“This recent award gives us a greater platform to highlight the unspoken heroes of the Philippines: Filipino farmers,” says Mark Ocampo, co-founder of award-winning bean-to-bar company Auro Chocolate.

Auro Chocolate brought pride to Filipino chocolatiers and cacao farmers as it placed among the Top 20 Best Cacao Beans in the World for the Cacao of Excellence Award at the 2019 Salon Du Chocolat in Paris, France on Oct. 30. Salon Du Chocolat is the chocolate industry’s biggest event in the world, and Auro’s victory marks the first time a Philippine chocolate company bagged an award.

One of Auro Chocolate’s original partner cacao farmers, Jose Sugban or more commonly referred to as Mang Jose, received the award. His cacao beans were previously drafted to be part of the Top 50 out of 223 samples from 55 countries. Before being listed in the final 20, the world’s best 50 samples were processed into chocolate and then assessed through a flavor sensory evaluation by the Cocoa of Excellence technical committee and a broad panel of professionals.

“We hope that Mang Jose’s win inspires a new generation of farmers to continue their legacy and to know that even if you come from the smallest of the small, you could be nurturing something truly special,” says Ocampo.

Auro Chocolate has been working with Mang Jose for five years now, “nurturing and refining his process.” The company’s collaboration with Mang Jose was a pilot project to uncover new areas and to change the lives of their community. Upon seeing the changes brought about by the said project, local farmers were encouraged to nurture cacao as well. This is exactly what Auro Chocolate hopes for: to spread the word on how Filipino cacao can become globally competitive 

What makes Philippine cacao stand out, according to Ocampo, is the rich history of native cacao in the Philippines and the hard work behind the process. He described Mang Jose’s cacao as bearing the flavors of the land and the unique characteristics of Philippine produce. As the Philippine chocolate industry takes a leading role in the world’s agricultural sector, the people working behind the well-known brands deserve far more than just fleeting attention.

“We hope for continuous improvement and to spread Philippine chocolate further than ever before. We hope to give more justice to other farmers like Mang Jose and his community. And to further cement that we as Filipinos can produce something great to stand with the rest of the world,” Ocampo says.

Founded in 2015, Auro Chocolate has been working closely with farmers from whom they directly purchase cacao beans, providing them constant support and aiding them with knowledge on the fundamentals of organic farming and business management. With the other members of the Paquibato Tree Developers Cooperative, Auro Chocolate aims to continue empowering farmers and looks forward to a lasting sustainable partnership with them.