Chocolate Gironés is a prominent company in Colombia with more than 60 years of history, during which time it established itself as a leading provider of traditional products for the industry and the national market: its drinking chocolate is on Colombian tables and its products are in stores all over the country.
Today, the company is one of the key players of the Colombian cocoa project called “Mountain Chocolat,” joining in as part of the industry’s private initiative in its role as product processor and marketer.
Diana Ballesteros, CEO of Chocolate Gironés, has been with the company for 11 years and is the company spokesperson for this interview.
“We’re trying to generate a national and international identity with a community model. The company gains strength through collaborative work, at every stage we find numerous examples of social responsibility that we work on when offering our supply of cocoa to the world,” she stated.
Colombian chocolate is ready to compete in the international market.
First of all, the potential and genetic material of Colombian cocoa must be recognized, and different production processes need to be identified in order to transform them into new and more sustainable models.
“We have very good neighbors such as Ecuador and Peru, which are internationally recognized for their varieties of cocoa, and Colombia has that, too,” said Ballesteros.
Gironés can export 400 to 600 tons of cocoa, ranging from raw material (cocoa beans) to processed products such as cocoa mash and liquor, and even finished products for retail.
“In Colombia we not only offer cocoa beans, but also semi-finished products that provide an alternative for the industry,” said the CEO of Gironés, whose premium chocolates are sold under the Davida brand.
What is the ideal profile of the investors that Colombia is looking to attract?
“We are a great alternative for people who are looking for a new country of origin for their chocolate flavors, people who are willing to travel to enjoy a sensory journey and explore different experiences. In the USA they are very accustomed to the flavors of Ghana and Ivory Coast,” explained Diana Ballesteros.
Buyers will find a variety of Trinidadian cocoa blends and some creole cocoas in Colombia, but they will also encounter relevant issues that are unique to Latin America.
“It has to be someone who identifies with the social context of this cocoa, such as the substitution of illicit crops for cocoa plantations, which in our region are synonymous with peace and new opportunities with regards to enjoying another type of lifestyle,” added the manager of Gironés.
The possibility of holding a Market Business Experience event in Colombia and bringing potential investors into closer contact with the origins and production processes of the cocoa, as well as interaction with producers, can provide a more humane glimpse into life in the world of cocoa, beyond just the economic side.
Social and cultural changes will unleash the potential of the cocoa industry in Colombia.
The project encompasses many objectives, but one of the most important for Gironés is improving the supplier-farm-company relationship by providing support for product development to create stronger commercial ties.
“We want to connect the dots to increase awareness of the value of cocoa; to understand what happens beyond the bean; how chocolate is made; to understand, value, and ensure fair pricing. At the business level we have a lot of social responsibility,” said Diana.
In closing, she also spoke about educating the end consumer, since the market demands great quantities of candy, even though the average Colombian does not have enough understanding of the organoleptic characteristics (taste and smell) of cocoa to be able to appreciate the bitterness or astringency of a fine chocolate, or differentiate a dark chocolate, and so on.