It was in 2013, while finishing her university degree in Chicago, that Kelly Go got a taste of an American craft chocolate made from Philippine-origin cacao.
From this point onwards, her career aspirations became clearer. Seeing herself as successful chocolatier, Go has never been more adamant to learn more of the chocolate stuff that after graduation, she pushed for a diploma in culinary arts at the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.
The training fortified her confectionary knowledge and skills, and her travels brought her to Germany where she honed her learnings in industrial chocolate production.
“We saw the potential of elevating the fine chocolate market in the Philippines and an opportunity to pursue our shared dream to move back home and contribute,” Go said.
She pursued her dreams of becoming a chocolatier, and in 2017 co-founded Auro Chocolate as a tree-to-bar chocolate brand and as a social enterprise espousing community development programs to support farmers.
By using directly-sourced beans, Auro promotes sustainability by working directly with local farmers, cultivating fine cacao beans, improving ingredients, and expanding the retail portfolio with unique and bold tropical flavors. Using tropical fruits like mango is novel idea to expanding a true chocolate lover’s experience.
From a team of 20 staff, Auro workforce has grown to over 100 employees working towards the export of its products to the European Union (EU) and other countries since 2018.
“We involve ourselves in every step of the process by consistently working with our partner farmers to enable them to produce fine quality cacao beans that meet international quality standards,” Kelly said.
Auro has been a beneficiary of the EU Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), a preferential trade agreement between the Philippines and the European Union that allows Philippine exports to enter the EU market at 0 tariff.
Go advised new and even old companies to utilize the trade programs that will help them grow and become a globally-accepted enterprise.
“Do not feel intimidated when trying to apply for GSP+. DTI is there to assist you throughout the application and help make your brand marketable. It’s also a great opportunity for your products to be introduced and grow in the EU market,” she said.
However, the brand faced some challenges as Go noted that during trade fairs people tend to doubt the quality of Auro Chocolate since Philippine chocolate are still unheard of.
Winning the trust of consumers meant that Auro should learn more of the mandatory procedural requirements to help the brand go global.
The Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Export Marketing Bureau (EMB) assisted Auro in completing the mandatory regulatory requirements for exporting to the EU. The Centre for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) proffered to support the company in organizing country booths in key international trade fairs such as Salon du Chocolat in France.
The initiatives worked wonders for generating interest in Auro’s fine cacao beans. And despite the pandemic, Auro Chocolate managed to increase sales by almost 200 percent by directly exporting to more than 15 countries with over 40 European chocolate makers using the company’s fine cacao beans to make Philippine-origin chocolate.
Go is euphoric to learn that chocolatiers in EU countries are using Auro chocolate, a testament that Philippine cacao can compete head-on with global chocolate brands.
She is also proud that her products are given the same level of recognition as they stood side-by-side with other internationally known brands, allowing her company to gain the trust of EU partners.
“Thanks to the GSP+, we have become part of the international cacao beans market. This means there is a growing demand for our partner farming community’s beans, thus generating more income for them, while providing a stable market for their cacao,” she said.
Auro Chocolates is ready to raise the bar under Go’s leadership, hinting of future plans.
Go revealed that the brand is set to launch more community initiatives that are interwoven with the company’s current cacao program of our sourcing new and exciting origins of chocolates. Shifting to more environmentally friendly practices and materials across the supply chain is also on the table.