I just read that the South African company Chocolates by Tomes will begin making their own chocolate exclusively from African ingredients. According to an article at iAfrica.com, the company had previously imported its chocolate from Barry Callebaut but decided to begin its own production using cocoa from Ghana and the CÃ´te d’Ivoire, vanilla from Madagascar and sugar and milk powder from South Africa. That’s a great development and I applaud Chocolatier Richard Tomes for taking this step.
Of course, it makes sense in more ways than one. The step eliminates the silly routine of exporting raw materials from Africa to Europe only to re-export the finished product back to Africa (as was the case with the Barry Callebaut bulk chocolate). It reduces the transport cost and the environmental impact. More importantly, South Africa has become the export giant in Africa while importing rather little from its African neighbors. This decision helps alleviate that trade imbalance at least a little and sets an example for further South-South cooperation. Finally it will create jobs in South Africa where they are sorely needed.
Chocolate by Tomes expects to be produce up to eight tons of chocolate per month. At first, the production will focus on chocolate bars and these will be made widely available to emphasize the African origin. Later, as new machinery is deployed, Tomes expects to make his truffles with his own chocolate as well.
For those of you wondering about the title, yes, there are other chocolate makers in Africa. First, there is Omanhene in Ghana which makes amazing dark milk chocolate. Then there is Chocolat du Planteur from the CÃ´te d’Ivoire, made famous by soccer start Didier Drogba’s advertising video. The latter may be made in France by Pralus but I’m not sure.
According to the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), African countries processed (roasted and ground) 542,800 tonnes of cocoa beans. While that’s only 15% of the world total, it represents a step towards capitalizing on the value added that additional processing represents. If chocolate makers were to take such processed cocoa and turn it into chocolate, that would complete the value chain in Africa. Let’s hope there are other entrepreneurs out there who will take up this challenge.