Woman-led local chocolate brand highlights the use of Davao cacao 

Found in the cacao capital of the Philippines, Nutrarich Nutraceutical Innovations, NutraRich for short, is an FDA-registered chocolate manufacturer that uses locally-sourced cacao.

It works hand in hand with Davao farmers to ensure the quality of cacao beans that they use for their chocolates. 

Behind this enterprise is Harleen Jao, 32, who formed NutraRich in 2015 due to her interest in cacao beans.

With the assistance of government agencies, Jao’s fascination with the crop grew over time, fueled by her involvement in expos, promotional events, and technology seminars.

This has contributed to the continuous growth of her business in terms of size, credibility, and capacity.

NutraRich boasts its best-selling tablea which is a perfect ingredient for the traditional Filipino hot chocolate. Jao says, “Tableas are rich in antioxidants, high in fiber, and mineral content.” 

She continues, “NutraRich has innovated its manufacturing process to offer easy melt tablea, which is easier to cook and leave no more coarse granules. This way, NutraRich looks forward to bringing back the Filipino drinking chocolate tradition.”

The business also explored different uses of cacao beans over the years. Apart from tablea, it also expanded into other categories such as milk and dark chocolates, cacao nibs, cacao powder, chocolate mixes, and cocoa spread. It incorporated other produce such as Philippine mangoes and durian in the chocolates as well.

In 2018, it also began catering to industrial customers for ice cream production and pastry applications.

In 2020, NutraRich was granted HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) and GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) certifications by the TUV Nord that validate their food safety control measures.

Today, NutraRich sells about a ton of its products every month.

Despite all these achievements, it wasn’t always easy to operate the enterprise, especially when the pandemic broke out.

The rising production costs due to the price hikes in raw materials become a challenge for them to stay in the business. “We solve these by optimizing our operations through proper planning, projection, and utilization of our available resources,” Jao said. 

Proudly local

Jao, who is also the chemical and production engineer of NutraRich, runs her manufacturing company full-time.

She said that the cooperatives where she sources raw materials have “integrated good agricultural practices and are recipients of different government projects that ensure quality and sustainability from farm management to post-harvest facilities as well as programs for its members, community, and its surrounding environment.” 

One of their partner cooperatives is the Malita Rural Workers Agrarian Beneficiaries Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MARWABEMPCO) in Davao Occidental, which has more or less 15 hectares of land devoted to cacao.

However, due to the declining buying price of cacao in the area, usually ranging from P80-P90 per kilo, the cooperative is focusing more on growing Cavendish bananas.

The current chairman of MARWABEMPCO says that they supply about 1.5 to two tons of cacao to Jao every three months. He adds that she pays P140 per kilo for their cacao, which is higher than the buying price. This contributes to the sustainability of their remaining cacao trees.

Their chocolate products also feature local produce such as mangoes and durian.

Not only does the brand support the farmers in the region, but it also represents the country by exporting its products and making them available in some stores in the US.

Jao advised others to maximize their businesses’ export potential by: (1) focusing on the quality and food certification; (2) knowing the target market (such as age group and nationality) to ensure the sustainability of export; (3) reaching out to influencers to introduce the products; (4) and joining food expos that cater to international markets where they can get feedback on the consumers’ taste preference.

NutraRich products are available for as low as P150 in almost all major supermarkets and airports nationwide.

Jao plans to bring more Filipino-made chocolates to the global market while keeping its high standards for food safety and quality.

Read more: The market potential of value-added cacao products in the Philippines

Photos courtesy of Harleen Jao

For more information, visit NutraRich

Read more about farming and gardening at agriculture.com.ph