We all love chocolates. And we certainly don’t mind buying any of the popular European or American brands that are ubiquitous in our shops, even though they are manufactured thousands of miles away. When visiting Ghana, one’s desire is to try locally processed chocolate.

Getting the same brands you find anywhere in the world would certainly not bring the same excitement. However, it was quite rare to find chocolates that are processed and packaged in Ghana, except for  Golden Tree chocolates processed by the state-owned Chocolate Processing Company (CPC).

In the last decade, significant changes have occurred in the country’s cocoa sector. Several small and medium-scale artisanal chocolatiers have emerged. Ivory Coast, which, together with Ghana, accounts for 65% of the world’s total cocoa supply, appears to have experienced a similar chocolate revolution.

Amonu Chocolates, a medium-sized artisanal chocolate processing company, is one of the pioneers in Ghana’s emerging chocolate processing industry. The chocolatier’s story is closely intertwined with Africa’s greatest sporting event, the African Cup of Nations.

When Ghana was chosen to host the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, Nana Ama Kufuor saw an opportunity to create something uniquely Ghanaian that the thousands of fans would take home after the conclusion of the international men’s football competition. “Being an artist, I partnered with a highly professional graphic designer, William Nikoi, to design an appropriate souvenir tin packaging printed with the colors of the Ghanaian flag for guests to purchase,” Ms. Kufuor said.

The hexagonal-shaped tin, wrapped in black, yellow, and green colors, marks the beginning of Amonu and for five years the company has been doing its best to promote Ghanaian chocolate on the global stage. Initial focus was on packaging, where Ms. Kufuor’s talents as an artist and businesswoman were best showcased.

“All of our packaging is inspired by Ghanaian culture, history, art, and tourist attractions,” she explains. “And it seemed like there was a market waiting because people were fascinated by the packaging,” she admits. She acknowledges that the distinctive packaging played a crucial role in Amonu’s initial success in the chocolate processing industry.

Venturing into the world of Chocolate Processing

A huge unexploited opportunity, however, remained untapped in processing. Ghana, like its neighbor Ivory Coast, primarily exports cocoa beans to be used as raw materials for chocolate production. As a result, the country does not fully benefit from the cocoa and chocolate market, which was valued at US$48.29 billion in 2022.

Most of the revenue goes to large multinational chocolate companies, often headquartered in Europe and North America, while cocoa-producing countries and their impoverished farmers receive less than 10% of the revenue. Fairtrade states that, on average, cocoa farmers earn just 6% of the final value of a chocolate bar.

To retain a larger portion of cocoa revenue within Ghana, the government initiated efforts to promote local value addition. The training program for aspiring chocolatiers was spearheaded by the state-owned Chocolate Processing Company (CPC).

Until then, Amonu had only focused on packaging and marketing chocolates made by CPC. CPC has considerable expertise in chocolate production. They have been in the processing business since it was established by Ghana’s first President, Dr. Osagyego Kwame Nkrumah.

With some convincing from Nana Agyenim Boateng, the CEO of CPC, Ms. Kufuor underwent her initial training in processing and chocolate making at CPC. Armed with her newfound knowledge in processing and her existing experience in chocolate marketing, Ms. Kufuor took Amonu to the next level as a chocolate producer in 2018.

“We initially started producing chocolates on a small scale, with the assistance of other small-scale producers. However, the positive response from those who tasted our chocolates gave us the confidence to gradually expand our production capacity.

Five years later, our operations have grown significantly. “On average, we produce a minimum of 2,000 to 3,000 bars a day,” she reveals. The bars come in various sizes to meet the needs of a diverse profile of customers. “We have a 100g bar, a 50g bar, and a 20g bar, as well as bonbons and sweets. We also offer sugar-free options, as well as plant-based and dairy-free bars and bonbons.”

Amonu also provides customized chocolates when requested by individual customers, organizations, corporate clients, hotels, or hospitality clients. “Our initial plan was not necessarily to produce customized chocolates, but there was such a demand and a large market for it that we couldn’t ignore,” she admits.

Having something for everyone

Amonu produces 9 flavors of premium milk chocolate bars: Dark, Peanut, Toffee and Sea Salt, Milk, Ginger, Coconut, Coffee Toffee, White chocolate with Nibs, and Lemon in White chocolates. For vegans, Amonu offers Almond, Tigernut and Coconut. Sugar-free options include Date and Almond, Date and Tigernut, Date and Coconut, and Stevia and Date.

“There’s something for everybody,” she says. “For those who love nuts, they can choose peanuts, and if you enjoy spicy flavors, you can opt for ginger.”

A unique proposition of Amonu is that it sources almost all of its raw materials locally. This not only has a positive impact on the economy, but also on the livelihood of women who are involved in growing or selling peanuts, salt, cocoa nibs, coconut, coffee, and ginger. Amonu incorporates these ingredients into its chocolates.

A strategic location at one of Ghana’s international airports, T3, and an active presence on social media have expanded Amonu’s market reach. “Being at the airport allowed me to showcase my products to a global audience, which is one of the reasons why I believe I receive a significant number of online sales from the UK and America.” Within Africa, Amonu has achieved significant sales in Togo and has also managed to reach places as far as Rwanda.

With the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Ghana’s Export Promotion Agency (GEPA) has been actively organizing trade expos in other African countries to promote Ghanaian products. Amonu seized this opportunity and was in Nairobi in June of this year, where it had the chance to showcase its products to Kenyan consumers.

Amonu, having received positive feedback, has set its sights on expanding into the East African nation. “We aim to please Kenyans by introducing Kenyan macadamia nuts into our chocolates,” she says.” I hope this will entice the leading consumer market in the region into joining our growing number of export markets.”

This feature appeared in the September 2023 issue of FOOD BUSINESS AFRICA. You can read this and the entire magazine HERE