British Malagasy chocolate firm that is causing more than a ripple worldwide

The high cocoa content – up to 100 percent cocoa solids – low to zero sugar levels and organic options score well on the calorie cutting, diabetic and health fronts. 

Now the brand’s latest launch brings vegans further into the fold with Milc, a light chocolate alternative whose creaminess comes from the grand cru de sambiraano beans and cashew nuts.  

And behind those global accolades lies a pioneering international collaboration. 

In Madagascar, the Ramanandraibe Group and its production arm Chocolaterie Robert, whose chief executive is Marcel Ramanandraibe, handle the farms, manufacturing and inspection side, an operation creating precious jobs and generating income for hundreds of people in one of the world’s poorest countries. 

In Preston, Lancashire, partner and director Neil Kelsall and his team at Raisetrade manage the sales, marketing and design, contributing further expertise when needed on the island. Both businesses share the export revenues to reinvest in marketing and production capacity.

In 2013 greater interest in craft and quality foods from consumers internationally revived investment, that had begun 10 years before, in the island’s chocolate industry. 

The Raisetrade process can contribute 400 percent of added value there, reducing poverty. It’s an alternative model to aid and building barriers to economic migrants

Neil Kelsall, founder of Raisetrade and Chocolat Madagascar partner

Mr Kelsall, who had been involved in those previous moves to establish ethical, value-driven chocolate manufacturing there, returned with Raisetrade, his innovative trading model that is now a foundation of Chocolat Madagascar.

“Raisetrade is about creating value at origin, developing enterprises that aspire to higher value goods and services, rather than just commodities, so they can trade in international markets and contribute to the local economy as a whole,” he explains.

“Our Product of Origin label can be used by companies operating in the least developed places, where gross domestic product per capita is less than 10 percent of the USA. 

“Approximately just five percent of a chocolate bar’s total value goes to the cocoa origin country. 

The Raisetrade process can contribute 400 percent of added value at source, reducing poverty.  It’s an alternative model to aid and building barriers to economic migrants.

“But there are many barriers to trade which is why sharing expertise and visions across cultures is so vital and empowering.”

Technological developments in equipment and communications improving productivity and capacity helped the Raisetrade vision become viable for Chocolat Madagascar, the first company in Africa to export chocolate globally.

“We’re like a winemaker bottling at source with no chemical processing. Our chocolate is fresh, it takes about three months from picking to sale so there is no quality degradation whereas for other traders delivery from tree to retailer can take a year,” adds Kelsall.

Commercial customers, it also produces the chocolate in a cooking/couverture 1kg format, make up the majority of its revenues with the UK the brand’s biggest market worth £300,000 annually.

Importer and distributor HB Ingredients in Sussex is a key supporter along with online clients such as Lick the Spoon, Chococo and Amazon Prime.

This year the partnership will begin a major order to China and further plans are afoot to develop its food sector business.  

Its Gold single origin 100 per cent Cocoa Chocolate Bar (£5.99) was the first solely cocoa solids one to do so when it scooped the coveted Golden Bean top honour at the Academy of Chocolate world awards in 2017.

A huge achievement in itself, it has also helped torpedo outdated and incorrect perceptions that foods made in developing countries are of lower standards.

Chocolate is for all seasons, but Easter is a high point and a moment to reflect on how the business’s achievements. 

“Madagascar now has a chocolate industry. It’s hard to over-estimate how far we have come,” says Mr Kelsall, “and what that means to the people in Madagascar and other commodity producers in the developing world.”

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