Indonesia's chocoholics lead an Asian quality wave

Fri Dec 23, 2011 12:21pm EST
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By Michael Taylor

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Arriving in Indonesia just a little over a decade ago, Belgium chocolatier Thierry Detournay was dismayed at the lack of quality chocolate on offer in the world's third-largest cocoa producer.

But now, less than seven years after launch, his luxury Chocolate Monggo bars can be found in many of the gigantic and glitzy malls of downtown Jakarta.

As Southeast Asia's largest economy goes from strength to strength -- highlighted by a return to investment-grade status by Fitch Ratings this month -- Indonesia's Willy Wonka is one of many tapping into a growing Asian market for luxury chocolate.

"When I started to make chocolate in Indonesia, I realized there was no good chocolate," said Detournay, who began by converting a pink Vespa into a stall and selling home-made chocolate goodies at local markets.

Yogyakarta-based Chocolate Monggo now employs 50 people on the production side, sources cocoa beans from Javanese, Sumatran and Celebes plantations, and churns out as many as 75,000 chocolate bars per month.

"While I'm doing this business, I can see the tastes of Indonesian people changing," he added. "Now more and more people -- young and middle class adults -- are looking more for dark chocolate, and quality."

Chocolate consumption in Indonesia has plenty of scope to grow -- annual cocoa demand is estimated at only 0.2 kg per person, versus 0.6 kg in neighbor Malaysia and 10 kg in Europe.

Indonesia has said it wants to triple domestic cocoa consumption over the next three years.   Continued...

<p>A worker pours chocolate into a mould at Monggo Chocolate factory in Yogyakarta December 19, 2011. The growing taste for high quality chocolate in emerging markets -- especially in Asia -- will help boost global chocolate sales 2 percent to $81.8 billion in 2011, according to Mintel. Chocolate sale in China are forecast to rise 19 percent to $1.2 billion this year, and in India by 7 percent to $633 million, with Indonesian sales likely to jump 25 percent to $1.1 billion, data from the market research firm showed. To match Feature INDONESIA-COCOA/ REUTERS/Dwi Oblo</p>