News / USA

New US Chocolate Maker Trying to Break Into World Market

A worker makes final preparations before a square of Tcho chocolates are separated and wrapped, Dec 2011
A worker makes final preparations before a square of Tcho chocolates are separated and wrapped, Dec 2011

Multimedia

Monaliza Noormohammadi

While many American industries took a hit during the economic recession, one seemed to thrive. According to the National Confectioners Association, the U.S. chocolate industry in 2009 scored a record $16.9 billion in sales. One new American company is trying to break into the lucrative market, but for the California-based connoisseurs, the gold is in the flavor.

 

Located on the eastern waterfront of San Francisco's embarcadero, Tcho Chocolate is as traditional as it is cutting edge. As the only chocolate manufacturer in the city, Tcho's premium dark chocolates are carefully crafted at the 2,800-square-meter factory - from selecting the right beans, to labeling and packaging.

The emphasis is on flavor, with categories like "nutty" and "fruity" aimed at helping consumers rethink the way chocolate can be experienced. Louis Rossetto is Chief Executive Officer and Chief Creative Officer of Tcho. His partner, Jane Metcalfe is the company's president. He said, "The world doesn't need another chocolate company per se, but it needs people who are trying to innovate, to try to make things better."  

While Tcho only started selling chocolate in the United States in 2009, it is already expanding its global reach. The company's chocolate is now available in select stores through Britain, Ireland, and most recently, Japan.

"We aspire to considering the entire world …a potential market for Tcho," said Metcalfe. With global demand for chocolate on the rise,  Metcalfe said there are big opportunities in emerging chocolate-consuming markets like India and China.

For Tcho, premium chocolate starts with the coco bean. "Like wine, chocolate expresses the flavor of the fruit that's being used to make the final product," said Rossetto.

To get those distinct flavors, Tcho employees scour the world in search of the top three percent to five percent of premium cocoa beans, importing them from Peru, Ecuador, Madagascar, and Ghana.

Then, through countless laboratory tests, chocolate makers analyze different variations of beans, fermentation and roasting. Creating one chocolate bar that meets the desired flavor criteria can take as many as 300 to 400 tests.

Brad Kintzer is Tcho's chief chocolate maker. He said there are as many as 900 flavor compounds in a single piece of chocolate. "That's something that … inspires us here, is to try to bring that diversity and that complexity and that excitement to the consumer."  

With capacity to produce millions of bars of chocolate a year, the factory is traditional in its setup, but also full of technological innovations, a reflection of Rossetto and Metcalfe's background as founders of the tech-centric magazine, Wired.

For example, an i-Phone application allows Tcho workers to monitor factory controls, from heating temperatures to light switches.

The use of "virtual factory visualization" is in the works and will allow for direct oversight of the factory and employees.  

Technology and the Internet also are utilized to engage cocoa farmers, many of whom have never even tasted the final product. The idea is to provide farmers with training, so they, in turn, will be able to produce premium, higher value beans.

And while the cost may be higher, Metcalfe said consumers are willing to pay. "It comes from a genuine desire on the part of developed countries to pay a fair price, and to enable people to have the fruits of their labor get them out of poverty."  

"Our intention isn't to put a particular price on what we do, it's to make something that delights consumers, and then price it fairly," said Rosetto.

So far that philosophy seems to be working.

"Our sales are growing at a very rapid pace, especially considering the current economy,"  said Rob Kopf, director of sales at Tcho, noting that it typically takes between two and three years to break even in a market as crowded as the one for chocolate.

"We're not looking to necessarily take over the chocolate universe, but at the same extent we don't want to stay as a tiny little local player," said Kopf.

So far, Tcho has West Coast distribution networks covered and is working to secure distribution throughout other major metropolitan areas.

With its new-age 21st-century look and ethical sourcing concerns, Tcho seems equipped to provide for the rising number of eco-conscious consumers. But when it comes to selling a product, how much success depends on the branding?

"If it doesn't give you that sort of, 'Oh my God that's so good, you've got to try this!' you know then, then all the branding money and the packaging in the world isn't going to help sell your chocolate, in the end it is about the chocolate, it is about what it tastes like," said Metcalfe.

And while some argue that American chocolate can not stand up to the global competition,  Rossetto recalls how American wine surprised skeptics, and said American chocolate can do the same.

"Today, American chocolate can stand up to any in the world and be among the very best," said Rosetto.

For the 30 employees at Tcho, being obsessed with chocolate is just part of the job.

For Metcalfe and Rossetto it is a way to interact directly with customers and farmers and with the world - making a positive impact that leaves a sweet taste.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs