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  • May 03, 2021 4:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This month we highlight three of our members, Goodnow Farms Chocolate, Moka Origins, and Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate on the Make Mine Fine Blog. They each generate a sense of place, pride, and connection in their communities and cacao value chains. They provide opportunity and flexibility that might not be celebrated or supported in larger corporate environments for demographics including women and minorities and for people who think outside of the box. We will be posting about them throughout the month — follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter to learn more.

    We are also hosting a chocolate giveaway featuring chocolates from each of our three featured members.

    On May 27th at noon Eastern, we will conclude our month-long celebration with a new event called Chocolate Break on Instagram Live. Our friends from Dick Taylor, Moka Origins, and Goodnow Farms will talk about their businesses, community programs, and cocoa sourcing. And yes…we will be tasting some amazing chocolate!

    We’ll announce the winners of the chocolate giveaway during Chocolate Break. You will not want to miss this!

  • April 13, 2021 12:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    There really is no magic formula to determining the best cocoa bean roasting time and temperature across the board because different size beans, bean variety and origin need a unique roasting profile to get the desired result.

    But with knowledge, patience and practice the fine art of roasting can be one of the most rewarding steps of the chocolate making process.

    It is the first part of the process where the chocolate maker begins to put their creative touch on the final product.

    Join CocoaTown Saturday April 17th from 10 am – 12 noon Atlanta time (GMT -5) for Learning the Ropes of Roasting an Empowering Chocopreneurs© webinar with Alain d'Aboville.

    To learn more and to register visit https://cocoatown.com/blogs/news/learning-ropes-of-roasting

  • April 12, 2021 4:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Cocoa being transported in Meagui, Côte d'Ivoire. (CNFA, 2019)Cocoa being transported in Meagui, Côte d'Ivoire. (CNFA, 2019)

    By Mark Steen of CNFA (Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture)

    For over two years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Food for Progress-funded Maximizing Opportunities in Cocoa Activity (MOCA) has worked closely with members from FCIA to demonstrate the value of Ivorian cocoa flavor and highlight the potential for trade expansion.

    Implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) in Côte d’Ivoire, MOCA took a unique approach and designed a program to facilitate relationships between producers and stakeholders in the high-value markets in the cacao sector. The MOCA team introduced quality control protocols and best practices with participating producers, monitored agricultural, harvest and post-harvest practices and facilitated trainings using the “learning by tasting” method introduced by Guittard Chocolate.

    After a year of support, MOCA observed physical improvements to the cacao’s quality. With results achieved from this program, Guittard Chocolate has committed to purchasing CAPRESSA and CAVA beans with innovative quality-based pricing established on physical and sensory results. The first 25-ton container of quality flavor cacao is on its way to the United States. For more information, please see this case study, “MOCA Demonstrates the Value of Cacao Flavor.”

    From left to right: Bernard Kouakou Pale, Quality Flavor Cacao producer; John Kehoe, Director of Sustainability at Guittard Chocolate Company; Dorine Kassi, Flavor Quality Training expert; and Amy Guittard, Director of Marketing of Guittard Chocolate Company assess the cocoa beans drying process at CAPRESSA cooperative. (CNFA, 2019)From left to right: Bernard Kouakou Pale, Quality Flavor Cacao producer; John Kehoe, Director of Sustainability at Guittard Chocolate Company; Dorine Kassi, Flavor Quality Training expert; and Amy Guittard, Director of Marketing of Guittard Chocolate Company assess the cocoa beans drying process at CAPRESSA cooperative. (CNFA, 2019)

  • April 12, 2021 4:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In a February 2021 survey of FCIA members, over half reported that their businesses are better or significantly better than in March 2020. This is a vast improvement from the same response taken in a September 2020 survey, when only 34% were seeing better or significantly better improvements.

    Fifty-three FCIA members participated in the February 2021 survey; a third chocolate makers, a third chocolatiers and the remaining third equipment suppliers, traders and specialty retailers. The majority of the respondents were from the associate level category or membership.

