The Business of Chocolate in Vietnam

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There is a shortage of premium chocolate worldwide and Vietnam is helping to remedy the problem. In November 2016, Vietnam was recognized by the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) as a “fine flavor cocoa origin”. This award gives Vietnam fine flavor status for 40% of its cocoa exports. The ICCO designation has created an exciting frontier of cocoa farming in the central highlands and southwestern regions where thousands of hectares are being planted with premium cocoa trees. The farms are carefully managed through sustainable practices with custom drying and processing techniques to enhance cocoa crop development.

Hundreds of coffee and rubber tree plantation owners in Vietnam have also agreed to renovate their farms to grow premium cocoa. Farmers are paid a wage from industry grants which provides farmers steady income. This new opportunity for farmers to revitalize their fertile land and earn income – which could also be a lucrative opportunity for foreign entrepreneurs with an eye for business – has created positive economic and social impact for families throughout Vietnam.

In 2008, realizing Vietnam’s potential for cocoa, Puratos Grand Place, a Belgium company, started a project in Vietnam called ‘From Farming to Chocolate’ which focuses on training farmers who are directly involved in growing the cocoa. The program teaches advanced growing and cocoa bean processing techniques to boost quality. It requires a meticulous process to produce a great bar of chocolate. It involves many steps – growing, drying the beans, fermentation, roasting, and not many farmers know how to do this properly. The farmers are also trained in growing techniques, fermentation, roasting, and grinding to produce cocoa powder. Puratos built a collection and fermentation center where they welcome all the farmers to work with them on the technique of growing cocoa trees. Farmers receive up-to-date market information to improve the quality of seedlings and cocoa beans, the program also provides farmers with tools and equipment such as incubators and drying platforms. The farmers are encouraged to take better care of their plants and improve their productivity through a “chocolate bonus” program. The program benefits more than 2,000 farmers who collectively produce 50% of Vietnam’s cocoa.  Vietnamese cocoa combined with Belgian know-how and equipment is producing higher-quality Vietnamese chocolate.
 Indonesia is the only other Asian country recognized as a fine flavor cocoa nation, but for only 1% of its exports. Europe is the largest processor of cocoa according to ICCO reports, but the most dynamic region is Asia, now recording an average annual growth rate of 7 percent. A Deutsche Bank 2016 ranking of 20 commodities in relation to their 2000-2014 average put cocoa in at the top slot, at 34% more expensive than its long-term average. Only gold, palladium and tin were more expensive than their previous average, signaling cocoa is a special commodity to watch. For example: Vietnamese chocolate is selling in Japan for $72 per pound, and sells out within days of being shelved. Japanese customers say the taste of the Vietnamese cocoa bars is like no other chocolate. It is a highly desired product in Japan.

Americans wanting to buy Marou or other premium Vietnamese cocoa bars and powders can find them at Whole Foods,, or online at Marou US

This Valentine’s Day, why not give your sweetheart an exquisite, unforgettable gift of Vietnamese chocolates?


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