Color Cacao is a unique company that manufactures chocolate products, including decorated and filled chocolates. The manufacturing techniques are handcrafted and based on a careful selection of raw materials in order to achieve an excellent quality final product. The entrepreneur brings the latest chocolate trends in terms of taste and design to Colombia. At the moment, Color Cacao sells its products in souvenir shops and at the airport. It also has corporate customers for which it designs specific chocolate products.
The owner of the company, Ana Margarita Villegas, studied in France 10 years ago to be a professional chef. There she gained good knowledge about the cacao market, the preparation of cacao, recipes and techniques. She obtained a degree in Culinary Arts at the Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France, one of the world’s most renowned chefs. Ana also studied business administration, and she worked for several gastronomic French restaurants. In France, she realized that the Colombian chocolate market wasn’t good enough. When she came back to Colombia in 2009, she decided to start her own chocolate company, in Medellín. She felt motivated to start working for a more fair Colombian chocolate market.
Ana always wanted to work with other women. The business is directly impacting its female employees (most of them being head of households).
Ana created Color Cacao, a brand that combines the know-how craft, with mixtures of tropical flavors and innovative presentations. In 2011, she changed the legal form of the company to S.A.S (simplified joint stock company). At the beginning of the company, she started producing chocolates in an artisanal way (candies based on cacao).
After a while, she bought machinery to increase her production capacity, but she kept to artisanal processes because it is an exclusive characteristic in the company’s value proposition. Her products are very flexible, and she can customize them based on customer needs.
The chocolate market in Colombia is ruled by two big companies in terms of prices and quality: Luker and Nacional de Chocolates. Their main aim is to make profit, which in general does not lead to fair prices. Overall, they do not value the efforts of producers to increase the quality of the cacao or to have different kinds of cacao, like organic. As most of the Colombian cacao market is thus covered by the big companies, Ana saw a big opportunity for Color Cacao to grow as a medium-sized company. Where the big companies focus on massive chocolate production with high contents of trans fats and low contents of cacao, Color Cacao focuses on high contents of cacao with good quality. Also, the artisanal chocolate market is an untapped market with a potentially high demand in Colombia.
The impact the programme creates contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals SDG 5, SDG 8 and SDG 12.
The international market
The company has the ambition to grow in the international market as well. Colombian cacao was declared as ́fine or flavour cacao by the International Cocoa Organization, a category that covers only 5% of the beans traded worldwide. Besides, Colombia has a potential of 2 million hectares for cacao crops, an area that would place the country among the world’s top cacao growers. As such, the conditions to explore the international market are very good. Color Cacao exported before, so they are well-known with the administrative and legal structure to export. Color Cacao also attended international business meetings in Canada and the United States.
A promising growth path
When the company started working with Truvalu 5 years ago, Color Cacao had a turnover of around EUR. 100K basically processing cacao butter and liquor coming from big companies and selling all the production to institutional markets (companies that demand products for special events or give it as gifts). After the business development support received, the company started to implement a new strategy taking advantage of different sales channels, diversifying sales to retail clients, special chocolate shops and exporting to Europe. Nowadays, Color Cacao’s turnover is around 400K and exports represent 50% of the total sales.
The company increased the production capacity from 1 ton per month (and also outsourcing part of production) to 8 tons per month. With its own capacity, it can produce all the products that the company is offering, and it could even double the capacity including an additional shift, if necessary.
The company realizes that they need to strengthen their portfolio to be competitive in the international market. It means that they will need to obtain more certifications (like fair trade, organic production, etc.).
Sourcing directly from farmers
The company used to buy the raw materials from the big companies Nacional de Chocolates and Lucker. However, in the last 4 years Color Cacao has consolidated and new source strategy, buying the raw material directly from cacao associations in different places of the country.
Each associate is a cacao bean producer that has a family of 5 members and works in average with 3 people. These 3 people can be part of the family like brothers, wife and adult sons. Each plantation in average has 3 hectares that actually produces 600 kg of cacao beans per year. The company just closed a new alliance with Afromuvaras, an organization in Putumayo composed of 300 women. An exciting new collaboration.
Truvalu co-entrepreneurs with Color Cacao.
“In this phase the activities are focused to reach new certification to comply with the international clients request (fair trade, organic and kosher), packaging design and storytelling for the European market and market research in Europe. The implementation plan as a result of the activities mentioned above will be financed as an investment from Truvalu. Both parts have the intention to close an investment agreement before the end of 2022. With this investment, the company can multiply production by 5 in the coming 3-5 years and consolidate a model that proves how a SME can generate direct effects in the value chain and generate impact at an even larger scale.”- Andres Jimenez – Managing director Truvalu for South America