Dominican chocolate: A new recipe for success

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SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – The Dominican Republic is a leading producer and exporter of cocoa. Today they are capitalizing on the richness of their product by adding value at origin.

Cocoa farmers produce over four million tons of cocoa beans per year. The biggest share of cocoa beans – almost 40 percent – is processed in Europe. Cocoa-producing countries mostly export it as a raw commodity, with little opportunity for profit and economic growth.

However, the dynamic is starting to shift. The Dominican Republic is a leading producer and exporter of cocoa, which sustains a large number of farmers and generates employment in the country. It has a vibrant private sector and small businesses are increasingly experimenting with artisan chocolate-making. Adding value at origin could yield better profit and increased market opportunities, contributing to the country’s overall economic development, incomes and livelihoods.

Michael Laiskonis recently teamed up with the International Trade Centre’s sustainable agribusiness programme “Alliances for Action” in the Caribbean region. Michael is one of the preeminent chefs working in pastry today and the creative director and mind behind the Chocolate Lab at the Institute of Culinary Education.

Michael is passionate about experimenting with cocoa from bean to bar and working with innovative local chocolate makers to help them improve, grow and access new regional and international markets. Through Alliances for Action, the founder seeks to work with chocolate companies for product development in the Dominican Republic, with a focus on highlighting the value of origin for chocolate.

“My visit to the Dominican Republic was extremely valuable for understanding the cocoa sector at large. By observing various methods and scales of production – from farmers to chocolate-makers – we can identify successful models to inspire and apply elsewhere in the Caribbean,” says Michael.

Definite Chocolate is a Dominican micro-batch bean-to-bar craft chocolate maker, producing fine chocolate naturally, without any additives. They source directly from local producers, using only high-quality, single-origin cocoa. They and seven other Dominican processors collaborated with Michael on experimentation in processing and recipe development.

“Working with Michael is a fascinating and inspiring experience. We learned some new techniques, but mostly walked away feeling energized and motivated to continue improving the quality of our chocolate and bring more truly Caribbean flavours to the international market,” says Jens Kamin, co-founder of the brand.

Value addition and increasing market competitiveness for small enterprises can go hand in hand with centering product value around people and culture. This initiative seeks to showcase new and exciting Caribbean flavours and to enable small enterprises to flourish at home and abroad.

The collaboration takes place under ITC’s Alliances for Action programme in the context of the EU-ACP Business-Friendly Programme, which aims to achieve increased productivity, quality, incomes and employment across a range of value chains in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

The ACP Business-Friendly Programme is funded by the European Union and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and jointly implemented by ITC’s Alliances for Action, the World Bank and UNIDO.

It seeks to improve the ability of agribusiness firms in ACP countries to compete, grow and prosper in domestic, regional and international markets. Through the Alliances for Action approach, it promotes inclusive and sustainable agricultural value chains that value all stakeholders from farm to shelf.

Alliances for Action is an ITC initiative that seeks to transform food systems through producer partnerships that cultivate ethical, climate-smart, sustainable agricultural value chains. 

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