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Treasure among cacao farmers

In developing their brand Auro Chocolate, co-founders Kelly Go and Mark Mendoza Ocampo understood that the farmers they would be working with would play a very important role. They knew that by working directly with farmers, the benefits they could share with them would also be more direct. This collaboration, however, did not happen without any hiccups.

“We work very intensively with farmers, but we aren’t farmers. That’s very challenging initially. We need to spend a lot of time to learn from each other,” Kelly shares.

From Chicago and Manila, they then found themselves in Paquibato, Davao, a treasure trove for special cacao, but an area which has had its share of armed conflicts. Understandably, the people were initially suspicious of outsiders like Kelly and Mark. The duo, however, found cacao farmer Jose Saguban, who was willing to work with them.

Four years after they started their partnership, Mang Jose, Kelly and Mark found themselves in Paris, France, accepting the recognition as one of the top 20 best cacao bean producers in the world from the International Cocoa Awards in 2019—a first for the Philippines. The recognition meant more than just prestige for Mang Jose and the people of Paquibato. Now, their district is also associated with good quality chocolates. Mang Jose is also able to support his family because of his job.

“Everybody in Paquibato is just proud. Mang Jose symbolizes an ordinary Filipino farmer, and with the right resources and right assistance, what we can achieve,” Kelly says.

Aside from Mang Jose, Auro Chocolate works with five farming cooperatives and around 50 individual farmers. The impact of this partnership is then extended to the families of these farmers.

“We provide them with a lot of assistance, trainings and workshops and business fundamentals—things that will holistically empower their communities,” Kelly shares about their work with farmers.

For Auro Chocolate, their products are not just sweet treats. They evoke the stories of the communities they engage with.

“We are a channel to share farmer stories, not only their product, which is cacao. But most importantly, their stories, and their journey,” Kelly says.

To know more about Auro Chocolate, visit Auro chocolates are available in Kultura stores located inside the SM Malls. You may also order Auro chocolates and other uniquely Filipino products online at launching soon. 

Photos from Auro Chocolate

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