Talk about chocolate and although many countries come to mind, Ghana mostly isn’t one of them for most people. Cocoa, in fact, is a top agricultural export from this west African country, but chocolate production isn’t mainstream locally. The Addison sisters, Kimberly and Priscilla, plan to change that with their business ‘57 Chocolate, a premier bean-to-bar product line which brings attention to Ghana as a producer of ready-to-eat chocolate products.
A visit in 2014 to a prominent Swiss chocolate factory set the wheels in motion for the sisters when they discovered most of the chocolate made in Switzerland is with Ghanaian cocoa beans. “That is quite disappointing,” says Priscilla. “The country is the second largest producer of cocoa but known only for the raw material and not for the finished product, whereas Switzerland doesn’t grow cocoa trees but is known for the chocolate produced there.” The seed was planted and the idea for the business was born.
Moving Ghana to the Forefront of Chocolate Production
‘57 Chocolate is short for 1957, the year of Ghana’s independence. The mission of the business is to revive the “can-do spirit” from those times, before which industrialization in Ghana was non-existent. After 1957, the country witnessed an economic boom and the creation of many industries. The Addisons are inspired by that spirit of independence and challenge the status quo that premium chocolate can be made only in Europe. However, no prior background in the chocolate industry provided a few surprises for the owners.
“Making chocolate is actually a long process. From sorting and roasting beans to winnowing and removing the husk, we didn’t realize there’s an actual science to making chocolate,” says Kimberly. Priscilla adds, “It is also important that we appreciate the farmers for the work that they do. They are not given enough credit. Without cocoa, there would not be chocolate.” Having no formal training in chocolate making also meant they were learning on the job, sometimes through trial and error, to polish their offerings.
Their efforts paid off and what began as a small production center set up in one room has now expanded to five rooms with different parts of the chocolate manufacturing process occurring in each room. The sisters made the first batch of chocolate together in 2016 but now employ seven other staff members, mostly women. The production facility has the capacity to make at least 200 kilos (about 440 pounds) of chocolate monthly and orders are shipped to countries far and wide including Mauritius, Germany and South Africa.
The chocolates are sold in 10-gram bite-sized offerings and 50-gram bars. The five flavors available are 73 percent dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, mocha latte (white chocolate with coffee flavor), and bissap (white chocolate, hibiscus flavor). Each of the flavors also has additional variations with sea salt, almonds and toasted coconut. They contain no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. More flavors are in the works as the business expands.
A significant component of the business is educational; the sisters are working to spread awareness about the fact that finished chocolate goods are now manufactured in Ghana. “On social media, we promote not just our products but also where the raw materials are coming from and who produces it. We also host chocolate tastings where people not only taste the chocolate but also learn about the process of how we make the chocolates,” says Priscilla.
Additionally, ‘57 Chocolate is a reflection of Ghanaian art and culture. Unique Adinkra symbols originally created by the Ashanti of Ghana are the designs that are featured on the smaller bite-sized chocolates and packaging inside explains what each symbol denotes. The cocoa itself is the star though – cocoa is the main ingredient in each bar that truly shines a light on the quality of the product, showing off Ghana as a competitive player in the world of chocolate.
Moving forward, the sisters are excited about plans for 2019, including introducing a fully functional e-commerce site that will make sales to global clients easier. Meanwhile, they are grateful for the successes that have come their way. Priscilla shares, “How we were able to turn an idea into an actual product in reality, that within itself has been quite an amazing accomplishment. Another is to see our parents and family members invested in our business, wanting this venture to last well beyond their lifetimes.”