Auro sets the gold standard for local chocolate

The name is a combination of “Au,” the chemical symbol of gold, and “oro,” the Spanish term for gold. The portmanteau alludes to the vision of the brand to treat both local cacao and their partner farmers as precious as gold.

Around 2010, Kelly Go and Mark Ocampo were in Chicago when they stumbled upon an American craft chocolate brand promoting Philippine-origin cacao. They were intrigued. The potential to create fine cacao and chocolate locally was present, but it remained untapped.

“They are extremely passionate about all things chocolate,” says Louise Par, Auro’s marketing supervisor. “They saw a unique opportunity to pursue their passion: to create a social enterprise that would focus on transforming the entire tree-to-bar process.”

The two founded the company in 2015 and officially launched Auro Chocolate in 2017. The name is a combination of “Au,” the chemical symbol of gold, and “oro,” the Spanish term for gold. The portmanteau alludes to the vision of the brand to treat both local cacao and their partner farmers as precious as gold.

Since its inception, Auro has partnered with and directly purchased from local cacao farmers. Auro works with six cacao-producing organizations and 55 individual farmers representing more than 1,000 families and 2,000 hectares of farm, all currently located in the Davao region.

“We are dedicated to creating a long-lasting social impact on the communities of our partner farmers,” says Par. “We primarily do this by purchasing their cacao beans with an additional 10-15% premium above the ICCO world market price that incentivizes quality and variety segregation while improving their income significantly.” Auro also holds free training programs on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), business management, and financial management to further empower their partner farmers.

“Additionally, in an effort to further commit to positive social impact, we have launched a few community programs such as the Organic Conversion Program (OCP) that can help improve their farm, environmental impact, and income. We aim to continue making more programs that are rooted in the values of sustainability, transparency, and environment.”

Fueling Auro’s success is a vision of championing Filipino heritage on the global stage. “We are grateful for the opportunities to share how amazing the quality of our cacao is through our products and most importantly, to put emphasis on the work and talent of our Filipino cacao farmers.” The tree-to-bar chocolate company’s product line has since expanded to include fine beans, couverture chocolate, chocolate bars, and other custom cacao products. All these are packaged to promote Filipino identity. “[They’re] inspired by local Filipino tapestries [that showcase] a story in the weavings.”

The tree-to-bar chocolate company also works with brands and partners who share the same values. These include Kazunori, Pinkberry, Shake Shack, Lesley Mobo, Theo & Brom, and Don Papa Rum. “Staying true to our pursuit of refining and elevating Philippine cacao and the experience of enjoying them, we spearheaded the first-ever chocolate-centric Bar Crawl in Poblacion, Makati and the first-ever World Chocolate Fair (WCF) in 2019 with S Maison,” says Par.

These efforts have brought Auro international acclaim. Since its founding, Auro has received 54 awards, including Cacao of Excellence’s Top 20 Best Cacao Beans in 2019 and International Chocolate Awards-Asia Pacific’s Gold-Best in Competition for their 50% Dark Milk Regalo Single-Varietal Bar. The company has also received recognition from the Academy of Chocolate, International Chocolate Awards-World, and Great Taste Awards. Auro has also since opened shops and cafes in Japan and Bahrain, and has distributed its products across Asia, the United States, and Europe.

In December 2021, the Auro Chocolate Cafe Grab & Go Concept was opened in MoA Square, Pasay City. Here, guests can have a taste of award-winning cacao and chocolate bars, limited-edition collaboration bars, as well as drinks, sandwiches, and pastries crafted using Auro’s cacao and chocolate. “We have plans on further expanding and opening more locations in the coming years. [Patrons can] expect more exciting chocolate and cacao products from us,” says Par.

Auro’s plans always go back to their partner farms: “We have plans to gain more insights on the sustainability of our practices in order to create more community initiatives that are interwoven with our current cacao program.” And as a social enterprise, Auro will continue to create more sustainable products and increase its usage of environment-friendly materials across the supply chain.

Then, there’s the chocolate. The plans involve expanding their sourcing to introduce new, exciting origins and to further establish the gold standard for Philippine chocolate.

Source: Idge Mendiola

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