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

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

Ninety percent of homes in one small village were damaged or destroyed as government forces failed to stop a rebel advance More

Pakistan’s 'Last Self-Declared Jew' Attacked, Detained

Argument about the rights of non-Muslims in Pakistan allegedly results in mob beating well-known Jewish Pakistani More

Turkey Cracks Down on Political Dissent, Again

People daring to engage in political dissent ahead of upcoming general elections could find themselves in jail 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.
In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobanii
X
Mahmoud Bali
March 06, 2015 8:43 PM
Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobani

Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

In the village of Nikishino, in eastern Ukraine, recent fighting has brought utter devastation. Ninety percent of the houses are damaged or destroyed after government forces tried and failed to stop rebels advancing on the strategically important town of Debaltseve nearby. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Nikishino.
Video

Video Crime Scenes Re-Created in 3-D Visualization

Police and prosecutors sometimes resort to re-creations of crime scenes in order to better understand the interaction of all participants in complicated cases. A Swiss institute says advanced virtual reality technology can be used for quality re-creations of events at the moment of the crime. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.

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