When we think of Chocolate in the United States, consumers typically think of the go to brands; Hersey’s, Nestle, etc., and when consumers think of better quality chocolate, they think of Europe, notably from Switzerland; Toblerone, Lindt, and the list can go on and on. Chocolate consumers do not typically think of small country in South America as being known for having the world’s best chocolate. Ecuador, a country nestled in the Andes Mountains, between Colombia and Peru, and better known for the Galapagos and for being a popular expat retirement destination, has arguably the best chocolate in the world. However, there hasn’t been much significant effort in really promoting Ecuadorian chocolate as a whole. Instead, different brands have focused on winning awards and maintaining an “artisanal” and “luxury” brand image.
Ecuador was once the world’s largest exporter of cocoa until the beginning of the 20th Century. Plant disease and the rise of new cultivations in British and French colonies across Africa and Asia saw Ecuador lose its top spot in the early 1900s. Resulting in the loss of appeal of Cocoa to farmers for more lucrative crops such as coffee and bananas. However, Chocolate has seen resurgence in popularity in Ecuador, leading to luxurious and expensive variants, and to tourists taking chocolate tasting tours. Some tourists are even willing to spend large amounts of money to taste samples of chocolate from rare cocao beans. Ecuadorian Chocolate beans have developed a varied classification based on an environment and “terroir.” Only about 5% of the cacao beans grown in the world are gourmet or “fine” cacao beans, and roughly 60% of these fine cacao beans are grown in Ecuador. These beans give the chocolate that they produce a produce floral and fruity. Furthermore, the flavor and size of the beans varies depending on the environment and regions in which the beans are grown.
Ecuador chocolate brands have become renowned around the world over for its high quality, leading to numerous awards over the years. However, the farmers of the chocolate have rarely tasted the benefits of this success. In fact the market share of such high-quality chocolate is minimal compared to the massed produced brands from the larger global conglomerates. Even in Ecuador, most of the chocolate sold in markets are mass-produced chocolate made by the global brands such as Nestle. A contributing issue is that the marketing efforts of the producer of these high-quality brands have been towards tourists and to promoting the chocolate produced as “luxury” chocolate. Despite the government spending a significant amount on a marketing campaign for the country’s tourism and some of its other commodities, Ecuadorian chocolate is still unknown to most consumers who aren’t chocolate connoisseurs or who shop at “specialty” markets.
Needless to say, better marketing communication can make Ecuador chocolate more than the “best chocolate you’ve never known about” or the “next big thing” in the Chocolate world. The “luxury” and “artisanal” image that the notable high-quality chocolate brands, such as Pacari and Republica Del Cacao, are promoting might be helping their bottom line, but is limiting the growth of the Chocolate industry in Ecuador. Greater effort must be made to get the world to know more about the chocolate coming from Ecuador in order to gain better traction in the global market and to help local farmers profit more from their cacao.