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[B-SIDE PODCAST] Locally made craft chocolate and the Filipino identity

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Mark M. Ocampo, Auro Chocolate’s managing director and one of its co-founders, tells BusinessWorld reporter Brontë H. Lacsamana that craft chocolate lets the inherent flavor characteristics of directly sourced cacao come through in the final product. This allows local chocolates to reflect the Filipino identity.

“The whole point of craft is having a more responsible and direct relationship with the farmers, communities, raw materials, and ingredients,” he said. “We want to have this closer connection so we have more control in terms of the quality that we produce.”

Auro Chocolate, which takes pride in being locally sourced and locally made, is on a mission to prove that the Philippines has a lot more to offer in terms of chocolate.


Filipinos love to eat sweets but are mainly used to foreign brands.

“We’ve been growing chocolate for 300 years, not to mention the first variety ever planted in the Philippines was the rarest cacao variety in the world,” said Mr. Ocampo. “We were the first country in Asia to grow cacao and yet we’ve never made chocolate.”

If the local population, which is used to consuming foreign brands, can be exposed to Filipino flavors, they will realize that local doesn’t have to mean cheap, he added.

“Why compete in that market when actually we have the potential to be more?”

The Philippines has a huge potential for chocolate exports.

Foreign markets have actually tapped into this potential, according to Mr. Ocampo.

Auro Chocolate is actively present in around 50 different countries, with a cafe in Bahrain, a store in Japan, and two cafes in the Philippines — in Mall of Asia and in Bonifacio Global City. In Europe, about 50 chocolate makers use Auro products.

“That’s a huge win for us because it’s really meaningful. Places that actually produce cacao and quality chocolate are now using our products,” he said.

Cafes and farm tours can promote local chocolate.

Mr. Ocampo noted the various ways local chocolate can be promoted among Filipinos, with farm tours and factory visits in the works for a more immersive and personal experience with cacao. Auro is also looking to expand their cacao farms in Davao.

“Cacao grows all over the Philippines so there will be so many more places that can highlight the different flavor profiles indicative of different provinces,” he said.

Meanwhile, the cafes represent the brand’s world-class Filipino quality, from Boholano handwoven structures and Palawan-made uniforms to artisan lights and furniture.

“They’re kind of like a beacon in a sense, and a place where we can showcase who we are as a brand, our values, what we believe in,” Mr. Ocampo said.

Produced by Joseph Emmanuel L. Garcia and  Earl R. Lagundino.

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