    Not surprisingly, companies are investing more in online sales platforms (65%), advertising (51%), and product diversification (40%). The biggest concern for members in September 2020 was business survival. This concern has been replaced by supply chain disruptions and the ability to network in the February 2021 survey. Company members have also been concerned about the safety of their staff during the pandemic.

    In terms of FCIA value to members, respondents ranked our weekly educational webinars first (55%), followed by networking (35%), virtual conferences (35%), promotions (32%) and discount programs (22%).

    The final section of the survey asked members about how they plan to maintain business networks and visibility with consumers in 2021. Most indicated that virtual conferences , webinars and one-to-one contacts with peers will continue to be important. There is a strong desire to return to in-person conferences and festivals. FCIA is working with our partners at NW Chocolate Festival (October 30-31 in Seattle) and Salon du Chocolat (November 20 in New York) to re-establish in person meetings towards the end of this year.

    For more information on these events and FCIA discounts, please contact FCIA.

  • April 12, 2021 11:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Description: Small, Innovative product manufacturing company in Alpharetta GA, seeks a communications intern who is fluent in Spanish and English to assist with a variety of communications tasks.

    Responsibilities include but not limited to working with our marketing team to create posts and videos about our equipment, webinars, etc on all our social media platforms. Excellent Opportunity to learn all aspects of marketing activities.

    Other duties may include translating documents, assisting with communicating in Spanish to customers, handling video and photography equipment, creating and editing content for/on our website(s).

    Qualifications and Skills:

    • Creative, self-motivated, reliable, detail-oriented and energetic
    • Good communications and proofreading skills in Spanish and English
    • Currently in communications or related university undergraduate or graduate program
    • Mastery of social media applications and website content management
    • Photography and videography
    • Able to work with in person and remote team members

    Dates and Time Commitment: June 1st through August 28, 2021 or longer

    Benefits: There is a financial compensation associated with the position, and the intern will also gain valuable work experience while working with a team of dedicated professionals. Being a small company, they will have an excellent opportunity to learn all aspects of running a business. We will mentor you for technical as well as business skills.

    Report to: President and Marketing Director

    About CocoaTown: CocoaTown is the first company that offers a wide range of equipment for making craft chocolate from cocoa beans called "Bean to Bar" industry. We design, develop, manufacture and market patented machines to create “Bean to Bar” chocolate and gourmet foods. Our focus is not just selling our machines but also empowering Chocoprenuers to start and grow their business through equipment, evaluation tools and education.

    Application process: Applicants should send their resume and letter of interest to Ms. Andal Balu at info@cocoatown.com by May 15, 2021.

  • April 05, 2021 2:55 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Jody Hyden from Mimi and Jody Hayden at Grocer's Daughter Chocolate Jody Hayden looking at cacao drying

    A growing number of fine chocolate companies are seeing the advantages of building partnerships with other specialty food companies in their communities. This can be particularly appealing and profitable in locations where consumers are interested to sample or try new combinations of specialty foods. We recently interviewed FCIA member Jody Hayden of Grocer's Daughter Chocolate, who was featured in a recent FCIA webinar on this topic.

    Can you tell us about the history of Grocer's Daughter Chocolate in Empire, Michigan? What type of products do you offer?

    Jody Hayden: Grocer's Daughter Chocolate is a small family-owned specialty chocolate shop founded in 2004. Along with our brick and mortar shop in the small village of Empire, which accounts for 74% of our revenue, we have online and wholesale sales channels. Our hand rolled and molded bonbons drive our profitability as a business and they are also a great vehicle for ingredients from local business partners. We also make bars and bark, chocolate covered items, drinking chocolate (mix and by the cup), fudgesicles/shakes and this year we'll be expanding our frozen treat offerings into housemade gelato.

