My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Why Mount Pleasant Chocolatiers Averell French will resurrect Jamaica's Chocolate Candy Industry

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Why Mount Pleasant Chocolatiers Averell French will resurrect Jamaica's Chocolate Candy Industry

“Both are two wonderful products and both, flagship products. There is a world demand for these products and both have great potential. I think it's really good and we work with a network of farmers that we encourage. I don't think we can ever meet the demand given the potential demand based on the landsize of Jamaica”

Founder and CEO of Mount Pleasant Chocolatiers, Averell French at an event for the 'Countdown to the Food Awards' on Monday April 22nd 2014, at the Spanish Court Hotel in Kingston

We now have an official Jamaican candy maker, CEO of Sweetie Confectionary, Patria-Kay Aarons aka the CVM TV Weathergirl whose products go live in May 2014 as explained in my blog article entitled “Sweetie Confectionery CEO Patria-Kaye Aarons to launch Jamaican Flavoured Candy - May the Force be with the Weather Presenter as it's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”.

Now there is finally a replacement for the missing element of Chocolate production from Cocoa on the island, that being Mount Pleasant Chocolatiers, who actually began production of Chocolate some six (6) months ago as stated in “French to fill void for local Chocolate”, published Wednesday, April 16, 2014 BY STEVEN JACKSON Business reporter, The Jamaica Observer.

Founder and CEO of Mount Pleasant Chocolatiers Averell French is an architect-turned-Cocoa Farmer whose here in the island at just the right time. In 2013, the Inter-American Development Bank gave the Jamaica Cocoa Farmers' Association a US$1.7-million grant to set up factories to produce chocolate bars and balls. Jamaican Cocoa farmers still, however, exports Cocoa Beans and parched Coffee Beans, which many local Coffee makers purchase and process to make bags of Coffee Beans or bottles of Coffee powder, the main product from Cocoa Beans.

Exports of Cocoa Beans earn the country some US$1 million in exports. Due to increased global demand for Cocoa, it’s resulted in a shortage in supply for the fruit and thus increased prices for the raw Cocoa and processed coffee Beans themselves. To that end, a value added product such as Chocolate seems a natural fit on the island, as it helps Cocoa farmers make even more money from their Cocoa beans.

Averell French the Architect turned Farmer – Chocolate is the Value Added Product that’s missing from Jamaica

Apparently bored out of his skull, a trait atypical of the very intellectual-minded Londoner, he decided to deviate from his profession and become a Cocoa Farmer, to quote Averell French: “I decided I didn't want to spend my life in the UK. I have lived my life there as an architect and I wanted to do something else”.

So he came back, got some 150 acres of land in the Western side of the Blue Mountains and put 26 acres under cultivation. At 300 lb of Chocolate per week from his 15 full-time employees since starting production six months ago, his production from his Chocolate Factory in Bull Bay, St. Thomas is just getting into the swing of things.

This as with the right amount of marketing, he’ll soon discover there’s a local demand for chocolate products as well. Despite the influx of Foreign Chocolate, like CEO of Sweetie Confectionary, Patria-Kay Aarons, Founder and CEO of Mount Pleasant Chocolatiers Averell French will discover that many Jamaicans are interested in high-quality Jamaican made food products, especially sweets!

Currently he distributes his products up-market to clients such as by Adam & Eve spa and The Wine Shop, but the general public is yet to taste his Chocolate or even his Chocolate Wine! I'm yet to see any of his products in supermarkets or on sale in Stores downtown or even Cross Roads. Until it reaches that level of ubiquitousness, the same level that Sweetie Confectionary is aiming for in terms of Local and International Sale orders, he's basically stuck as a niche market product.

Fortunately, he doesn’t just produce Chocolate for consumption, but also produces VAS (Value Added Products) from the Chocolate and Cocoa Powder obtained from milling and grinding the Cocoa Beans:

1.      Chocolate wine
2.      Cocoa butter
3.      Cocoa nibs
4.      Cocoa powder
5.      Dark chocolate
6.      Face masks
7.      Flavoured chocolate
8.      White chocolate

His long-term plan is very trial-and-error, as he's taking it all in stride.  Mount Pleasant Chocolatiers is, for now, working the up-market customers until they've got production ramped up. Once they reach that point where he can produce chocolate in a more efficient economy-of-scale, they'll go islandwide and export, to quote Averell French, quote: “The short-term vision is basically to introduce the product to people, to note the response, develop our product further and reach out to different markets. At the moment, we are looking to get the product in more Jamaican shops”

Businessman Claude Clarke owned HighGate chocolate is his gold standard, as the Founder of Mount Pleasant Chocolatiers Averell French aims to emulate this household name Chocolate maker that went bust in 2007. HighGate was named after a St. Mary Town, much as Mount Pleasant was named after a very tall Hill in St. Thomas that my company, CLARO Jamaica, used to have a 3G Cell Site installed, the main connection I have to this story.

A Return of HighGate isn't going to happen anytime soon. But a younger entrepreneur apparently has decided to make a name out of a Mountain that CLARO once had a 3G Cell site hosted and which I remember was very hard to visit and maintain but reaped success as sweet as the Chocolate that Mount Pleasant Chocolatiers intends to make.

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