced locally. Finding a niche market is critical in this business given well-established brands. Therefore, Ruth is brilliant to package her products as made-to-order customisable corporate gifts. Chocolate slabs and truffles are available in milk, dark and white chocolate. “I believe that opening a box of chocolates should be almost as fun as eating it. I design each chocolate in a way that incorporates color, shape, pattern and texture to indulge all of the senses. I believe that is what luxury chocolate is all about” A statement by Ruth Amoah.

By controlling the chocolate-making process from the farm to the bar, bean-to-bar chocolate entrepreneurs say they can create better chocolate — chocolate that preserves the beans’ distinctive flavors. Many also hope that the farm-to-bar pipeline will make for more ethical, sustainable production in an industry with a long history of exploitation. Source: npr.org 

SistersTwo Ghanaian sisters are also making waves in the industry. Kimberly and Priscilla Addison are the founders of 57 Chocolate. The name of the brand pays tribute to the year 1957 when Ghana received its independence. The sisters are on a mission to revive Ghana’s 1957 “can do spirit” and inspire the youth to add value to natural resources. Their chocolate workshop is located in the East Legon suburb of Accra. Dark, milk and white Chocolates are made from Ghanaian cocoa beans. You can schedule a private tasting through their website and also place orders for private events.

ChocoTogo is the first and only cocoa processing company and bean to bar chocolate brand in Togo. It was created by 6 young Togolese entrepreneurs who went on a chocolate making course in Italy and upon returning, decided to form a company with their own resources. “Our Chocolate has attracted a lot of interest on the local and international market. In 2015 we won an innovation award at Terra Madre, Italy, where we competed with Italian local chocolate brands. Later that year in November, we also won the startup of the year award in Togo,” A statement by Emmanuel Agbenonwossi, co-founder of ChocoTogo.

Jaki Kweka is Tanzania’s first and only artisan bean to bar chocolate maker. She quit her job as a practicing attorney and founded Chocolate Mamas. Jaki produces organic chocolate with locally sourced inputs and in a packaging, made from corn husk, which is produced by a local NGO for disabled persons. She has opened stores in Arusha, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar and plans to expand regionally and globally. She is just phenomenal and one to watch.

CNN branded Stephen Sembuya and Felix Okuye as Uganda’s Willy Wonka Duo. Founders of Pink Food Industries, the two rising entrepreneurs are childhood friends on the quest to put Uganda on the global chocolate map. The journey began when Sembuya inherited his family’s 286 hectare cocoa farm. To put the sheer largeness of this farm into perspective, it produces 10kgs or 400 bars of chocolates every day. Uganda Chocolate, which is the name of the brand (cant get more patriotic than that), is available in dark, milk and white chocolate. “I’m selling a lot here in Kampala which is why I’m getting lots of the market. I’m selling to fewer people but [in] huge quantities. But we already have assembled a line to produce biscuits, candy and corn flakes too.” A statement by Stephen Sembuya.

CHOCOLATE

Although, I have profiled African entrepreneurs, I should mention that there are a number of non-African entrepreneurs who have also decided to make chocolate in Africa as opposed to just buying the cocoa and making the chocolate abroad. Here are some notable examples:

  1. Claudio Corallo, an Italian entrepreneur, based in Sao Tome (a cocoa producing country) has 40 years experience producing coffee and chocolate. He is in a different league of chocolate makers because he owns the cocoa plantations so able to ensure quality in every process of chocolate making. He says, that good chocolate begins with the soil just as wine begins with the vineyard. He exports mainly to Europe.
  2. After spending much time in Ghana, two American brothers, Steven and Jonathan Wallace, launched Omanhene Chocolate Company in 1991. Their chocolates are exported directly to the US and have won numerous awards and received citations in the New York Times, among other platforms.
  3. There is Hendrik Reimers, a Ghana-based German chocolatier, whose company, Fairafric, recently launched in March 2016 through a successful crowd funding campaign. Fairafric makes chocolate in Ghana from bean to bar for the European market. Fairness and socio economic impact is at the heart of its business model.
  4. Madecasse is another thriving chocolate company in Madagascar. It was started by two American peace corps volunteers. These chocolates are found in US retail stores like Wholefoods.

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It is interesting that both African and non African chocolate companies mentioned above, make chocolate in Africa but have different marketing strategies. The African-owned companies largely cater for their local markets while the foreign-owned companies largely export their products. Catering to the local market offers something new and different to a growing African middle class. However, we have to accept that a chunk of the market lies offshore. The Swiss eat more chocolate than anyone else in the world, followed by the Germans, Irish and Brits. At the same time, the market is diversifying. 70 percent of growth in the chocolate industry is driven by the emerging economies: Brazil, India, China, Colombia, Turkey, South Africa, Russia and Vietnam (KPMG, 2014). Nigeria is another growing consumer worthy of note. Between 2008 and 2013, Nigeria’s importation of chocolate bars increased by 98% (Ventures Africa, 2015).

Chocolate consumers

Research shows that the future of chocolate is bright from a demand perspective. Small/Non producing countries within relative proximity to the equator – the optimal climate needed to grow cocoa – e.g. Guinea, Congo and Liberia should build on their cocoa-growing potential, add value and profit from the global market. Very recently, Côte D’Ivoire (the worlds largest producer of cocoa) announced that the government for the first time would be setting up a chocolate making factory. Cote D’Ivoire alone produces about 40% of global cocoa and could single-handedly change the chocolate game. Ghana produces 20% of the world’s cocoa, ranks second and has been processing cocoa since the 60s. Nigeria (4th largest cocoa producer after Indonesia) and Cameroon (6th largest cocoa producer after Brazil) are the two other major players in the region. So far, i am not aware of any entrepreneurial initiatives there and the governments seem to have ignored their potential in this industry. So there are huge untapped opportunities awaiting entrepreneurs.

Current and future chocolate producers would do well to start producing for tomorrow’s consumers. Consumers are becoming more health conscious and therefore healthy dark chocolate is the future. Bean to bar is the future. Tasty melt-resistant chocolates (the ultimate African challenge) is the future. Chocolate grown sustainably and ethically is the future. I wrote in my first blog (Raising the Bar) that I would take on the chocolate making challenge. I am making progress in that regard and will write about it in a future blog.

I am personally excited by these initiatives on so many levels. I get excited by innovators who are not only profit seeking (nothing wrong with that..by all means get your money) but those who do so in a way that adds greater socio-economic value. I love that we as Africans are adding value to raw products and breaking out of the stigma of being producers of low-skill goods. If you have tasted any of these chocolates (I havent yet but on the hunt) or know other entrepreneurs in this space, I would like to hear from you.

Peace and Love!

Photo credits: http://www.mygreenrainbow.com, http://www.57chocolategh.com, http://www.thesweetartco.com, https://chocolatechateau.files.wordpress.com, belafrikamedia.com, http://www.madecasse.com, http://www.chocolatemamas.com, https://www.news24africa.com