    Most of the confections we make at Grocer's Daughter Chocolate feature an ingredient from a local partner, from our dairy to the honey we use in our caramel recipe to dried fruits, jams, teas, flowers and spirits. Our shop is located in a picturesque small town on Lake Michigan in the middle of the popular Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and our location in this busy tourist destination provides us with a busy summer and fall season. Visitors come from all over the world to visit the Dunes, plus we're a bedroom community for cities like Chicago and Detroit. For the small size of our year-round population, our region is a foodie destination with many value-added food businesses including wineries/breweries/distilleries, small farm stands, craft coffee/tea purveyors, cheesemakers, etc. As a result, we have great options for collaborations with other specialty food businesses and not only do we source from dozens of them but we often co-market or co-brand items for cross-marketing purposes. Our partnerships with like-minded specialty food businesses are not only advantageous for attracting new customers and increasing visibility and revenue but are truly foundational to the success of our business.

    Mimi and Jody Hayden at Grocer's Daughter Chocolate Mimi Wheeler and Jody Hayden at Grocer's Daughter Chocolate 

    More on the history of Grocer's Daughter Chocolate: We were founded by our dear friend and chocolate fairy godmother, Mimi Wheeler, a Danish woman who didn't approve of the chocolate found in stores in the US. She started making her own European-inspired 70% dark chocolate bonbons (she didn't offer milk chocolate when she started) with chocolate from El Rey, Santander and Pierrick Chouard. Mimi's were the best chocolates around and she cultivated a regional customer base of chocolate 'purists.’ Zingerman's in Ann Arbor became one of her first wholesale customers.

    DC and Jody Hayden at Grocer's Daughter Chocolate

    Mimi and I became fast friends in 2005 via a collaboration among local businesses to offer a Northern Michigan holiday gift and fundraising program. At the time, I was working as co-founder/owner of Higher Grounds Trading Co, a specialty coffee roaster in Traverse City. In 2008, Mimi asked me to co-lead a trip to Ecuador with her, where we first met Jenny Samaniego, founder/president of Conexion Chocolate, and we all became friends.

    Fast forward a few years and Mimi decided that, although she loved working with chocolate, she didn't love running a business and she decided to sell. In 2013, my partner, DC Hayden, and I purchased Grocer's Daughter Chocolate from Mimi and immediately I reached out to Jenny about making chocolate for us. Jenny was well on her way to building a cocoa ingredients exporting business and her contribution to Grocer's Daughter Chocolate as our chocolate partner has been integral to our success.

    During the FCIA webinar last month, you were on a panel with local beer and spirits companies from Michigan to explain the specialty food partnership. Can you tell us more about this and who and how it was initiated? How is it being implemented today?

    Jody Hayden: Yes, Tina Schuett, owner/brewer of Rare Bird Brewery, and Sarah Anderson, partner at Iron Fish Distillery, joined me to talk about cross-production opportunities between beer, spirits and chocolate as well as cross-marketing. In the case of Rare Bird, Tina uses a chocolate concentrate and nibs to brew dozens of chocolate beer recipes. At Iron Fish, Sarah and team use chocolate and cocoa butter in drink recipes, they use nibs to make cocktail syrups/bitters and our plan is to create a GDC/IFD chocolate spirit together this year or next. In turn, at the chocolate shop we used a Rare Bird stout in a special vegan Valentine's day truffle recipe and we regularly use Iron Fish Whiskey in our bonbons and filled figs. Also, Sarah and I led a private whiskey and chocolate tasting for a law firm last month and we've done ticketed pairing events for holidays.

    Collaborations like these with Tina and Sarah feel natural to me because we're in a small community where most of the business owners know one another. It's easy to dream up an idea for a collaboration and make it happen quickly because most of us are really good friends and we're regularly communicating with one another. As another holiday approaches or we have new recipe ideas, we always look first to our local, like-minded business friends to source ingredients. And, when events feel safe again, we'll continue our circuit of classes, tastings and pairing events hosted by a variety of local food partners from wineries to yoga studios. The opportunities to partner are only limited by your imagination.

    Iron Fish Distillery Cacao Nibs Whiskey

    Grocer's Daughter Chocolate collaboration with Iron Fish Distillery

    Has the COVID pandemic impacted the partnership in a positive or negative way? Do you believe the partnership will change post-COVID?

