Cape Chocolate Maker takes Authentic Bean-to-Bar Production to New Heights
A Western Cape chocolate maker is the latest food producer to partner with Invenfin, the venture capital arm of Remgro Limited. He is one of the few confectioners in Africa to produce chocolate from cocoa beans sourced directly from the continent’s cocoa farmers.
Based at Remgro’s Stellenbosch head-office, Invenfin’s Foods Division provides financial, marketing and strategic business support to owner-run food and beverage companies showing the potential to increase their local and international footprint through the offering of authentic products, often made with an artisanal approach.
DV Artisan Chocolate, which operates out of retail and production premises at Spice Route in Paarl and its new production facility at Simondium between Paarl and Franschhoek, is a specialist producer of a premium bean-to-bar chocolate brand and plans to grow its retail footprint following its partnership with Invenfin, which has taken a significant minority share in the company.
Pieter de Villiers, owner and CEO of DV Artisan Chocolate is not only the first South African bean-to-bar chocolate maker, but his business is also one of the few of its kind in Africa – a continent which grows 70% of the world’s cocoa beans, but produces less than 1% of the world’s chocolate.
According to De Villiers, the partnership with Invenfin will enable him to build the brand in terms of scale and profile without compromising on the founding principles of DV Artisan Chocolate: originality, purity, quality and heritage.
“I wasn’t interested in an investment that would turn DV Artisan Chocolate into an artificial, mass-produced brand, and I wasn’t willing to budge on the heritage and style of what DV Artisan Chocolate has become known for. I didn’t want a dictating partner – I wanted the right partner that saw the potential of the business, shared our values and could allow us to add scale throughout the operation, which is the major challenge,” says De Villiers.
What started in 2009 in a humble setting – a double garage fitted with an old masala grinder, a hairdryer and a recycled washing machine – has since grown into a recognised brand. Today, DV Artisan Chocolate has its brand listed in Woolworths stores.
Invenfin Foods’ mandate, being to invest in brands with the potential to engage consumers who deliberately seek out authentic experiences and products, resonated with De Villiers: “They understood that I wasn’t willing to compromise on the credibility of the DV Artisan Chocolate brand. Our focus is to remain a sustainable, single-origin, premium chocolate.”
According to De Villiers, who travels regularly in Africa to meet the cocoa farmers personally from whom he sources the organically-farmed UTZ-certified beans, this investment from Invenfin will allow him to spend even more time in the value-chain, enabling him to get closer to the source of the bean.
“Invenfin brings important skills to the table to support me. Their strong governance coupled with extensive knowledge of business strategy, product development, marketing and sales means that I can keep focused on the quality of the product.”
Judy Sendzul, head of Invenfin Foods, says when it comes to specialist chocolate production, DV Artisan Chocolate is in a league of its own. “Pieter’s extraordinary dedication to producing the perfect chocolate is present at all stages of production, from sourcing the cocoa beans from six identified growing regions – mostly from the Bundibugyo district in Western Uganda – right up to developing final packaging. And it is perfection you can taste,” says Sendzul.
“These bean-to-bar chocolate artisans are changing the way people consume the world’s most popular treat. DV Artisan Chocolate’s ethos represents the values, integrity and commitment to quality that discerning consumers are looking for the world over and the company is a welcome addition to the Invenfin family,” adds Sendzul.
Information from Feed that Bird