Sabah’s top beans: Malaysian cocoa specialist Vive Snack banks on local focus for success

By Pearly Neo contact

- Last updated on GMT

Malaysian cocoa firm Vive Snack is banking on a strong local focus to further expand its reach in the domestic market, with an emphasis on its use of local ingredients and new product innovations. ©Via Verte
Malaysian cocoa firm Vive Snack is banking on a strong local focus to further expand its reach in the domestic market, with an emphasis on its use of local ingredients and new product innovations. ©Via Verte

Related tags: Cocoa, Chocolate, Malaysia

Malaysian cocoa firm Vive Snack is banking on a strong local focus to further expand its reach in the domestic market, with an emphasis on its use of local ingredients and new product innovations.

Vive Snack claims that all of its products are organic, clean label, additive-free, preservative-free, dairy-free and gluten free, and its latest Bonaterra chocolate range has an added advantage in gaining local appeal as it is made from only cocoa beans produced in Sabah, Malaysia.

“Higher cocoa butter content is equal to higher quality, and Sabah-grown cocoa beans actually contain over 55% of cocoa butter content, which is quite high in comparison with many others,”​ Co-founder of Vive Snack’s parent company Via Verte Eric Khor told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“[As an example for comparison,] South American cocoa tends to contain less than 50% of cocoa butter.”

The new range has four different variants: Bonaterra Borneo 76% Dark, Kota Marudu 72% Dark, Keningau 72% and Tawau 84% Dark. All four are dark chocolates, and the names are representative of the different towns from which the beans are harvested except for the Borneo variant which is a combination of the other three.

“At the moment, our focus is in Malaysia only, [and as such] our value proposition with Bonaterra as well as most of our other cocoa products is that these are Made in Malaysia, grown and handcrafted locally, and the cocoa is also sourced locally,” ​said Khor.

“Within the local market, our key target groups are those consumers who value a sustainable lifestyle, are vegan or vegetarian, or really love dark chocolate; as well as F&B manufacturers dealing in bakery, confectionary or finished beverages and organic and health stores.”

In terms of sustainability, Vive Snack has also innovated its own version of cacao husk tea, made from the fibrous outer shells of cacao beans, which would otherwise most likely be discarded.

“When these husks are steeped in water, they create a tisane that tastes very similar to chocolate. It is also higher in antioxidants than both green tea and red wine and contains various micronutrients and vitamins,”​ Khor claimed.

“Cacao also contains an alkaloid called theobromine, often labelled as the mild cousin to caffeine. Theobromine has a mood-boosting effect and can balance serotonin levels, [so it can serve as a replacement] for those wanting to avoid caffeine.

“Studies have also found that cacao husk tea contains some 40 times more antioxidants than blueberries, potassium, iron, fibre, and many more. [Our] particular blend is basically a robust chocolate base blended with sweet scented rose petals to give that indulgent, velvety drinking experience.”

Another of Vive Snack’s product innovation examples is its Cacao Nibs snack range - which are essentially crushed cacao bean pieces. One of the firm’s best-selling products last year was its salted Cacao Nibs, which add molasses sugar and sea salt to balance out the natural bitterness of cacao nibs.

“[The idea is to] create new, simple and healthy bottled and canned food options for Malaysians,”​ Khor added.

Future plans

Moving forward into 2020, the firm has big plans for growth.

“We plan to double up the sales figures in 2020 from what we’ve achieved this year, [and] also look at opening our first Chocolate Cafe in the Klang Valley area,”​ Khor said.

“[This would be a useful platform for us to] promote our own chocolates, as well as other Asian dark chocolates [developed based on the] bean-to-bar trade model concept.”

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