    If we're learned anything from COVID it's that we need our community partners more than ever. Early in the pandemic, we shared information about mandates coming from the State, labor strategies, financing opportunities and much-needed moral support. And, frankly, the cross promotion of one another's social media posts helped us to relay important information to our customers about mask and service policies. So, for example, if a couple was coming to the area to visit from Detroit, they would see that Grocer's Daughter, Rare Bird and Iron Fish all have strict mask policies and limited service options. It helped us set customer expectations as a community and, ultimately, that was about protecting our staff and our communities.

    Chocolate Fig

    Post-covid I think our partnerships will continue to deepen because, as I mentioned before, these relationships are at the core of who we are at GDC. Our group of like-minded businesses have linked arms more tightly this past year in an effort of solidarity to uplift our community as we collectively recover from the pandemic and find ways to support the beleaguered and invaluable people who comprise our service and hospitality workforce in Northern Michigan.

    What have been the successes of this partnership in regards to increased sales for each of the companies involved? What are the necessary ingredients needed to make this work in terms of consumer base, geographic proximity, business culture?

    For a small business it's difficult to track the impact of each of these partnerships to our financial bottom line because much of the value is in the cultivation of community capital, not readily trackable, and customer loyalty. Of course, the cost of using a partner's ingredients must work in our pricing equations and, if they don't, then we price the product accordingly.

    I think the necessary ingredients for a successful partnership model are simple. It's best when there's a natural affinity, similar values and commitment to quality, a shared customer demographic or geographic customer base and, obviously, an ingredient that works well with chocolate. Also, do not give your time or your product away for free to every potential partner. Make sure you properly value your contribution to the partnership, as well as theirs.

    What advice would you give to a fellow FCIA company member considering a partnership with another specialty food/beverage company in their area?

    Find someone who is fun to work with and brainstorm product ideas and events together. Source ingredients from companies you admire and tell their story in your communications. Create gift bundles featuring local partners and ingredients you use in the chocolate. Make sure the collaborations are making sense financially -- price accordingly.

    Feel free to reach out with questions/comments: Jody@grocersdaughter.com

  • April 05, 2021 2:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    AndSon Chocolatier interior

    andSons Chocolatiers is a 2nd-generation Beverly Hills chocolatier. Led by two brothers, Phil and Marc Covitz, who were born into fine chocolate, andSons Chocolatiers combine the time-honored techniques of their European past with the inspiration and creativity of their Los Angeles roots. In this interview, FCIA is joined by Phil Covitz, one of the andSons Chocolatiers owners.

    Can you tell us about andSons, how you began your business, and about your product lines and demos?

    AndSon ChocolatierPhil Covitz: Conceived by two brothers, andSons Chocolatiers was founded in 2019. Although it is a new brand, andSons is an evolution of a business started by Mom. Originally established in 1983 as a retailer partner of teuscher chocolates of Switzerland, for nearly 40 years our Beverly Hills location had been known for fine European chocolate. Seeing that customers’ tastes and needs had changed over time and that Europe was no longer the sole domain of fine chocolate, the brothers parted ways with teuscher chocolates after taking over their mom’s business. Today, as chocolatiers, we make our own products that reflect our CA roots and a modern approach to confections. Assembling an experienced team, we tapped Chef Kriss Harvery to lead our kitchen and sought to tell our story with chocolate. Linking our past and our future, we offer classic enrobed bonbons, modern molded pieces, panned items and barres.

    andSons ChocolateBeverly Hills is a high-end market. How would you describe your customer preferences and demographics?

    Phil Covitz: While Beverly Hills is a high-end market, and a large part of our DNA, our customer base really extends beyond our market. (In fact it’s safe to say we have more customers outside Los Angeles than locally.) Regardless of their location, our customers are interested in experiencing the best in fine confections, plain and simple. While each customer may have different preferences, we believe they’re united in purchasing chocolate that is made to a high standard employing passion, consideration and high-quality ingredients. Hailing from a city filled with excellent dining and hospitality, we know our customers also want to be transported and inspired. The type of people we sell to include foodies, chocolate connoisseurs and luxury gift givers.

    A February 2021 FCIA survey revealed that a majority of respondents are better off than they were the previous year. They are investing more in online sales platforms, advertising and product development. The survey also suggests that there is a sense of optimism for the year ahead. Are these findings consistent or different from andSons perspective?

