Costa Rican startup G&E Chocolate Adventure Company is to bring its packaged retail brand of flavored roasted cocoa beans to international markets.
From January 2017, the firm – which sources ingredients from its own plantation – will begin selling its Cacao Sweety brand overseas, beginning in the UK.
It also hopes to sell its flavored cocoa nibs as inclusions to the food industry as well as other cocoa ingredients such as powder.
George Grant Ebanks, general director at G&E Chocolate Adventure Company, told ConfectioneryNews: “We’re setting up the infrastructure right now and we’re going to export the production we’re getting in October and November, so in January we’ll be able to start exporting.”
G&E Chocolate Adventure Company was established by Ebanks in 2013. He left a career in advertising to produce cocoa at his family farm his grandfather established in Puerto Limón.
Out of necessity
Ebanks sought to find a direct route to market for his beans and began selling branded products to the tourism sector in Costa Rica.
“The idea came up as necessity – to get a better price for my product,” he said.
The bulk of G&E Chocolate Adventure Company’s cocoa is grown, fermented and dried at its own plantation.
It goes to a contract manufacturer in Limón for roasting and caramelization. Ebanks then packages the product at his home.
Ginger and cinnamon flavors
“We don’t only do roasted beans, we also give it a caramelized process and add different flavors like ginger, cinnamon, pepper and coffee,” said the company founder. “Almost all the ingredients we use to make our products come from our farm.”
The startup firm believes its brand appeals to athletes and health-conscious individuals.
“Also, we can sell it to anyone at a supermarket or anyone in industry for making nibs or toppings for granola, cereals, yogurt or just for making chocolate,” said Ebanks.
The G&E Chocolate Adventure Company’s brand is mainly sold today at tourist destinations in Costa Rica, but Ebanks has been in contact with Costa Rican trade body Procomer with a view to entering export markets.
The company also hopes it can sell to domestic companies to reduce other businesses’ reliance on cocoa imports
“Our main goal is to package and have products in supermarkets, but also provide to the industry that makes products,” said Ebanks.
Cocoa farms in Costa Rica
Around 80% of cocoa for the brand comes from the Ebanks’ own 20-hectare plantation, while 20% comes from other producers.
“But I know that’s going to change because each day we are making new deals with other producers so they can join our adventure company and do better.”
The company says it pays “three times” what a farmer may receive form a middleman.
“Normally they will get between $1.50 and $2 for one kilo, but we pay $5 for one kilo,” said Ebanks.
“We want to keep our natural and authentic Criollo cocoa, but understand we need to introduce the new kinds,” said Ebanks.The G&E Chocolate Adventure Company is also rehabilitating its own plantation and is introducing high-yielding and disease-resistant cacao trees.
Five people work at the company’s farm, which averages 400-500 kilos of beans per hectare.
“That’s enough for us,” said Ebanks. “Instead of selling it dry, we add value and from one package (75g-500g) of our products we can get the same price that the farmer will get with one kg.”
Ebanks said the Costa Rican government had held the company up as an example for how the nation’s cocoa farmers can add value to their produce.