Lancashire chocolate producer secures China export deal

Preston-based premium chocolate producer, Chocolat Madagascar, are celebrating after securing a five-year contract with a distributor that will see orders worth over £2m exported to China, thanks to support from the Food is GREAT campaign.

Established in 2013, the Bilsborrow-based chocolatier specialises in ethically sourced, fresh chocolate that is grown, fermented and manufactured in Madagascar, then marketed and distributed from the UK and Madagascar. The business has won 38 international awards since 2014.

Through its own unique equitable trade model Raisetrade, Chocolat Madagascar partners with cocoa farmers and the Chocolaterie Robert factory in Madagascar to support local development by investing in education, providing job opportunities and bringing international awareness to the country’s produce. The Raisetrade Product of Origin label can be used by other producers operating in markets where GDP is less than 10% of the US. 

The company’s recent export deal will see refrigerated shipping containers of its chocolate sent to Marvine Trading, a distributor in China that supplies food and drink professionals and retailers. The deal was secured following the business’ attendance at Food & Hotel China (FHC) in 2017, a Food is GREAT Northern Powerhouse event where Marvine Trading first sampled its ethical chocolate.

A cross-departmental initiative between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for International Trade (DIT), with which Chocolat Madagascar has worked since 2005, the Food is GREAT campaign aims to showcase the talent of UK food and drink abroad and help firms export.

In May Chocolat Madagascar also secured its first order with Germany’s largest supplier to the gourmet food service industry, BOS Foodservice. The business was introduced to BOS at the world’s largest confectionary trade show, ISM Cologne, which it attended after securing a Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) grant through the Food is GREAT campaign.

Overseas sales currently account for half of Chocolat Madagascar’s annual turnover, thanks to its export activity in Japan, France and the US. It intends to increase its presence in the US next year, capitalising on the growing demand for fine and fresh chocolate that is suitable for vegans.

The business now expects its turnover to increase by 300% within the next five years.

Neil Kelsall, Founding Director of Chocolat Madagascar, said: “The core purpose of our business is to create and channel wealth and skills back into Madagascar with British expertise. By bringing award-winning fine quality chocolate to the rest of the world, we share and grow the profits with the people of Madagascar.

 “DIT has been vital in our international expansion, most recently into China. Throughout our 14-year relationship, DIT has acted as a guide, enabling us to navigate international markets by providing various workshops and helping us overcome difficulties relating to international property risks, food laws and packaging requirements.

 “A push in education around quality chocolate, driven in part by the Academy of Chocolate, is currently leading to more refined consumer taste, similar to that experienced by the coffee market a few years back. Now is the perfect time for us to double down our focus on exporting, growing the business and awareness of our ethical model.”

 Paul Stowers, Head of Region, North West at DIT, said: “Chocolat Madagascar is an exciting venture that is instigating change for good. UK expertise in food and drink is recognised the world over, but when you pair this with a product that is also helping to lift the economy of an underdeveloped country, that makes the proposition even stronger.

 “Chocolat Madagascar’s passion for premium, ethically sourced chocolate, combined with the support it has received on its export journey from DIT, has led to impressive results in other markets that many North West businesses can match. As well as organising networking events and offering financial and linguistic support, we have staff based in over 100 countries to help businesses overcome all sorts of barriers to trade.”

 Producers looking for support on their export journeys should contact 0333 320 0392 or email info@tradenw.org. They can also visit great.gov.uk which lists live export opportunities and general information on exporting and events.