South African chocolate company Afrikoa has taken its first steps into travel retail with a listing in the country’s Big Five Duty Free airport stores, in partnership with stakeholder Gebr. Heinemann.

Cape Town-based Afrikoa is thought to be the first ‘bean-to-bar’ company in South Africa to produce chocolate made from cocoa sourced directly from African farmers. It collaborates with cocoa farmers in Tanzania.

Afrikoa’s development in travel retail is being spearheaded by industry veteran Steven Goldstein. Goldstein, who is affectionately known as “the ex-chocolate king”, was Co-founder of the Swiss chocolate company Goldkenn and is Manager and Owner of Axions distribution company.

‘Made in Africa, for Africa’: Afrikoa presents its bean-to-bar line-up

Having already secured the listing through Gebr. Heinemann, Goldstein believes Afrikoa has “a great future” in African travel retail.

“Besides my interests in travel retail, I am very involved in human rights issues and this company impresses me a lot. It’s really something new,” Goldstein said.

“The chocolate is excellent, packaging is clever, the whole bean-to-bar concept is great, and the company’s ethics match my own. The story behind the brand is one that I really support.”

Goldstein continued: “I want Afrikoa to be ‘the’ chocolate brand in Africa within a few years. I believe it also has what it takes to become a global brand.”

Steven Goldstein: “I want Afrikoa to be ‘the’ chocolate brand in South Africa”

Goldstein said that by trading directly with African farmers, the brand is ensuring the use of the freshest, best-quality cocoa beans and, at the same time, is empowering the farmers to create their own sustainable futures.

Almost two thirds of the world’s cocoa is grown in Africa. Most of it is exported to Europe and America where it is turned into chocolate before being returned to Africa for chocolate production.

Afrikoa stated: “We believe in growing the art of chocolate making within Africa and supporting the farmers and their local communities, which is why we’ve made a promise that our chocolate will always be ‘Made in Africa, For Africa’, using cocoa beans that have never left the continent.”

Afrikoa’s search for the best African cocoa beans led its Head Chocolatier, Antonio Allegra, to the small rural region of Kyelain, Tanzania where he met with local farmers who were frustrated with a system which left their hard work and top quality cocoa beans with little reward.

Allegra realised the benefit of simply buying the cocoa beans straight from the farmers.

“We believe that this partnership, which treats the farmers with fairness, dignity and respect, is the future of chocolate and one that also means you can enjoy our chocolate knowing that you are encouraging a sustainable future for these 60 farmers and their families,” Afrikoa added.

Afrikoa Head Chocolatier Antonio Allega (on the left) with some of the company’s Tanzanian cocoa farmers

The company pointed out that while most of its cocoa farmers could not afford to be organically certified, their cocoa beans and trees are grown without the use of pesticides or chemicals.

Afrikoa said direct trade meant the cocoa farmers earn +250% more than they would the traditional way and the cocoa beans were fresh.

“While direct trade is a challenge very few chocolate makers undertake, we believe in it because sometimes the right way isn’t always the easiest way”

“By trading directly with farmers, we receive the cocoa beans within weeks of them leaving the farms. Fresh cocoa beans are highly aromatic and packed with flavour and we believe that this is what makes Afrikoa chocolate so unique.

“While direct trade is a challenge very few chocolate makers undertake, we believe in it because sometimes the right way isn’t always the easiest way,” the company stated.

The Afrikoa range includes the 80% Sugar Free Dark with tastes of raspberry and toasted hazelnuts; 70% Dark offers tastes of ripe banana, lime kick, dried guava roll and pear and has a toasted hazelnut finish.

55% Semi-Sweet is described as a smooth, milder chocolate with tastes of toasted almond and raisin, intermingled with dried fruit notes. 27% Milk has tastes of fudge, caramel, burnt butter and toasted hazelnuts.

New blends, including 70% Orange & Almond, 27% Milk & Hazelnuts and 27% White Chocolate are in the pipeline.

The chocolate bars are presented in closeable, flip-top packaging; ten-bar shippers are designed for effective on-shelf presentation. Gift packs, with destination sleeves, are also available.