International Chocolate Award winner Chocolat Madagascar

Creating fine chocolate ‘analogous to making wine’, says Chocolaterie Robert

By Oliver Nieburg contact

- Last updated on GMT

Producing bean-to-bar at origin preserves unique cocoa flavors, says Chocolat Madagascar brand owner Chocolaterie Robert
Producing bean-to-bar at origin preserves unique cocoa flavors, says Chocolat Madagascar brand owner Chocolaterie Robert
International Chocolate Award winner Chocolaterie Robert says that fine chocolates, like fine wine, should process the main commodity freshly and at origin.

Last month Malagasy firm Chocolaterie Robert picked up gold at the world finals of the International Chocolate Awards for its Chocolat Madagascar Fine Milk Chocolate 50% Cocoa bar. It also bagged a silver award for its Fine White 34% Cocoa & bourbon vanilla caviar.

The company recently launched the Chocolat Madagascar brand for export markets to complement its domestic brand Robert.

Freshly pressed cocoa butter

Speaking to ConfectioneryNews, Chocolat Madagascar’s International marketing director Neil Kelsall said: “Making fine chocolate is very analogous to making wine. To make fine wine you are harvesting the grapes and crafting it close to the winery.”

Chocolaterie Robert is a bean-to-bar chocolate maker that processes cocoa near to the producing farms.

Chocolat Madagascar Roasting
Chocolaterie Robert's cocoa beans are processed within days instead of months, which it claims brings out fruity notes in finished chocolate.

“What is unique is that we are processing cocoa freshly into chocolate within days near to the plantation where the cocoa is grown,”​ said Kelsall, which he said helped to bring out the fruity flavors of the cocoa.

Cocoa grown in Madagascar is typically exported and processed in European factories. It can take up to three months before the cocoa is processed into cocoa liquor for chocolate.

cocoa 30
Chocolaterie Robert's cocoa is produced by 500 smallholder farmers in Madagascar. The beans fermented in barrels rather than in piles, as is common in West Africa.

Cocoa in Madagascar

Sambirano - Chocolat Madagascar
Cacao trees are grown in North West Madagascar in the Sambirano Valley near to the town of Ambanja.

Kelsall said that his company’s organic cocoa was not deodorized, which helped to retain extra flavor. Grinders commonly take the smell out of cocoa butter when squeezing it out from the mass so the butter can be used in different industries.

Criollo, Trinitario and Forastero varieties of cacao trees were brought to Madagascar by the French between 1890 and 1920. The trees grow in North West Madagascar in the 

Sambirano Valley near to the town of Ambanja.

“The cocoa has developed its own unique flavor profile,”​ said Kelsall as the trees have adapted to the climate and soil of Madagascar.

“It tastes fruity with citrus, red fruit and mango flavor,”​ he said. “It’s not bitter, it’s a more balanced type of flavor.”

Kelsall said the flavor meant cocoa alkalization, which reduces the acidity of the beans, was therefore unnecessary.

choc mad combined
Bean-to-bar chocolate maker Chocolaterie Robert was established in the 1940s and was acquired by the Malagasy Ramanandraibe family in 1977.

Chocolat Madagascar brand

The recently launched Chocolat Madagascar brand is sold in specialist and small retailers in France, UK, Japan, Denmark, Netherlands and Germany through UK-based distributor HB Ingredients. Chocolaterie Robert plans to bring the brand to the US in future.Chocolaterie Robert sources cocoa from 500 smallholder farmers. Its factory in Brickaville employs 200 people in an economy with a GDP of just $970 per person – compared to $37,500 per person in the UK.

The 85 g Chocolat Madagascar bars retail for £4.50 ($7). “The market is chocolatiers who appreciate gourmet, high quality chocolate…because we are working in a market which is premium, the prices are higher,” ​said Kelsall.

chocolat madagascar award winning bar
Chocolaterie Robert won gold at the International Chocolate Awards World Finals for its Chocolat Madagascar Fine Milk chocolate 50% Cocoa bar.The International Chocolate Awards is an independent competition recognizing fine chocolate products. The World Finals took place in London between 4 and 6 November 2014.

Coverture chocolate business

Branded sales make up around 10% of the company’s Chocolaterie Robert’s sales. Its main business is  selling couverture chocolate to the food service industry or private label producers. It also supplies pure cocoa mass from Madagascar and manufactures products for private label.

The company launched its own Chocolaterie Robert brand in 2004, which is now Madagascar’s leading chocolate brand. Kelsall said that this had inspired company’s in other origin countries to make bean-to-bar chocolate at domestically. “The Malagasy project started the ball rolling in countries like Ecuador, Venezuela and Vietnam – it’s a trend in the fine chocolate market,” ​he said.

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