By Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio
AFTER OPENING a store in Tokyo this year, Auro Chocolate is hoping to further expand the international distribution of its Philippine chocolate products, which use cacao grown in Davao.
“We want to strengthen our distribution in other countries so that more people are able to enjoy and appreciate fine Philippine chocolate,” Mark M. Ocampo, managing director of Auro Chocolate, said in an e-mail interview with BusinessWorld.
Auro has been making inroads in the overseas market, exporting its products to Spain, Australia, Singapore and United States, and opening a store in the Shibuya district of Tokyo in October.
“We feel proud that our partners in Japan saw the potential to share our unique products and advocacy there,” Kelly S. Go, Auro Chocolate managing director, said in a mobile text message.
“The Japanese love fine chocolate and have also become increasingly aware of the bean-to-bar movement, which places a lot of emphasis on transparency in sourcing. We are different from many of the bean-to-bar companies that are famous there because we not only source the cacao locally, but also produce it in the Philippines, thus enabling us to make a greater impact in our community,” she added.
As a bean-to-bar chocolate company, Auro has full control of the production process from sourcing the cocoa beans to making the chocolate bar. The company helps farmers by providing them with cacao seeds and other forms of support, then later buy their beans at a premium.
“We support almost 3,000 farmers in Davao, representing a few thousand hectares of land by giving them the opportunity for value-adding and paying them significantly higher. We also offer them basic business admin training, creation of organic farming inputs as well as improving on their own cacao and chocolate products so that they are able to treat their farms as a business and continuously generate revenue through out the year without having to rely solely on the harvest season,” Mr. Ocampo said.
Mr. Ocampo said they were inspired to go into the chocolate business, after finding out that an American company used Philippine cacao beans in its chocolates.
“We saw that there was an American company using Philippine cacao beans for chocolate in the US in 2010, so we wondered why as Filipinos, we aren’t making quality chocolate despite having a rich cultural heritage of drinking chocolate (tablea), not to mention being the first country in Asia to grow cacao as well,” he said.
The brand name Auro is combination of Au, the chemical symbol for gold, and oro, the Spanish word for gold.
“We want to bring greater awareness to our national treasures, which are our unique cacao and passionate farmers, that we have taken for granted,” Ms. Go added.
Launched in May 2015, Auro started supplying chocolate products to hotels such as Shangri-la Boracay and Mactan, The Peninsula Manila, and Conrad Manila within its first year. Its chocolate bars are also sold in Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf stores, Echo Store, Gourdo’s and SM’s Kultura.
“Given that we only launched our products within the year, we’re now supplying to many of the luxury hotel chains like Shangri-la, Peninsula, Conrad, etc. We are also being served on-board Philippine Airlines’ international flights for both business and economy. We’ve also won multiple international awards… We’re very humbled and excited for what the next year has in store,” Mr. Ocampo said.
Auro received two bronze awards at the 2018 Academy of Chocolate Awards in London — the Auro Chocolate 70% Dark Chocolate Saloy Reserve under the Tree to Bar Category and Auro Chocolate 32% Roasted White Chocolate Cashew under the Flavored White Chocolate Bar Category.
While the cacao is sourced from Davao farmers, there are plans to get supply from other areas in the country.
“We’re hoping to start sourcing from different areas around the Philippines in the future so that we can support more farming communities around the country,” Mr. Ocampo said.
The Auro official sees bright prospects for the cacao industry in the Philippines.
“We see the cacao industry in the Philippines growing significantly in the next five years as the demand for cacao is an ever-growing concern in the local and international markets,” Mr. Ocampo said.