A champion award finalist: Montanos’ Chocolate Company

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Many of us would know that one of the most important people behind soca superstar Machel Montano over the years has been his mom, “Lady”, as she is familiarly called. But Elizabeth Montano, MPhil, is also a frontline executive in Montanos’ Chocolate Company Ltd. For this role, she was named a finalist for the Entrepreneurship award (sponsored by the Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation) in the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce’s annual Champions of Business Awards 2021.

From the soca industry, the Montano brand took an entrepreneurial step forward in 2014 when it entered the local market with a 50g Happy Nation chocolate bar as a Carnival-to-Valentine’s day promotion.

“It was a testing of the market,” said Montano. “While there was not much financial reward, it helped us to understand a lot, and prepared the ground for us.”

By 2018, having undertaken further market research and made comprehensive changes including a smaller 25g size, and new name and packaging, the Machel Montano 60% Dark Chocolate Bar hit the market. The product is all-natural vegan snack. There are no preservatives, no mould inhibitors, no emulsifiers and no additives. It is a healthy, nutritious, powerful source of antioxidants that may help to improve brain function and assist in boosting the immune system.

The company invests in the chocolate and cocoa industries with the aim of ongoing commercialisation. They contribute to the growth and development of the agro-processing sector and also the revitalisation of the cocoa industry.

By their investments, they are helping to strengthen the domestic farm to market supply chain, producing cocoa and chocolate products which are supplied to the local market and some niche export markets. Audited accounts have shown a 50 per cent increase in the company’s annual turnover from 2018/19 to 2019/20.

They have also invested in building a chocolate factory which was officially launched on November 24 – the birthday of Machel, its brand ambassador. With brother Marcus as the driving force, it now produces cocoa nibs, cocoa butter and cocoa powder alongside the signature Machel Montano Bar. The factory provides employment to approximately 10 people, assists with training and also makes its facilities available to other chocolate makers. They are seeking to acquire dormant cocoa estates to help revitalise the local industry, moving the product from bean to bar.

At present, the chocolate bars are distributed through Hadco, and available locally at major retail outlets. In Canada, it is distributed by KM Imports and IAMCARIBBEING, mostly supplying the diaspora. Distribution to the wider Caribbean, Europe and Latin America is also on the agenda. Additionally, they have a distribution agreement with COEX Group SAS, headed by Dr Angelica Herrera Munoz of Bogota, Colombia, where she had secured interests in the Machel Montano cocoa and chocolate products.

- Navindra Harbukhan

This family owned and operated company looks beyond the profit motive to a principle of holistic success. It has already started to provide training and employment, focusing on rural farming communities and with particular emphasis on women and youths.

Through the Machel Montano Foundation and corporate sponsors such as FCB and Courts, assistance is provided to rural communities for chocolate production in ongoing projects. The assistance may take the form of soft loans which are repaid from the enterprise’s profits. On two occasions, in 2014 and 2016, the Foundation sponsored community members to the North West Chocolate Festival held in Seattle, Washington, where on both occasions they won the Festival’s Sustainability Award. Montanos’ Chocolate is currently working the Siparia-based WHYFARM.

Although the entrepreneurship award eventually went to Kyle Maloney of Tech Beach Retreat Ltd, with three generations of Montanos involved in this sweet enterprise, the future seems bright for Montanos’ Chocolate Co Ltd.

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"A champion award finalist: Montanos’ Chocolate Company"

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