If you are seeking to compete with the best chocolate-makers in the world, then it helps to have products that have been recognised as ‘world leading’ by international judges. It is also essential to have the Department for International Trade on your team.
Managing Director Neil Kelsall set up and runs Chocolat Madagascar from the Rural Business Centre in the tiny village of Bilsborrow and from Antananarivo in Madagascar – an island known for producing some of the world’s best cocoa beans.
Chocolat Madagascar does not have the huge marketing budgets and corporate clout of the big names that populate confectionary stands worldwide. But it has won more than sixty international awards that fuel its success as a sought-after gourmet product.
Chocolat Madagascar products are now sold in the UK, France, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Canada, America, Japan and the new market of China. Sales have grown around 30% year on year and in 2022 the aim is develop £2 million retail sales from the customer portfolio. Those export sales help to support around 500 people working on farms in Madagascar and 120 employed in the factory there where the chocolate is produced . Sales, marketing & innovation is handled here in the UK and in Madagascar by three full-time company staff working with specialist companies dealing with areas including logistics and design.
The Department for International Trade (DIT) has played a key role working with Neil since he founded Chocolat Madagascar in 2013, and continues to help him promote the product around the world.
International Trade Adviser Penny Wang-Orme has worked with Chocolat Madagascar on trade missions and exhibitions, and helped the company to access the Internationalisation Fund, a co-investment grant scheme initiated and sustained by the DIT and supported by the European Regional Development Fund.
Neil explains: “The support of the DIT has been hugely important, and a significant element of our success is due to their energy, effort and knowhow.
“They have helped us to access new export markets through facilitating quality networking in both private and public sectors, exhibitions, trade visits, both real and virtual, and enable market research and various training disciplines from Lancashire. Most recently they have assisted us in accessing China and Middle Eastern markets, all so vital to building a premium brand worldwide that is creating a sustainable future for the people of one of Africa’s least developed countries.”
Neil has a track record of empowering the development and trade of home-grown products from African countries and ensuring they impact world markets. His simple model ‘Raise Trade’ (Value added at Source) aims to develop and manufacture products in their countries of origin, which ensures that a significantly larger proportion of the value (+400%) goes to the producer economies, rather than being eaten up by commodities traders or manufacturers in the developed world.
Chocolate is made using cocoa beans, and Neil reasons that the world’s finest cocoa beans are grown in Madagascar – so that’s where some of the world’s finest chocolate can be made.
Training and investing in home-grown Malagasy experts his company has refined the chocolate they produce, introduced world-class hygiene, quality and supply chain standards, and put Madagascar on the map as a producer of gourmet chocolate, pioneering exports of chocolate manufactured in Africa.
Chocolat Madagascar is made from freshly harvested beans, and the flavours and textures of the various different chocolate types within the brand depend on careful cultivation and production. Unlike most chocolate , it is a uniquely natural product “tree to chocolate” made freshly at origin with minimum ingredients and free from intensive processing. The quality of the beans and the finished chocolate is also influenced by changes in the natural conditions under which the beans are cultivated, so Chocolat Madagascar is quite literally flavoured by the natural world of the island itself.
Neil adds: “We are proud of what we have achieved so far – through the efforts of our integrated growing and making workforce in Madagascar and the team here in the UK. But a secret ingredient in the success of our chocolate which does not appear on the label, is the support of the Department for International Trade which has helped to drive our success.”