The Benefits of our Vertically Integrated System, A look at our facility and processes

Oct 3, 2020Company News

Choco Con Choco Webinar Episode 02: Vertical Integration of our Cacao Nursery & Farms.

Greetings once more from our Kakaw and Chocolate Land, Belize!

You have read about us and even saw snippets of our facility, our products and ME in our previous communications.

As the week progresses I will venture into the heart and veins of our chocolate process and facility.  

This week we will discuss an unalienated system – vertically integrated process – that for us, makes the difference in providing what we will refer to as our cognitive approach to provide not just another product on the market; but one that will, in addition to appeasing your tastebuds and cravings, satisfy your social and environmental responsibility.   

Vertical Integration

It is not uncommon for companies to consider “integration” as a strategy to grow their business.  In fact, this has been one of the strategies employed by car companies in the 1920’s and it continues in emerging businesses today.  

However, as one of its disadvantages, it often requires significant capital investment especially in conglomerate or horizontal integration.  A strategy, thereby only a few businesses or only those with sufficient capital are able to execute.  

While it has its advantages and disadvantages, fortunately for us we have identified, and consequently ventured into, a product that had its upstream channel veritably available for growth, care and control – “KAKAW” at “ORIGIN”. 

At the foundation of the supply chain the disadvantages were trounced; for we built our team to manage our operation, expanded our knowledge about our product while it grew and implemented cost saving measures to be more efficient while creating a sustainable  supply chain.  

It is therefore inevitable that by virtue of our strategic plan to plant, grow and nurture our own trees in the most sustainable process that exists and invent alternative practices in harmony with our farms ecosystem; our integration can only move forward!

Our Vertical  Integrated Profile

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Kakaw is the single ingredient that is essential to our production process!  Our sister farming company, Peini Cacao, ensures that we obtain only the best kakaw there is.  Besides, one of their ultimate goals is to propagate and cultivate kakaw trees using heirloom varietals that produce special flavour profiles.   Peini Cacao is also responsible for post-harvest, a critical process that results in high quality beans.  

Mahogany Chocolate collects fermented and dried beans from the central processing depot managed by Peini Cacao.  From there, the beans are processed into cacao nibs, cacao mass, cacao butter, cacao powder and chocolate couvertures.  

Our products made from each process are packed and retailed via our online store, our factory outlet or sold to wholesalers and retailers.  

Our Benefits

Supply, Quality, Efficiency, Knowledge, Economies of Scale are all integral to our business!  They are some of the benchmarks for our competitiveness.  

While they are difficult to achieve in the fast growing craft chocolate industry our model is based on creating our supply of beans by growing our own trees.  However, tantamount to our model is our ability to source cacao beans from over one hundred and fifty subsistence cacao growers in the Toledo District.   The combined sources gives us a guarantee on consistent supply of our product according to the quality standard established.  

Peini Cacao Plantation has 140 acres of land under cacao cultivation. 150 subsistence growers supply 82.5 MT of wet cacao beans annually.

Control in the supply of materials for production eliminates the bottlenecks derived from external suppliers – considering that cacao produces two crops per year.  We have been able to increase our knowledge and improve our craft!  Our farm and manufacturing team maintain a close working relationship that includes reciprocal knowledge sharing in an effort to improve the quality of our product.  

As a result we are able to produce and offer our products at a relatively comparative price point that is accessible and can be afforded by all.  

Peini Farms and Outgrowers

Our Peini Farms comprises a combined 170 acres of land located in three rural communities, all under cacao cultivation.  Our trees have recently approached the 4th year and produced its first minimal crop – standard for cacao trees.  

Our Columbia Cacao Farm in Toledo, Belize

Our farm development starts from the Nursery.  Seeds are pre-germinated and sowed in bags where they are nurtured for 6 months.  Our nursery encompasses a 1 acre covered structure with adequate shade, water and drainage.  Our nursery produces saplings for our farm expansion, replanting program and tree to farmer outgrower program.  

Our proprietary cacao sapling nursery in Toledo, Belize

The young cacao saplings are transported to the farms where they are planted in rows of 10’ x 12’ spacing.  Intercropped among various fruit and timber trees, the young saplings receive the right sunlight and shade to foster their growth for the next 35 years.  Yes, the trees will produce for 35 years once properly managed.  

While in the field, the trees are given attention and care.  They are pruned, mulched and applied the necessary tree food application to enhance their growth.  Our team of 15 farm attendants ensure that all our 50,000+ trees are cared for to produce only the best Kakaw.    During their first production, the wet beans are transported to the centralized processing center where they start the post-harvest process.  

Our out grower members total 150 farmers located in thirteen communities in the Toledo District.   Each cultivates their own Kakaw farm that averages 1.5 acre.  During harvest, on established buying days, their wet beans are collected and transported to our centralized processing center where they are processed in micro lots.    

The operations at our farms, and at the individual farmers’ farm is paramount to our success.   The hard work, dedication and attention and care provided to the trees is remarkable!  

So the next time you pick up a chocolate bar! Think about the trees, the birds that thrive among them, the hard work of farm attendants and the time (years) it takes to produce the bar.  4.5 years!  

Look out for our next episode where we take you to our post-harvest and manufacturing process!

Until then, have a happy chocolate day!

Luis Choco

Mahogany Chocolate Ltd.

Mahogany Chocolate Ltd.

Belize & Panama