Once upon a time
A Belgium kid wanted to become a chocolate maker.
It’s quite a common thing in Belgium. Belgium is the cradle of chocolate. Chocolate is loved everywhere, but nowhere as much as in Belgium. There are so many ways to enjoy chocolate there. Pralines, tablets, hot chocolate are just part of the Belgian culture.
What made this kid special was his desire to do things differently. Gricha dreamt to create new chocolate products. His first idea was to feed chocolate to a cow, in order to get chocolate milk. It did not work, but he did not give up.
One day, this Belgium chocolate enthusiast discovered Vietnam. He fell in love with the country, for the people, and the vibrant energy. He moved there and settled his chocolate factory.
His chocolate journey in Vietnam began
As he explored the country, Gricha realized that it was possible to grow cacao trees in Vietnam. It was quite a surprise because the most famous origins for cacao are West Africa (Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana) and Latin America (Mexico, Peru). How unexpected to find cacao trees growing there! Very excited by this discovery, he tested a few experiences in chocolate making and realized that the Vietnamese cacao had very unique flavors, that he had never felt before. Fruity, raspberry-like. What a surprise!
They realized that they could make the best chocolate in the world with that cacao bean. But they also understood that it would be a long, challenging journey. The flavors of the cacao bean are very fragile, and only a carefully controlled process would enable him to reveal the uniqueness of the Vietnamese bean.
Bringing the qualified cacao from Ben Tre to the world
Gricha and his team started experimenting and mastering each step of the chocolate-making process. In order to get the best beans, they built long-lasting relationships with the Vietnamese farmers and paid a high premium to motivate them to supply the beans of the best quality. They hired agronomists to share agricultural best practices with the farmers. This helped the farmers to improve their income with higher yields and helped them to preserve their sustainable way of growing cocoa.
They tried and tried until they created a chocolate that they thought would be reflecting the unique quality of the Vietnamese beans. Little by little, the operations grew and became more professional, building a unique knowledge in chocolate making. The word spread about this amazing chocolate, especially in the Japanese market, where the experienced and sophisticated customers understood the quality of the product. Most of the chocolate makers do not pay attention to all these steps, so it’s easy to understand that a product well done will also taste better. The business was growing.
Gricha was happy. In this company, employees were proud of what they were doing. Proud of the chocolate they were making, proud of the contribution to the community. Yet he still had an interrogation. It seemed that everyone recognized the outstanding qualities of Vietnamese chocolate, except the Vietnamese people.
On the way to bring Vietnamese chocolate closer to Vietnamese
He tried to understand the reason. Vietnam was not a big market for chocolate. Vietnamese people don’t like to eat too many sweets. Under the tropical hot weather, people are not into eating a chocolate bar or drinking a hot chocolate, which are the traditional ways to enjoy chocolate. There was no chocolate culture in Vietnam like there is the chocolate of enjoying a fresh beer or meeting up with friends over coffee. It seemed that most Vietnamese people only ate chocolate once a year, on a birthday cake. Most people would still see chocolate as a luxury, imported item.
Gricha believed that love for chocolate is universal. He thought that if Vietnamese people did not love chocolate yet, it must have been because they were not yet offered the right product, or not the right way. We just had to keep looking for the right way to reach them.
He imagined a place welcoming every Vietnamese person to discover the world of chocolate. In a single space, capture decades of authentic passion for chocolate, to share it with the people. Every detail of the place would have been thought through, to create an immersive experience. In this place, people could try chocolate products that are different from what they had tried so far. Products are suitable to their palate, products that you feel like eating on a regular day in Ho Chi Minh City.
Thanks to nutritious chocolate stories from Gricha, we are inspired to bring Chocolate for the people, our lovely Vietnamese with The Cocoa Project.