    AndSon ChocolatierPhil Covitz: We’ve experienced growth this past year and are encouraged by the future. However it’s not easy for us to look back and compare apples to apples. Twenty-twenty was only our second year operating andSons, and at the time COVID closedowns were enforced (March 2020), we had only one year of retail sales and four months of web sales under our belt. We were very much still in the process of getting things off the ground when the big shifts occurred.

    How have your sales changed over the past year and what trends do you see in the future for your retail store and online platform?

    AndSon Chocolatier in the makingPhil Covitz: As previously mentioned, our sales data for andSons only goes back to 2019 and unfortunately comparing it to our teuscher days is hard because that was a well-established business that worked in different ways. However we definitely see more growth in online sales in the coming years and this will be our main focus. On the retail side, Los Angeles was hit pretty hard by the pandemic. Indoor dining only opened about two weeks ago and most schools still operate only online. Specifically for us in Beverly Hills, the majority of our regulars worked in the neighborhood. They have not returned to their offices and their future is unknown so our retail outlook is a big question mark at this moment.

    What are the greatest two or three benefits FCIA can provide to your business?

    AndSon ChocolatierPhil Covitz: From a community point of view, we’ve enjoyed the FCIA webinars that have connected us with fellow chocolatiers and chocolate makers. More of those are always welcome. As a business resource, we’ve taken advantage of some of the vendor introductions. They have been very useful and it helps us rethink how we do things. Continuing to develop more of these relationships would be appreciated. Lastly, getting the word out to inform and educate consumers about fine chocolate and fine cacao is an immeasurable benefit. Each and every conversation people have about fine chocolate is a small drip into the bucket that eventually will spill over. To that end, seeing Make Mine Fine come to life has been great and we’re hoping for a “Make Mine Fine Pop Up” in the near future!

    To our fellow FCIA members, if you’re ever in Los Angeles, please come say hi!

  • April 05, 2021 2:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    UberGreen Organics - racking cacao

    Ubergreen Organics is an exporter of organic and sustainably produced cacao from Trinidad & Tobago. The company’s vision is to become the premier supplier of premium quality cocoa sourced from select estates to established and emerging global markets for fine-flavor chocolate. Achieving this benchmark begins with the country’s highly regarded Trinitario genetic varietal, to which Ubergreen applies deep expertise gained from the country’s renowned Cocoa Research Centre at UWI, expert field practitioners and farmer insights while conducting rigorous quality assessment throughout production.

    UberGreen Organics - Cacao BeansPartnering with local experts, Ubergreen works to assist farmers in improving production from tree to the pallet employing best practices across the growing, harvest, and post-harvest operations. The company believes and is already proving that investments in farmworker education, labor reliability, estate infrastructure and actually tasting finished chocolate, translate to a bold shift in attitude toward cocoa production and contribute to higher and better quality output.

    Ubergreen sets a higher standard by offering their farming partners above Fair Trade prices for their cocoa. This begins by acknowledging that cocoa production is hard work that has historically not always rewarded stakeholders equally along the industry value chain. A premium product should naturally command appropriate pricing that allows farmers to maintain their standards of production and living. Looking forward, Ubergreen hopes to incorporate the use of blockchain technology to track its products along the supply chain from tree to finished bar. We recognize this as an important step to improving accountability to our customers and consumers.

    UberGreen Organics LogoFCIA membership represents not just an investment to the Ubergreen brand but a commitment to the broader fine chocolate and specialty cacao industries. It signals that the company as part of a larger community seeks to push the fine chocolate industry forward through increased visibility, knowledge sharing, and spotlighting of great tasting chocolate with even greater stories behind them. Ubergreen is currently offering organic beans sourced from the San Antonio Estate in Gran Couva, Trinidad up to 50 kilograms. Contact them directly for custom orders or more info at info@ubergreen.org.

