Raising the (chocolate) bar

In Photo: Auro chocolate bar

HERE’S a trivia: The Philippines was the first country in Asia to grow through the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade in 1670.

The country may have ground cocoa nibs (tablea) to consume but its true potential, however, was not optimized—the focus being on yield and not on quality.

Fortunately, the goodness and benefits of cacao has already reached the world market and things around this product have changed tremendously.                      

Auro, a Filipino bean-to-bar company, is working hard to put the Philippines on the world cocoa map as a source and producer of fine flavor cocoa and chocolates.

“We always compare it with coffee and wine, where you say, ‘Oh, coffee from this place tastes a particular way, wine from Bordeaux tastes like this.’ We also want to show that cacao from Davao has its identity, and we also want to explore more regions,” said Kelly Go, one of the founders of Auro during an interview with the Health & Fitness.

Go added that as chocolate makers, they always strive to bring out the best and natural qualities of cacao, adding that Auro also do its best to make sure that they get the best raw materials for their products.

“What makes Auro different is that we invested in a state of the art factory. We are using all the same equipment as the big players out there—the multinationals. We want to attain a level of quality that’s comparable with them,” she noted.

Kelly Go and Mark Ocampo

A, 2000-square-meter modern chocolate factory was built in Calamba, Laguna, to meet the strictest international standards. The facility was designed in such a way to promote learning and appreciate the entire bean to bar chocolate-making process for both public and professionals alike.

Auro goes beyond the artisanal approach of producing fine chocolates. It is also sweetening the lives of its farming partners and their communities through fair and sustainable partnerships. It has developed a holistic program geared at promoting farming success. It offers a price structure that encourages farmers to improve agricultural practices for better quality and varieties of cocoa beans.

A Bittersweet Discovery

The quest for a fine Filipino cacao movement was sowed in the heart of Jacqueline Go (Kelly’s mother) when she witnessed an artisanal chocolate company in the US using cocoa beans from Davao.

Her concept came into fruition when she traveled back to Davao and met a lot of cacao farmers. Through them, Jacqueline came to know about one of the rarest heirloom cacao varieties, Criollo Porcelana, which is said to be the purest and the most coveted variety in the world with only 0.1 percent of the world’s total cacao population.

It was heart breaking for her to hear tales that most farmers inherited the Criollo trees from their forefathers but had recently cut them down to replace them with hybrid varieties.

Recognizing the golden moment, she wasted no time in harnessing the potential of this little known national treasure into fine Filipino products with the launch of three product lines: cocoa, couverture, and retail chocolate bars.

The Managing Directors

Everything fell into place when Jacqueline’s daughter Kelly decided to move back to the country two years ago to help out in pursuing her mother’s passion and cause. Kelly brings in with her a wealth of knowledge to confidently run the business derived from her studies abroad, which include a Diploma in Culinary Arts from Le Cordon Bleu Paris and a four-week course on industrial chocolate production in Germany.  She oversees the company’s operation and develops long-term strategies for Auro chocolate.

Alongside Kelly, Mark Ocampo is the comanaging director of the company. He is in charge of overall brand development. With his advertising and marketing background from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Auro chocolate is in good hands.

For inquiries, e-mail [email protected]