Cocoa economy is on the rise as new investors and agro entrepreneurs are exploring new possibilities across the cocoa industry. Amongst these possibilities is the cocoa bean venture which has witnessed a considerable influx of Nigerian entrepreneurs in the industry and consumers. Cocoa beans are the basis of the sweet food preparation called chocolate, and many people like chocolate; not only for its sweet and delicious taste, but also for its nutritional and health benefits. However, some Nigerian entrepreneurs have taken a step further in turning this growing demand for chocolate into a money-making venture.
Cocoa beans generally is gotten from cocoa pod, the cocoa pod is harvested from a cocoa tree. Cocoa normally grows in tropical regions around the world which includes West Africa, some part of Asia and Latin America, in Nigeria the cocoa producing states are Oyo, Ekiti, Cross River and Osun State, I personally source for my cocoa from Ile Ife.
Cocoa contains antioxidants which help to remove damaging oxidizing agents in the body and it contains flavanols that helps to reduce blood pressure and helps to improve blood circulation around the body. It also contains compound that have antibacterial and anti-enzymatic and immune-stimulating properties that help protect the skin from ultraviolent rays that is why most industries include it in their products.
My journey started when I went to supermarkets owned by foreigners here in Nigeria and I noticed they were producing their own chocolate, packaging it and selling in their supermarkets. And I asked myself why can Nigerians not produce their own chocolate? Meanwhile we produce and export cocoa to other countries. Then I did my research and gradually learnt that the process of producing chocolates has become a passion.
Currently one of the challenges is the unstable price of cocoa, throughout the year. You cannot be increasing and decreasing your price because of the changing prices of cocoa. And because people are still new to the concept of bean to bar, they are not willing to pay a high amount yet for a chocolate bar. The logistics involved in bring the cocoa to Abuja and most of the equipment needed for its production is not yet available in Nigeria.
Possible solution to my challenges would be funding. Basically, I make handcrafted chocolate and the process is vigorous. Funding for the equipment is needed because currently I am unable to meet up with demands for the products. With good funding for the business, I would be able to expand, produce and supply more chocolates.
Cocoa is a cash crop, and it is being exported from Nigeria to other countries to produce chocolate bars. Bean to bar entrepreneurs are changing the cocoa business by utilizing our own locally made cocoa beans thereby putting Nigeria in the chocolate map.
Handcrafted chocolate is chocolate that is made directly from the cocoa beans; it goes through a vigorous process of purchasing the beans, hand sorting, roasting and grinding. The cocoa beans takes between two to three days to get fine chocolate bars you see every day.
When you start a business and to become big, you need to embrace global change if not you will gradually become extinct. Right now I wouldn’t say they are any big competitors in the market because they are just a few people that are into the bean to bar business. When I started I didn’t know anyone doing it until I did proper research and I realized that other people are into the business, right now.
My advice would not be limited to just chocolate start ups it would be for those in business generally. They should know the reasons why they are going into the business. Being an entrepreneur is not as easy as it sounds or as it looks. They should continue to look for ways to learn and improve on their businesses and take rejection as a necessary step and continue to try again and again.