    Rene Sperber

    Tobias Schulze-Frenking

    Anthony Bridgewater
    VP of Sales/Director
  • April 05, 2021 1:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A discussion with MOCCA program partners

    Two years ago, FCIA joined an important partnership with the USDA-funded MOCCA program in Latin America. The program covers much of Central America and the Andean Region and will benefit 750,000 smallholder coffee and cacao farmers and their families. MOCCA has seven components aiming to catalyze market-based solutions for more profitable specialty coffee and fine cacao value chains. We had the opportunity to discuss MOCCA’s progress to date from Giff Laube, the Deputy Director of Lutheran World Relief; Stassi Baranouf, the ‎Director of Global Operations and Sourcing from Uncommon Cacao; Teddy Ruiz from Cacao Verapaz, a local partner in Guatemala.

    MOCCA - cacao tree and participants

    Implementing Organization Perspective: Lutheran World Relief

    Could you tell us about the USDA-funded MOCCA program in Latin America - specifically for cocoa? In what countries does it operate and what are the main activities?

    Giff Laube: MOCCA is an ambitious, USDA-funded program in Latin America, with the central goal of stimulating and supporting producers to re-invest in coffee and cocoa in the region. This is being accomplished through farmer training that improves production and quality while encouraging farmers to reinvest and renovate their cocoa and coffee trees. Lutheran World Relief is pleased to be working with USDA, FCIA members, local partners, and farmers on the cocoa component of the program.

    What is your specific role in the program and with the private sector?

    Giff Laube: As Deputy Director, I work specifically as a liaison between private sector partners in Peru, Ecuador, and Guatemala, and producer groups in the six country region, to foment the goals of the project and advance MOCCA’s agenda. Specifically Component 2 – Market Access to Differentiated or Preferential Markets, is the central goal of my work with MOCCA.

    How has COVID impacted your abilities to meet program goals?

    Giff Laube: COVID has been challenging for everyone; I feel for those who it has affected personally, and give thanks that in my case the only affectation is professional. But of course, COVID has made implementation very difficult. Cocoa farming is not an online activity, and while we have had to adapt and find strategies to cope with the situation (Cacao Movil; online meeting culture), it is no substitute for real, in-person technical assistance and exposure. Finding ways to promote the cocoa farmer agenda during COVID has made MOCCA an even greater challenge than when it was first presented.

    MOCCA - Cacao Farm

    FCIA Member Perspective: Uncommon Cacao

    How did Uncommon Cacao get involved in MOCCA?

    Stassi Baranouf: Our founder and CEO Emily Stone met Giff Laube (of Lutheran World Relief) many years ago in Nicaragua, and they were both involved in the Central American cacao association -- now AMACACAO. Since then, Lutheran World Relief invested in Uncommon Cacao, so when this opportunity came up they encouraged Cacao Verapaz to apply to the program.

    What have been the benefits in this partnership to your company and indirectly to your customers?

    Stassi Baranouf: This partnership has been beneficial for several actors in our supply chain, including our direct businesses (Cacao Verapaz and Uncommon Cacao) and our partners (customers in the US and Europe). Uncommon Cacao is focused on being a sustainable business; this often means that we can’t (even though we’d like to) do the technical assistance work that is so critical to setting up long-term, healthy supply chains in rural areas. Our goal is to support cacao communities, to give access to markets for high quality cacao. Sometimes, that cacao is coming from underdeveloped areas that are not yet reaching their potential for cacao as a business. Many of these regions in Guatemala are areas such as this.

    This project has allowed Cacao Verapaz to do technical assistance work; to focus their business efforts on selling cacao, while focusing the MOCCA grant on developing cacao farms to supply the market. Our demand at Uncommon Cacao is growing, so this focus on augmenting that growth is welcome throughout our supply chain. Moreover, the mapa de sabores work is enabling us to talk about cacaos from Guatemala as though they are cacaos from the world; the flavors available in this small geographic zone is eye-opening for chocolate makers.

    MOCCA lecture

    Local Partner Perspective: Cacao Verapaz

    Can you describe Cacao Verapaz and the types of activities MOCCA is supporting within your organization?

