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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid