Welcome to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines!
When you hear the name of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines you probably think of the tropical island nation as an exclusive holiday destination with incredible landscapes of beaches, palm trees and clear blue water. But it also has other exciting things to offer: cocoa and chocolate!
We asked Wilf Marriott from Saint Vincent Cocoa Company to share some insights about their company, the people behind their cocoa and their vision.
After this interview we fell a bit more in love with this cocoa origin, and we hope you will too!
2014: The SVG Cocoa Company is Born
Wilf’s father, Harry Marriott (Chairman) alongside Andrew Hadley (Managing Director), were the main driving forces behind the establishment of the St. Vincent Cocoa Company. Wilf’s function is Global sales, marketing, sustainability and media management.
The birth of the St Vincent Cocoa Company was a huge stroke of luck. When Nicko Debenham and Sir James Mitchell met at the Marriotts’ house in Bequia, they devised a plan to reintroduce cacao to the island of St. Vincent. Amajaro, the company Nicko worked for at the time, had been bought by Ecom Agrotrade Ltd. who decided that the St Vincent venture did not fit their expansion plans. Harry Marriott & Andrew Hadley then teamed up and bought the operation from Ecom with the objective to boost fine flavour cacao production on the island and to distribute Vicentian cocoa to the world market.
The reasons behind the establishment of the company were many. ‘We love St Vincent, the people, the landscape and most importantly, it grows fantastic fine flavour cacao!’
Meet some of the team – From left: Harry Marriott (Chairman), Andrew Hadley (Managing Director), George Defreitas (Land Manager), Daine Mcmillan (Nursery Manager)
SGV Cocoa: A Company with a Mission
The Company’s mission is to establish a successful business and viable cocoa industry by producing rich, fine flavour cocoa in a responsible and sustainable manner. By doing so, they support local communities by offering large-scale employment in the field as well as management opportunities within the Company structure. This all contributes to the overall economy and development of St. Vincent & the Grenadines. With Andrew and Harry both being Vincentian, they could look nowhere else!
State of the art drying facilities
A ‘Normal’ Working Day
Wilf works in London mostly, he is in charge of all global sales, marketing and media for St. Vincent Cocoa Company. He is also the Managing Director of Islands Chocolate, the UK sister company of SVG that sells chocolate under the name Islands Chocolate.
‘Each day is completely different with many challenges arising which I find incredibly interesting. Whether it be a Skype call with a cocoa buyer in Amsterdam or dealing with a small deli in London wanting to buy Islands, no day is ever the same.’
For the Love of the Farm
‘The farmland is incredibly diverse, with a huge variety of crops growing everywhere. In addition to the land, it is the people that we work with that makes it that much more enjoyable: everyone from the farms, the field team management and the chocolatiers in the factory. Every one of them share a special bond and work towards the same goal: to create a sustainable cocoa and chocolate industry in St. Vincent.’
Even though the soil in Saint Vincent is very rich and great for growing cacao and other fruit trees, SGV has also had to deal with the challenges of undulating slopes, frequent landslides and thick bush on the island. ‘Nonetheless, when you see the cacao being looked after properly and bearing pods, it makes the whole process worthwhile’, explains Wilf.
View from the SVG farm
A Sunny Future
‘We are keen to grow and expand. At the moment we have 200 employees on St. Vincent. As we grow, we want to be able to offer our loyal team management positions within the company. We want everyone to take pride in their work and to contribute to reach our group goal of maintaining a sustainable cocoa industry. This entails constantly improving our FairCocoa Sustainability program, further developing our agroforestry systems and being more involved in helping out the local schools in St Vincent by improving their infrastructure and overall facilities.’
‘For me, whilst I am dedicated to growing the company, it is also a top priority to produce a sustainable and transparent cocoa industry.’
Cocoa set out to dry on elevated wooden tables
From Saint Vincent with Love: Islands Chocolate
Islands Chocolate Company is SGV’s sister company producing tree to bar chocolate under the brand “Islands Chocolate”. The cocoa is not only grown in Saint Vincent but is also processed there. Every batch of cocoa is hand-sorted before being delivered to the chocolate workshop in Kingstown. A self-taught team of chocolatiers grind and conch the beans in small batches. After a three day conching period, the chocolate is moulded into bars, tempered and hand-wrapped.
And Wilf’s personal favourite?
‘I love the Islands 80% bar with nibs. It is hazelnutty and citrussy, combined with the nibs gives it a bit of a crunch, it’s really delicious’