    Teddy Ruiz: Cacao Verapaz is a company established in 2014 in Coban, Alta Verapaz, 210 kms away from Guatemala City. We are currently working with 6 smallholder farmer associations producing dry cacao. We used to provide technical assistance in post harvest to make sure they produce high quality cacao. This cacao is usually exported to Uncommon Cacao and other chocolate makers who value high quality beans, transparent trade and impact.

    Even when farmers have a very good farmgate price compared to international market and local market prices, unfortunately in this region their yield is really low compared to other countries. An average farmer in Guatemala has 1 hectare of cacao planted and they produce 300 kg of dry cacao / hectare, while in countries like Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Peru the yield can be above 1,000 kg / hectare.

    With MOCCA we are able to provide technical assistance to these farmers looking for an increase in productivity from 300kg to 800 kg / hectare in 3 years. Some of the areas we are covering through MOCCA are organic fertilization, pruning and weeding their plantations. We also are implementing quality laboratories and a pilot irrigation system to help farmers prepare for climate change effects in cacao production.

    How are producers in the base organizations of Cacao Verapaz changing their habits/customs related to in-person meetings and training in light of the Covid-19 pandemic?

    Teddy Ruiz: Training and technical assistance visits are done directly in the field, with small groups of three to six producers who are owners of neighboring plots where the event takes place. During COVID, we have provided masks and alcohol and disinfectant soap for them to use while they are together, in addition to social distancing. They have taken it well. At the beginning of the use of these protocols they were not comfortable, but they have gradually adapted to this new normal. In the first days after starting with the protocols, there was a bit of uncertainty and fear. Not all the invited producers attended, but with the awareness and motivation that they were given, they gained more confidence.

    Has MOCCA’s Cacao Movil technology been helpful in making technical information more accessible to producers virtually? How could MOCCA improve these tools (perhaps translate into native languages) to make them more appropriate or useful for producers?

    Teddy Ruiz: The cacao movil technology has definitely helped, and in a great way. It has become a tool that could be accessed in real time and quickly, to make inquiries. The first trainings that were carried out in the second semester of 2020 were supported and based on the cacao movil guide. It was a constant consultation guide, which helped the young promoters of training to provide their technical support processes. Regarding the improvement that it may have, it would be very useful to be able to translate it to a native language, for example to the Mayan language Qeq’chi which is the primary and native language of the producers that we work with, and who will use it.

    MOCCA participants

    How has Cacao Verapaz’s business been affected by the pandemic?

    Teddy Ruiz: We have been affected in many ways. The way we used to manage our operations required our presence in associations to take a close look at the post harvest process. Every two weeks our Technical Manager used to travel to each association to look at batches in process and evaluate cacao, give guidance on quality, and connect with association members. Over time, we’ve figured out how to safely travel to associations, but it is much less frequently and done with caution so that our team does not bring COVID to the rural areas.

    During the first months of the pandemic, cacao demand in Guatemala was reduced to nothing and demand for export was lower than usual. We were able to manage and meet the volumes projected and signed with smallholders associations at the beginning of the harvest.

    Logistics have been a challenge. We have needed to change the way we bring cacao to our warehouse and how we dispatch. We established protocols to reduce risk for us and the people we are working with, and so far there have been no cases in our company or the associations that work with us.

    Has your cacao supply chain been able to meet your demand?

    Yes, production of cacao has been increasing in Guatemala because there has been a big effort from government, NGOs, and the private sector to increase the area planted with cacao trees. The new plants are starting production and there is enough to cover international demand for high quality cacao beans. There is a local market that demands low quality cacao with very low prices -- that is a market that we are not exploring.

    We consider it important to make clear that production has been increasing but productivity has not. It is very important that farmers be supported to make good management of their farms, so production can go from 300 to 800 kg per hectare. That will increase their income.

    Do you feel that MOCCA support with the Mapa de Sabores will help find new markets?

    Teddy Ruiz: Definitely. Developing the flavor map with the support of MOCCA will be a very important window of opportunity for us, since it can show and express the full potential of the flavor and aroma profiles of cocoa that we have in our region, which can be tested by customers all over the world.

    We are working hard to develop a specific post harvest protocol for each origin that is included in the Flavor Map.

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