Trelawny-based Pure Chocolate championing ‘farm to bar’ method
As featured in the Jamaica Gleaner on September 2, 2021:
Just like their chocolate bars, there is nothing complicated about the ambitions of a set of Trelawny-based chocolatiers to bring the goodness and health benefits of dark chocolate to as many people as possible.
Their ‘farm to bar’ model sees the company purchasing cocoa beans directly from local farmers and creating 100 per cent Jamaican handmade chocolate. One of Jamaica’s few artisanal chocolate makers, the company is operated by Wouter and Rennae Tjeertes – both pastry chefs with almost three decades of experience combined. They have now successfully developed a brand that supports both local farmers and upcoming local artists, who are promoted on their packaging.
“The love for chocolate was deeply rooted in both of us, so when the opportunity came for my husband to relocate to St Lucia and make chocolate bars, from the tree to the finished product, we jumped at the opportunity to go there,” Rennae said.
“Hearing the stories at the end of his workdays, whether it was on the cocoa farm or in the chocolate lab, were one of the highlights of my day. Naturally, this sparked our interest and inspiration, which set the ball in motion. We started doing research to see how, when and where it would be best to do this for ourselves,” she added.
Jamaica became the first choice while researching locations, and after learning that the island produced one of few fine flavour cocoa qualities in the world, the couple relocated and returned home in 2017.
“We hit the ground running, and we are so grateful for the positive support we have received from all corners of the island, especially from the farmers that were willing to take a chance with us, to the artists that wanted to help,” Wouter said.
Pure Chocolate produces a range of premium-quality chocolate products, including different percentages of dark chocolate for the health-conscious consumer and a flavoured line of chocolates that represent flavours of Jamaica, including cinnamon, coconut, lemongrass, coffee, and jerk seasoning.
According to Wouter, following the trend of dark chocolate worldwide, combined with their extensive knowledge in pastry, they have been confident in introducing unique flavours to the market.
“We also offer a small selection of white and milk chocolate, and chocolate-covered items such as hazelnuts, almonds, and peanuts,” he added.
With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the company had to halt plans to relocate its production space and has downsized its staff. With their main market being the tourism sector, revenues have also been reduced. However, they are still thankful to be in business, having made inroads into other markets. They have also stayed true to their commitment to the farmers to ensure that their crops did not go to waste.
“Our motivation during this time has been to stay strong for our team and support them in any way we can. We are happy that we were able to secure the entire crop from our farmers for 2020 and 2021, and we are looking forward to keep building on those relationships for the years to come,” Wouter said.
Pure Chocolate Company Limited is a participant in the 2021 Scotiabank Vision Achiever programme. So far, they have successfully implemented some of the strategies learnt from the programme, and they are already reaping the benefits.
“Attending the course and actually incorporating what we have learned has proven itself over and over, section after section, and has helped us improve our strategies and business,” Rennae said.
“Since we started to implement what has been taught, we have noticed an increase in our revenue, so we are very excited and optimistic about the future,” she concluded.
Pure Chocolate Bars may be found in a number of major pharmacies and retailers across the island.