×

Young chocolate entrepreneurs emerge in world’s cocoa leader

  • A farmer arranges drying cocoa beans to cover them for the night. AP

  • FILE- In this Tuesday, May 31, 2011 file photo, farmer Issiaka Ouedraogo arranges cocoa beans, laid out to dry on reed mats, on a cocoa farm outside the village of Fangolo, near Duekoue, Ivory Coast. Ivory Coast has long been known for its raw cocoa production, producing about 35 percent of the world's supply. But less than a third of what it produces is turned into finished products locally. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)Rebecca Blackwell



Associated Press
Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The smell of chocolate wafts from the door of an artisanal shop that would not be out of place in Brooklyn. Founder Dana Mroueh takes in the sun while riding her stationary bicycle-turned-cocoa grinder on an ambitious journey that began just four months ago.

The 27-year-old Mroueh is among an emerging group of chocolate makers who are trying to show the Ivory Coast, the world’s leading cocoa producer, that it can take more control over its cocoa industry.

“I think it’s criminal for the planters and for the Ivorians who don’t know the taste of chocolate,” said Mroueh, an Ivorian of Lebanese descent who grew up watching her grandfather, a former pastry shop owner, have a difficult time selling his chocolate.

Her MonChoco Chocolate bars are priced for upper-class consumers, with prices of around $5 apiece and experimental flavors including chili and sea salt.

Fellow chocolate maker Axel Emmanuel is aiming at the other end of the market. The 32-year-old says he wants to dispel the myth that chocolate is exclusively for the rich.

“We’ve decided to officially make the most inexpensive chocolate bar on the African continent,” said Emmanuel, who was recognized by the country’s president as the 2015 Young Entrepreneur of the Year. His Instant Chocolate bars go for about 30 cents apiece.

As with many of Africa’s agricultural resources, the true earnings come from their transformation, he said, and farmers ought to benefit from the growing locally made chocolate market as well.

Ivory Coast has long been known for its raw cocoa production, producing about 35 percent of the world’s supply. But less than a third of what it produces is turned into finished products at home.

Associated Press