South Africa’s first direct trade, bean to bar chocolate maker, Afrikoa, launched three signature bars at the Winelands Chocolate Festival in August, which were received enthusiastically by chocolate aficionados. The cocoa beans are sourced directly from small growers in Tanzania, ensuring a sustainable future for the farmers and the freshest, top quality beans for Afrikoa’s chocolate which is 100% made in Africa. Antonino Allegra, head chocolate maker, tells us about finding the business’s base in Sanddrift, just behind Century City.
How did your business start?
I have been a pastry chef for over 25 years (I was 11 when I started). A couple of years ago, I received a sample of Tanzanian cocoa beans and wanted to make chocolate, but I was unhappy that the beans had to go to the EU before coming back to Cape Town with a ridiculous price increase. I spent a year researching and discovered Technoserve, an NGO with a cocoa sustainability project that didn’t take a cut from us or the farmers. We sat down with the farmers and realised how little empowerment or freedom was given them by the industry. Together with Technoserve, we helped the farmers with their business savvy and have now managed to achieve a direct trade, skipping the middleman and reducing the distance and time that the cocoa beans travel.
Why did you choose this area for your business?
We looked for over six months for a good, clean and easily accessible factory space. The one on 2B Elegance Road fit all our current requirements, and our landlords are nice people.
How did you find your premises?
We approached a specialised agent. We gave her a long list of “needs” and she helped find it.
Why are the premises ideally suited to your business?
We have easy road access, with low truck traffic, the premises are the right size and it’s a good neighborhood.
Who are your neighbours?
A lot of very nice, supportive people live around us. They have been very helpful and the community has been very accepting of having the area smelling like chocolate!
What are the rental/sales prices like in this area?
We got a good deal, but nothing is cheap.
What is your shop foot traffic?
We’ve only just opened the factory shop, so it is too early to say. We are open Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm.
Do you have any expansion plans?
Yes, we hope to grow the business to national distribution.
Do you operate online as well?
Not directly yet, but we are having talks with some of the big online shops.
What’s your most popular item?
We have three chocolates: Dark 70%, SemiSweet 55% and Milk 27%. At our launch we thought we would sell more of one item than the others, but in the end we sold almost the same amount of each. I love the 70%, but I use the 55% as a snack and crave the delicious milk chocolate.
021 551 1806 / 082 079 8687
Words: Kit Heathcock