The Philippine cacao was recently selected as one of the top 50 samples for the 2017 Edition of the Cocoa of Excellence Programme, the entry point for the International Cocoa Awards in Paris, France.
This is the first time for the Philippines to join the yearly trade fair for the international chocolate industry, the Salon du Chocolat.
“What’s exciting about this competition is they’re judging the cacao bean, the raw material for chocolate. It will pave the way for the Philippines to be in the chocolate map in the world,” said Rex Victor Puentespina, sales and marketing head of Malagos Chocolate from Davao City.
Puentespina also acknowledged the efforts of several government agencies who subsidized the Philippine participation in the Salon du Chocolat like the Department of Trade and Industry-EMB (Export Marketing Bureau), Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) in collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Agriculture, the Philippine Cacao Industry Council.
Froilan Emil Pamintuan, Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) commercial attaché in Paris, showed a map of cocoa- producing countries where Philippines is now one of them.
“A number of them are actually surprised that the Philippines is actually a cacao-producing country. In fact, we can see now the Philippine map already highlighted as one of the producers of cacao in the world. This is going to be a great help to our cacao farmers and to our micro cacao export enterprises in the Philippines,” said Pamintuan.
Seven exhibitors were also from Philippine cacao companies - Auro Chocolate, Ginto Chocolates, Hiraya, Kablon Farms, NutraRich, Malagos Chocolates, and Theo and Philo. Together, they shared the Philippine Cacao Council Pavilion at the Salon du Chocolat which ran in Paris Porte de Versailles from October 28 - November 1.
The Philippine Cacao Council pavilion was the first country booth to set up at the BtoB (Bean to Bar) Village, a networking space for professionals, suppliers and manufacturers who specialize in the chocolate and pastry sectors.
The seven exhibitors showcased their products along with another five other brands the council had brought with them. From cocoa powder drink and chocolate-coated bean goodies to international award-winning chocolate bars, the booth attracted many guests. They queued up to try the hot chocolate served for free and for the unique taste of Philippine chocolate. Their products almost sold out.
European guest Marie Therese Mayte wowed by the unique taste of Auro’s 70 percent black chocolate bar said, “I have tasted some other ones, but this is really fantastic. The taste is so soft, so nice, it’s really good.”
Paris-based Filipina Jessica Gajete also claimed that the taste of Philippine chocolate is world-class and tasted even better. “Even the packaging is globally market competitive,” Gajete added.
“We’re really happy on the turnout of people going to our booth, in the number of inquiries and interested groups,” said Marina Hermoso, Department of Agriculture Regional Technical Director for Operation.
Valente Turtur, Philippine Cacao Industry Council (PCIC) chairman and executive director of Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao, Incorporated (CIDAMI), and who presented The Unique Quality of Philippine Cocoa in the BtoB Lounge, sees the joining of the council in the Salon du Chocolat an opportunity and a breakthrough for the cacao industry in the country.
“This will not only improve the chocolate industry but of course will improve the lives of the chocolate farmers,” said Turtur.
According to Turtur, the cacao industry in the Philippines is flourishing and fast-growing now, especially in Davao City. Tagged as “Cacao City,” Davao produces 80 percent of cocoa in the country. Other cocoa products come from farms in Laguna, Cebu, Bohol, Batangas and other parts of the country.
“One good thing is we farm and cultivate our own cacao and at the same time, we produce our own chocolates. If in the past years, we only export cacao beans, nowadays, we export not only the beans but also our chocolate. Now we don’t need to buy imported chocolates for “pasalubong” because we already have our own and they are even exported,” he added.
The council admits that the Philippine may not be able to produce and meet market expectations. However, they are optimistic that more cacao farmers will be motivated to plant, cultivate and produce cacao all over the country.
Auro Chocolates has a project to help alleviate the cacao supply problem in the country and at the same time help a community of retired Marines. They call it, “Adopt a Cacao Tree, Help the Community.”
Partners Kelly Go and Mark Ocampo, Auro Chocolates managing directors said, “We are happy to launch today our platform called crowd farming. The scheme is to adopt a tree and support a community of former Marines in Davao. So, from arms to farms, and in return, consumers get 2 kilos of chocolate…”
“What’s amazing about it is you can actually view the tree and watch it grow virtually and at the same you can actually come and visit your tree in Davao,” added Ocampo.
Auro Chocolates had made it its mission to elevate Davao cacao to the world’s best standards to produce chocolate that can compete with the world’s best.
Young chocolate entrepreneur Dalareich Polot of Ginto Chocolates from Bohol said coming and exhibiting at Salon du Chocolat is a dream come true.
“And everything just fell into place! I’m here, this is my dream! For five days, I’m with the chocolates from all over the world, this is a dream for me… I am proud that I am from Bohol,” said Polot.
Polot is from a family of chocolatiers in Bohol who recently put up a chocolate factory that now serves as one of Bohol’s tourist destinations. -with reports from Cory de Jesus and Maan Rivera