AURO Chocolate, a bean-to-bar company which sustainably sources cacao beans from Filipino farmers, launched in December a grab-and-go concept store in SM Mall of Asia’s MOA Square, next to Ikea Philippines, as a way to move forward despite the pandemic.
“Opening a cafe store in the midst of an ongoing pandemic might be surprising for some but we believe that the only way to move forward is by taking a step into it, and for us, that is opening our very first physical location,” said Kelly S. Go, managing director of Auro Chocolate, via e-mail.
In 2020, at the onset of the pandemic and rapid growth of e-commerce, Auro launched its own online platform as well as official online stores through Lazada and Shopee. The physical store is an attempt to further widen their “distribution and presence in Metro Manila and offer a unique sustainable experience for everyone,” she said.
With a vision of being proudly Filipino, the space is made of handwoven material and lit warmly to provide an atmosphere befitting choices like Sourdough Pan de Tsokolate stuffed with Tinapang Bangus, and Tortang Talong and Beef Pares sandwiches.
“We want everything to be locally sourced and crafted,” said Ms. Go, referring to the food and drinks as well as the café itself.
Auro plans to open more physical stores.
During the pandemic, Filipinos’ evolving taste in sweets due to various food trends opened up opportunities for introducing more products, according to the company.
There’s Auro’s collaboration with Don Papa Rum, a 70% Dark Chocolate infused with Don Papa Rum; and limited-edition products like the Intergalactic Choco Bomb with The Everyday, and tea-infused chocolate bars with Serenitea.
“We are always looking for different ways how we can innovate the tree-to-bar chocolate experience through our products and honoring our heritage,” Ms. Go said.
She also cited the outpour of support for sustainably sourced, locally made products in the pandemic, increasing the chances of local brands to succeed on the global stage.
The pandemic didn’t stop Auro from their advocacy of supporting cacao farmers. The company reported that they were able to buy nearly 100 metric tons of cacao beans from farmers, paid with an additional 10–15% premium above the world market price.
Cacao programs also addressed farmers’ concerns regarding production and quality.
Through the Organic Conversion Program (OCP), Auro helps its partners earn international organic certifications that will open new markets for their cacao. Dr. Zoi Papalexandratou, of the ZOTO Cacao Consultancy in Belgium, helps with post-harvest protocols that can maximize the flavor potential of cacao beans.
“With our rich history and tradition with cacao, there is much more to discover in terms of variety, origin, and flavor profile of cacao beans all over the country,” said Ms. Go. — Brontë H. Lacsamana