The Canada-based company entered the market with premium couverture Madagascar Pure Origin in April this year and six weeks ago opened a chocolate technology center in Boucherville, Quebec.
The center is intended to help chefs and startup chocolate companies learn the fundamentals of chocolate production.
Sambirano Valley Chocolat was established by Derrick Pho, the company’s vice president of innovation and business development.
Pho is an award-winning pastry chef and was formerly director of Barry Callebaut North America’s chocolate academy from 2007 to 2011.
He left Barry Callebaut and began work as technical consultant in chocolate, before setting up Sambirano Valley this year.
Pho has already begun teaching classes at the Sambirano Valley’s new technology center along with one other chef.
They are advising professional chefs and artisan chocolate makers on methods to improve shelf life and are helping them to master production methods such as chocolate tempering.
“We would like to demystify chocolate techniques,” Pho told ConfectioneryNews.
Madagascar beans: Traceable tree species
Sambirano Valley is also working with the University of Montreal and McGill University to establish its own cocoa plantation in the Sambirano region of north-west Madagascar.
Pho expects his company will be among the few couverture suppliers to guarantee a single-origin source of beans traceable to the precise tree variety.
According to Pho, the vast majority of cocoa beans used in chocolate are cultivated by smallholder farmers and are not traceable to the type of tree on which they were cultivated (Criollo, Forastero, hybrids etc.)
“More and more we need to know where it’s coming from,” said Pho. “The consumer is more educated than ever.
“Criollo is the finest bean for flavor but to have pure Criollo is becoming more and more difficult as they are less available,” he said.
Pho added there were now around 150 hybrids in the cocoa market due to strong market demand for chocolate from emerging markets, which has made tracing pure Criollo a tough task.
Sambirano Valley will plant all major tree species, but these will be carefully segregated, so a buyer can purchase beans from a particular tree variety.
Pho claimed this would help his company better cater to the needs of chefs and premium chocolate companies.
At full capacity in five to 10 years
Sambirano Valley is currently preparing the field for its Madagascan plantation and will have its first meaningful harvest in the next three years.
The planation will reach full capacity in five to 10 years and will eventually produce 2,000 metric tons (MT) of beans annually – equivalent to 4,000 MT of chocolate.
The company has very little production at its plantation at present so is sourcing from other farms in Madagascar.
Around 70% of output from the firm’s own Madagascar plantation will be used in its couverture brand, while 30% will be available to select chefs.
“We are going to a niche market, not a commercial market,” said Pho.
The company will source 60% of its cocoa needs from its own plantation once the farm is at full production capacity. The other 40% will come from other cocoa farms in Madagascar.
Pho last month delivered a course on improving chocolate shelf life at the Philly Candy Show, aiming to raise knowledge of Sambirano Valley among small artisan chocolate companies.
His company is currently selling couverture in the US and Canada and has plans to expand to Central America and Japan.
The startup is supplying single-origin Madagascar milk and dark couverture chocolate with cocoa content ranging from 34% to 100%. The couverture comes in 1 kg blocks, while some ranges are sold as 2.5 kg pallets.
The chocolate is not alkalized or deodorized, which the company claims helps it maintain a natural flavor and aroma.