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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More