Dari K’s cacao innovation

Indonesia, the global but undiscovered cacao producer

Asian cacao beans seldom imported to Japan

Cacao is grown around between the latitude of 20 degrees north and south of the equator, with a scientific name "Theobroma Cacao," meaning "food for the gods."

The left map shows the distribution of the cacao producers. When it comes to cacao, many people would come up with countries such as African countries including Ghana, or Latin American countries like Ecuador. But surprisingly, cacao is also produced in Asia too. Moreover, Indonesia is actually one of the largest producer of cacao in the world.

Importers and volume of cacao beans imported to Japan (2013)
Production volume of cacao beans in the world (2011)

Indonesia is the second largest producer of cacao beans, and its volume is almost the same as Ghana in the third place. However, Ghana accounts for 80.6% of the imported cacao beans in Japan while Indonesia only has 0.3% of the share.

Why cacao beans are not imported from Indonesia

Despite the same production volume as Ghana, why aren't Indonesian cacao beans imported to Japan? Dari K discovered the answer through an original research.

The reason was because Indonesia has been exporting cacao beans without carrying out the "fermentation" process that is essential when making good chocolates. Cacao farmers were unaware of the fermentation process, but we also found out that even if they managed to ferment and produce quality beans, the beans were purchased in a price as low as those unfermented ones.

Process after harvesting cacao beans

To produce cacao beans that meet the needs of the Japanese market, Dari K educated the local farmers to understand the importance of the fermentation which enhances the aroma of the cacao when made into chocolates. The next step was to teach them the technique, and we bought those high quality cacao beans directly for the farmers so that they will have a better income. At the same time, we have been importing those cacao beans to make an aromatic chocolates. This is to dispel the impression of Indonesian cacao beans as being "non-fermented and low quality" and to be recognized as high quality with a balanced bitterness and acidity gained through appropriate fermentation.

The origin of Dari K

Indonesia, a nation with 18 thousand islands. Within Indonesia, more than 70% of the cacao beans are produced in Sulawesi Island located between Bali and Philippines. We aim to change the chocolate industry through the innovation of cacao production in Sulawesi Island.

Dari means "from" in Indonesian. The letter K derives from the shape of Sulawesi Island when seen on the map. In short, the name of our company, Dari K, is infused with our philosophy to "change the world through cacao from Sulawesi Island." K is also for Kyoto. We will show the world the potential of cacao "from Sulawesi Island and from Kyoto."

Dari K's cacao innovation

Why Dari K is innovative

We aim to challenge and change the world by three points as below:

Realizing a triple-win relationship

Many Japanese are becoming aware of fair trade, a system to improve the income of farmers and workers in developing countries by purchasing agricultural products and items in an appropriate price. However, not all fair trades are versatile. For example, if there are two bags of cacao beans worth 100 yen and 125 yen, fair trade cacao beans are 25 yen more expensive than the normal ones, and this will be a contribution to the farmers if the balance is 100% given to them. On the other hand, though the farmers will gain more, consumers will not benefit from the difference in quality though they paid 25 yen more for the cacao beans.

Instead of buying the cacao beans at 125 yen per bag unconditionally under the name of fair trade, we propose to the farmers with a condition that we will buy the cacao beans at 125 yen if they produce high quality cacao beans. However, farmers that never even tasted a chocolate before do not know what we mean by high quality. This is why we ferment the beans together so that they can acquire the techniques. Dari K will then purchase only the beans with better aroma. On the other hand, we will not purchase unfermented cacao beans worth 100 yen, 50 yen or even 10 yen a bag. This may sound harsh, but we believe that this system motivates the farmers to "try hard, enhance the quality, and raise the income." We are confident that we are realizing a "fair trade won by the producers," not "fair trade to show pity."

Compensation to farmers and the quality of cacao beans (image)

Dari K can actually eliminate agent's intermediate margin as we have direct transactions with our contract farmers. On the other hand, we purchase the beans from the farmers 20-30% higher than the normal market price. The conventional "Fair trade" is done by merely having a transaction higher than the market price, but this only enabled consumers to make "donations" as a charity without solving the root of the problem. We tackled this issue and achieved (1) farmers to acquire quality cacao cultivation techniques and gain higher income, and (2) Dari K to secure high quality cacao beans. Moreover, we created a system for (3) consumers to pay the price for an item that is worth the money instead of a "donation", that is, enjoying good chocolate while contributing to the farmers. We have generated a triple Win-Win-Win situation among the farmers, chocolate producers, and consumers. Control the whole supply chain and add value to each process - this is Dari K's business model.


Pure chocolate without using couverture chocolates

The most significant difference between other confectionery shops and Dari K is that we do not use any couverture chocolates. We have our original recipe to make flavorful chocolates from cacao beans.

Just like cooking, it is essential for confectioners to prepare good ingredients to make delicious products. Even a good cook will have a hard time getting the most of the ingredients if the meat purchased is of low grade, the fish was not fresh, or the vegetables are not in season. In other words, there would be a higher possibility of whipping up a great dish or sweets with best ingredients and a skillful chef.

Usually, chocolatiers start off with couverture chocolates. Couverture chocolate is an ingredient chocolate for confectionery production, made from milled cacao beans (cacao mass) with cacao butter, vegetable oils, and sugar. While couverture chocolate is easy to process during confectionery production, the oil and sugar added tends to weaken cacao bean's wild acidity and nutty flavor it originally had. In this regard, Dari K enables the production of a rich flavored chocolate maximizing the taste of cacao beans, through Dari K's own supply chain from procurement to production and by carefully dealing with cacao beans as the taste slightly differ by harvest and by trees.
We are proud that our chocolates are one of a kind where you can actually enjoy the real taste of cacao and feel the passion of the producers and chocolatiers.

Comparison of chocolate production process

Changing the world through Cacao

Our aim goes beyond being a chocolate company. We believe that cacao is a great ingredient that can be applied for other products and a suitable item for a real fair trade. The primary purpose and the vision of Dari K is to Change the world by expanding the wide-ranging projtects about cacao.