Entrepreneurs in Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa bean producer, are positioning themselves to meet growing local demand for chocolate products. As Sonia Legg reports, they're keen to challenge expensive foreign brands with home made as well as homegrown chocolate.
It's the world's biggest producer of cocoa beans but this is a novelty in the Ivory Coast. At Olga Yenou's factory they're planning to make chocolate bars for the home-grown market. Olga used to work for the French chocolate maker CEMOI. Now she runs Tafissa, employing seven people and producing 400 tonnes of cocoa products a year. (SOUNDBITE) (French) OLGA YENOU, CACAO TAFISSA MANAGER, SAYING: "Making good chocolate starts at the plantation. We harvest ripe beans, pick pods carefully and properly ferment and dry them. That's how the first aromas are developed." Her next step is investment in machinery to make chocolate bars. Most are still imported from abroad and only eaten by the rich and famous. Although the signs of change are there. (SOUNDBITE) (French) SACO SECRETARY GENERAL, JEAN PONCE ASSI SAYING: "The market was initially non-existent but if you look around today there are bakeries and pastry shops everywhere so there is demand." Several multinationals like Cargill, CocoaBarry and Barry Callebaut see the potential too - they already produce cocoa products in the Ivory Coast. But making an affordable chocolate bar for Africans is Olga's aim - and she might even add a few Cashew nuts, also home-grown too.