ITC’s Alliances for Action partners exhibited at Salon du Chocolat 2022 to expand commercial spaces for its African and Caribbean chocolate network.
Rennae Johnson founded Pure Chocolate with her husband in Jamaica. Their dream was to produce world-class chocolate while giving back to local cocoa farmers.
By teaming up with Alliances for Action, the International Trade Centre’s sustainable agribusiness programme, Johnson brought her products to a global stage at the Salon du Chocolat in Paris – the world’s largest event dedicated to chocolate and cocoa.
‘We were able to secure new retailers, strengthen our existing partnerships and make an impression on the French market and its consumers,” Johnson said.” Strong leads were secured, for which we are truly grateful.”
Salon du Chocolat Paris accommodates both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-customer (B2C) connections. Brands got the rare opportunity to directly interact with consumers and received valuable feedback on their products.
Laying the groundwork for new connections
A total of 16 chocolate brands attended from across Alliances for Action’s network. They traveled to Paris all the way from Cameroon, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Grenada and Jamaica to showcase their unique chocolates. All their chocolates are produced with care and innovation at origin, many of them beautifully packaged to boot.
The “B2B Village” allowed them to connect with other businesses, sharing contacts and information on packaging and machinery to compete better in the EU market. B2B meetings with potential distributors and buyers were also useful to build long-term collaborations and facilitate access to new markets.
The Alliances for Action booth was a popular stop and attracted a steady flow of visitors. Most of the companies sold out, especially those selling chocolate bars with unusual flavours like sorrel, spices and herbs. These turned out to be best sellers.
“I set up my beautiful and colourful stand with my products without high expectations, but with an open mind,” said Monica Nana Ama Senanu, founder of pioneer bean-to-bar craft chocolate brand Chocoluv in Ghana.
“Customers were really responsive, and I even ran out of four of my ‘unique’ flavors by day three. It gave me a clear indication EU customers’ taste preference,” she said.
That insight into European consumer preferences can now further her desire to show that Ghana can make quality chocolate, not just grow cocoa beans.
Over five days at the end of October, it gathered actors from bean to bar from across the world, including ITC’s Alliances for Action chocolate makers and institutional partners Jampro and Prodominicana.
The booth showcased chocolate made at cocoa origin from across ITC’s projects, including from the ACP Business-Friendly project funded by the EU and the OACPS, the Netherlands Trust Fund V project funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and the UKTP project funded by UK Aid.
The Salon attracts over 100,000 visitors each year who explore 20,000 square meters of exhibition space dedicated to chocolate and confectionary. This year, over 500 exhibitors took to the stands, including French and international chocolatiers, artisans, manufacturers and producing countries.
Learning from the best
The brand representatives kicked off their stay in Paris with a tour of the city’s finest chocolatiers. This was organised by ITC and led by Anne Debbasch from popular blog Le Chocolat dans tous nos états. The tour included tasting sessions, picking up recipe and storytelling tips and meeting chocolate makers and brand ambassadors from famous brands like Pierre Marcolini, Patrick Roger, Jean-Paul Hévin and Arnaud Larher.
The brands and institutional partners all received support to prepare for the event. ITC set up virtual and in-person sessions led by industry professionals who offered advice on fair preparation, marketing and branding and insights on the EU cocoa and chocolate markets.
This helped the brands identify their niche market, improve the quality of their products, and strategically position their marketing approach.
Shadel Nyack Compton owns Belmont Estate in Grenada, a sustainable tree-to-bar craft chocolate brand that’s also one of the Caribbean’s top agri-tourism destinations.
For Compton, main take-aways included getting valuable industry insights from the inside and a star collaboration with the world-famous fine chocolate distributor Kosak Chocolat, in Paris, that now includes Belmont on their list of products. Plans for partnerships with other brands to host masterclasses in Grenada are also in the works.
All 16 brands returned to their home countries with renewed vigor, inspiration and motivation for 2023, as they lay the groundwork for future commercial linkages through these ITC projects.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Trade Centre.