EU-GSP+ boosts PH chocolate exports

The EU-Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) has been instrumental in boosting the exports of AURO Chocolates, one of 24 Philippine companies that are able to export products to the 27-member states EU.

Kelly Go, co-founder and manager of AURO Chocolates, said AURO sales have increased by almost 200 percent since the pandemic. AURO directly exports to more than 15 countries with over 40 European chocolate makers using the company’s fine cacao beans to make Philippine-origin chocolate.

Go said its exports have been boosted by the EU-GSP+, which grants duty-free status to eligible products to the EU market, making its cacao exports competitive against other countries.

According to Go, EU countries are using her company’s chocolate products. Being able to export to the EU means that Philippine cacao can compete globally with other well-known chocolate brands.

“Our chocolate bars are doing well due to GSP+, which serves as a gateway support to the EU market,” she said noting that her products are able to stand side-by-side with other internationally known brands, allowing her company to continue to grow business with their EU partners.

“Thanks to the GSP+ status, we have become part of the international cacao beans market, which led to an increase in our sales. This means there is a growing demand for our partner farming community’s beans, thus generating more income for them, while providing a stable market for their cacao.”

Another EU-funded project is ARISE Plus Philippines, which seeks to enable Philippine exporters to take advantage of EU market access. It supports the overall EU-Philippines trade relationship and trade-related policies.

ARISE Plus Philippines is led by the Department of Trade and Industry together with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, Bureau of Customs, the Department of Science and Technology, and the private sector.

With all beans directly sourced from local cacao growers in Laguna, Auro is promoting sustainability by working directly with local farmers to cultivate fine cacao beans, improving ingredients, and expanding retail products with unique and bold tropical flavors, such as dried mango. The AURO Chocolate factory in Calamba, Laguna, about 3 hours south of Manila.

Go shared that in 2013, while finishing her university degree in Chicago, she got to taste an American craft chocolate using Philippine-origin cacao. She decided to learn more about this craft by enrolling in Le Cordon Bleu in Paris for a Diploma in Culinary Arts.

Their company, Auro Chocolate, was eventually launched in 2017 as a tree-to-bar chocolate brand and social enterprise introducing community development programs and premiums above commodity price for supporting farmers.

From a team of 20 staff, it has grown to over 100 employees working towards the export of its products to the EU and other countries since 2018.

“We involve ourselves in every step of the process by consistently working with our partner farmers to enable them to produce fine quality cacao beans that meet international quality standards,” she said.

There were challenges to be hurdled before successful exports to EU could materialize.

“At selling events, people would question the quality of our products as chocolates from the Philippines are unheard of,” Kelly said.

To aspiring exporters from the Philippines, Go advised them “not to feel intimidated when trying to apply for GSP+. DTI is there to assist you throughout the application and help make your brand marketable. It’s also a great opportunity for your products to be introduced and grow in the EU Market.”

To win the trust of consumers regarding chocolate products grown and made in the Philippines, she said that one must be aware of mandatory procedural requirements.

The Philippine Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) – Export Marketing Bureau (EMB) assisted Auro in completing the mandatory regulatory requirements for exporting in EU. The Centre for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) further supported the company in organizing country booths in key international trade fairs such as Salon du Chocolat in France.

“We have exciting plans. On the farm side, we are to launch more community initiatives that are interwoven with our current cacao program. We are also expanding our sourcing to introduce new, exciting origins of chocolates. Shifting to more environmentally friendly practices and materials across the supply chain is also on the cards.”