Thursday, September 23, 2021

Chocolate makers gear up for tourism reopening

POPULAR. Chocolates are becoming a popular souvenir gift among tourists. (SunStar file)

THE return of both local and foreign tourism is seen as beneficial to the growth of the country’s chocolate business.

Philo Chua, founder of Theo & Philo Chocolate Factory, said even before the pandemic paralyzed the global economy, the tourism market has been a big revenue drawer for chocolate enterprises.

He said chocolates have become a popular souvenir gift and that tourists, particularly foreigners, immerse themselves in understanding the culture and processes behind chocolate making.

He noted that today’s globetrotters are invested in having authentic experiences and in experiencing first-hand the unique aspects of culture before buying the products being marketed to them.

Fortunately, Chua said chocolate is something that is relatable to them. That’s why integrating the farm story with its best and sustainable practices in all marketing initiatives make homegrown chocolates more appealing to tourists.

“Tourism is a ready market for us,” said Chua, in a recent webinar. He and his fellow chocolate makers are preparing for the full reopening of tourism to continue their efforts in promoting chocolate tourism in the country.

Shift to chocolate drink

With the pandemic limiting global travel movements, Consul Armi Lopez-Garcia, national chairperson of the Philippine Cacao Industry Development Council, is encouraging cacao farmers and chocolate business owners to heighten the awareness on cacao-based chocolate drinks, especially among the younger generation.

She said while the industry wants to make the country’s chocolate brands land in top market shelves overseas, the domestic market shouldn’t be ignored, particularly at this time when most industries, such as tourism and exports, are relying heavily on the domestic market to stay relevant.

“We currently have a strong coffee culture and if we are able to encourage the young ones to enjoy our traditional chocolate drinks, then we can uplift our industry and make the coffee farmers happy,” she said.

Garcia said the council is currently mapping all the cacao farms in the country to update the country’s national cacao roadmap.

Cacao is an equatorial plant (a crop that thrives well on regions occupying the equator). Luckily, the Philippines is on the equator giving the country high chances to produce high quality cacao beans.

Global demand for cacao is estimated to reach between 4.7 million to five million metric tons (MT) by 2020, but a cocoa shortage is also predicted at one million MT.

The Philippines alone consumes 50,000 MT annually while the local supply is said to be somewhere between 10,000 to 15,000 MT.

The primary drivers of growth of this prized crop are the growing middle class, increasing discretionary household income in developing countries, new and innovative use of cacao and the public’s increasing awareness of its health benefits as well as preferences for chocolate. (KOC)


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