Vanuatu’s AELAN chocolate scores top global awards

Vanuatu’s AELAN Chocolates is on top of the world after winning international recognition at the International Chocolate Salon – Artisan Chocolate Awards 2018. 

The Aelan team after the award announcement

AELAN Chocolate scored two gold, five silver medals and one bronze medal in the Best Vegan Chocolate and Top Spicy Chocolate Awards.

It’s a major achievement for the chocolate company that is proving delicious international top-quality chocolate can be grown successfully and taken from bean to bar — all made in Vanuatu in the Pacific Islands. But they were up against other experienced chocolate makers from throughout the world.

The competition called the International Chocolate Salon was founded in 2007 by TasteTV and TCB Café Publishing and Media. The judging panels come from national and regional magazines, newspaper and blog editors, experts and chefs in the United States.  Over 40,000 chocolate lovers have visited the International Chocolate Salon in the past 11 years held on the West Coast of North America. The original Salon started at the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon and has had widespread media coverage across American network TV including Fox KTVU, CBS Local, USA Today and Forbes magazine.

A bonus for all winners is being able to display and use the Official Award winner title and award logos and terms.  Not bad for a tiny chocolate company from faraway Vanuatu.

Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) NZ congratulated Sandrine Wallez of Aelan Chocolate Makers.  Ms Wallez is a previous participant of PTI NZ’s Path to Market programme helping potential exporters understand the New Zealand market.  The company was invited to attend a PTI NZ Path to Market delegation to the Pasifika Festival in 2016.  Since then the company has participated in other chocolate competitions in Paris.

The Aelan range

Pacific Periscope contacted Ms Wallez for congratulations and to learn how the small Pacific Island co-operative have achieved their latest success.  Ms Wallez said in her own words, “These awards are a big achievement for us from the producers to our Aelan Chocolate Makers factory. We worked hard for years to improve the cocoa beans quality for the producers and for us to improve our chocolate processing to develop the best flavours and aromas of each cocoa bean of island origin.

“We are really proud of this especially coming from zero. We started from the bottom for cocoa and for chocolate making, which didn’t exist in Vanuatu before. We are really proud that in less than a decade we’ve reached this high rank level while offering cocoa producers a better market for their beans to improve their livelihood.”

Ms Wallez said she created the dark chocolate from scratch following the advice from other chocolate makers such as Bahen and Co. from Margaret River in Australia.  She then trained local ni-Vanuatu people to work in the chocolate factory.

Last year, Matt Watt an Australian volunteer worked on the chocolate adding to products range, the chili pepper which received the Silver medal for the Top Spicy Chocolate Awards 2018.

“It took us some time to reach the quality that is recognised now, and we are very pleased to see those awards which help us to better market our AELAN Chocolate on the niche market of high quality luxury products. Aelan Chocolate Makers is now on the map of the world fine chocolate map!” she said.

“We had quite serious challenges to reach this level from 2010 with lack of background in chocolate making.  I am former volcanologist with no local knowledge available. People tried to discourage me at the beginning saying that chocolate making was not possible in the tropics especially for people not from the industry. Well I kept following my idea and tried and learn from mistakes. At the same time, we were assisting the cocoa producers in the islands to increase the quality of their cocoa beans with farm management, post-harvest techniques, pruning and grafting trainings with the assistance of scientists from the Australian Centre for the International Agricultural Research.

“We are now confident in the high quality of our AELAN Chocolate and we hope to open export market all around the world for high products quality boutiques and provide a better income for the producers we are working with,” Ms Wallez said.

The results:

  • Gold for Aelan 70% dark chocolate, Malekula origin for the Best Vegan Chocolate Award;
  • Gold for AELAN 70% dark chocolate from Malo origin for Best Vegan Chocolate Awards (Best dark chocolate;
  • 2 Silvers for best Vegan Chocolate Awards (best texture and top vegan chocolate
  • Bronze for the Best Vegan Chocolate Awards (Best Texture),
  • 2 Silvers for AELAN 70% Dark chcolate Epi Origin, Best Vegan Chocolate Awards (Best dark chocolate and Top Vegan Chocolate) and
  • Silver for AELAN 70% dark chocolate Chilli in the Top Spicy Chocolate Awards (Best dark chocolate)

To enter the Chocolate Salon Awards Competition go to www.internationalchocolatesalon.com; choose a category, complete the registration form, the entry fee is $65 per each product submission with approximately 17 samples shipped to arrive by the closing deadlines.

“A great achievement for AELAN Chocolate of Vanuatu” said Ms Wallez.  And we at PTI NZ agree!  Congratulations Sandrine and the team at AELAN Chocolate Makers.

For more information email PTI NZ Trade Development Manager Ian Furlong at ian.f@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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