Meet Eric Reid Cacao Farmer and Entrepreneur

I recently got a message on LinkedIn from Eric about SpagnVola chocolates asking if I would like to try them. You may have noticed but I very rarely feature or mention food products here. In fact Chow and Chatter is advertisement free and I also never sell links.

But after learning about Chocolate from the amazing Simran Sethi and trying some single estate chocolates from Ecuador I was curious to try and my palate had been spoilt. I used to have a perception that dark chocolate was bitter but a good one is smooth full of flavors and wonderful tastes of the area it is grown. Like coffee cacao is grown in countries along the equator and each region has its own special characteristics. Good chocolate really only has three ingredients: cacao solids, sugar and cocoa butter.

When we visited Jamaica we stayed at The Green Castle Estate and got to see Organic Cacao being grown and left to ferment and dry by the roadside, it was magic.

What I loved about Eric in our many email exchanges and the clips I watched of him was his genuineness and love of farming and helping the farmers share in the process of chocolate making, learning business skills and sharing the wealth.

Here is a little from Eric:

Both my wife and I own our farm in the Dominican Republic.  90% of our workers are family members and at this time, we only source from our own farm (Dominican Republic). Our farm is 100% sustainably grown, no fertilizers and no pesticide.  We share our land with our famers as it is a mutually beneficial way of increasing additional revenue for our farmers while maintain our land 100% organic.

My wife and I have a very strong philosophy about the cacao industry and our business is aimed at reversing the poverty trend and increasing wealth at the farmers level.  We currently have partnerships with the University of West Indies – Cave Hill campus in Barbados and also a direct partnership with Governor Olusegun Mimiko from Ondo State, Nigeria.  Our focus is very simple, the finest chocolates in the world can ONLY be derived from the hands of farmers.

Farmers control the quality from cultivation, harvest and post-harvest processing.  Instead of farm-gate exporters, they need to be “factory-gate” exporters.  Exporting raw materials is exportation of jobs, cash and wealth.  By manufacturing chocolate in country, not only the cleanest and finest process is involved, but the best can be achieved in country.  The end result permits the farmers to own a higher equity stake in the value chain.

SPAGnVOLA, although a Dominican brand, represents the finest chocolates derived by farmers.  This past year we assisted Nigeria in creating the very first, premium single-estate chocolate from Nigeria.

Last year we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Ondo State, Nigeria
to bring more prosperity to cocoa farmers.  We believe that all cocoa
growing regions should manufacture single-source and single-estate chocolate
in country...  That is the only way that cocoa as a commodity will bring
more prosperity to the farmers, while permitting the farmers to participate
in a higher equity stake.

Chocolatiers around the world should be purchasing chocolate brick of chips
from these countries, re-melt the chocolate and use it for their
confectionary needs.  In the end, when a chef makes a chocolate dish, they
co-brand the dish with the geographical location of the chocolate, for
instance... Nigerian Dark Chocolate Cake, Dominican Chocolate Cupcake!

  We are also building a chocolate academy to begin teaching farmers on how to manufacture premium chocolate and also to transform the chocolate into truffles, bonbons and other confection.

Today Nigeria has a 70-million dollar chocolate industry…. They export their cacao beans  They import 70-million dollars’ worth of junk chocolate confection. 

Nigeria should be a Belgium internally.  We will use chocolate manufactured in Nigeria as part of the school feeding programs and get Nigerians to appreciate fine quality chocolate, the momentum is already underway.  If you communicate with any chocolatier around the world, no one has ever tasted a true premium chocolate from Nigeria, they don’t even know what it taste like.

Overtime, 10-30 years, we begin to see cocoa farms develop similar to the
wine industry.... Where grape vineyards also make fine wine.  When this
happens, we begin to see prosperity at the core level of the commodity and
reduction of poverty across the board.  Today, many cocoa farmers are well
into retirement age, and traditional generational handover is not happening,
mainly due to cocoa farming being viewed as poverty instead of a true
business.  The end result of continuing down the path of ignorance, we will
see a steady decline in new generations of cocoa farmers, while a steady
increase in poor quality chocolates based on poor quality farming.  The end
result is a no win situation for both the farmers and the consumers.

The industry as a whole must understand that the days in which farmer
assistance is viewed as just supplying fertilizers and input on yield
creation is just not a sustainable model.  The input that SPAGnVOLA
subscribes to is partnering with the farmers and educate them on the
industry past the farm-gate and providing input to build industries within
cocoa producing countries to produce their own chocolate for further add
value by chocolatiers, chefs and other manufactures of chocolate

When I found out about the Nigerian chocolate I quickly emailed the wonderful Ozoz from Nigeria who has the blog Kitchen Butterfly maybe she can visit :-) the farm and factory and blog about it for us . This post really drove home how a premium chocolate made in Nigeria could change the food scene and show that imported isn't always best.

SpagnVola has two retail boutiques in the Washington DC area.  One in the Kentlands-Gaithersburg, Maryland.  The other at National Harbor near Washington DC.  The factory is located at the Kentlands location. 

In the end, I want those who truly enjoy chocolate, to be exposed to this movement and enjoy the finest chocolates with a genuine social cause not based on charity, but true equitable share and wealth creation.

Hope you check out this company and if you live near DC visit the store, they also offer chocolate making classes :-)) and I am sure you agree they are a family that truly cares.

Eric A. Reid
President / Founder
Work: 240-654-6972
Mobile US: 240-388-7086
Dominican Rep.: 829-282-9754
Nigeria: +234-806-731-6038

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