A Q&A interview with Andal Balu and Balu Balasubramanian, Owners
Industry: Food Processing Equipment
CocoaTown designs, develops, and distributes unique, multipurpose equipment to make gourmet chocolate bars from beans, nut butters and nut milks from nuts and other gourmet foods.
What motivated your company to start selling internationally?
When CocoaTown’s parent company InnoConcepts was formed in 1992 its goal was to market high-quality specialty kitchen appliances designed to impart authentic tastes from around the world. When we began selling our cocoa grinding machines in 2006 (we created CocoaTown brand in 2008) we quickly discovered a niche “bean to bar” market geared towards craft chocolate makers looking to expand their offerings and grow their businesses.. We also found success selling directly to international cocoa bean farmers who can use CocoaTown machines to vertically integrate their cocoa bean production. Our machines are empowering small cocoa bean farmers all over the world who can now grind their own beans and produce the chocolate themselves ultimately gaining a foothold in downstream profits they previously missed out on.
What is the biggest lesson your company has learned about exporting?
It’s important to understand the culture of different countries. The way you approach a customer must be tailored to his/her culture and background. The solution our product provides is always the same, but the way we present it changes depending on the market. This impacts everything from the sales pitch to actual components of the machine.
How have GDEcD’s International Trade Team and its partners helped your company achieve success internationally?
CocoaTown has worked with a variety of export partners in Georgia including GDEcD, the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the UGA Small Business Development Center’s International Trade Center. The grant money we received from the 2017 Metro Export Challenge (MEC) program opened up a variety of opportunities both in expanding our international marketing efforts and increasing local exposure for the CocoaTown brand. We used the MEC grant money to travel to Salon Du Chocolat in Paris, the world’s most prestigious event dedicated to chocolate. Attending that tradeshow helped us connect with a myriad of stakeholders in the chocolate industry.
The UGA Small Business Development Center has been invaluable in helping us hone our export strategy and better understand the nuances of various markets. We’ve also benefitted from GDEcD’s international trade services by leveraging Georgia’s international trade representatives. Earlier this year we participated in a GDEcD trade mission to South America where Georgia’s representatives in Colombia and Peru set up appointments with key industry stakeholders. The mission helped us better understand the chocolate market in Peru and Colombia and we now have a much better export strategy for those countries.
What advice do you have for companies that are just starting to export?
Time and effort are key factors. It takes time to get through regulations, standards and procedures; it all requires patience and sustainable export success does not happen instantaneously, but all the effort is worth it in the long run. And always remember that you can start small – you don’t have to ship an entire container for your first order! We started with just one or two machines and grew from there.
What has been your biggest export achievement?
We are very proud that our products have been able to help not only chocolatiers and professional chocolate makers but also local farmers producing the cocoa beans. By providing affordable equipment, CocoaTown has enabled farmers to do far more than just sell beans at low commodity prices. Our products have given them the ability to further integrate themselves into the chocolate supply chain and take part in a greater share of the profits. We feel like we are helping change the international cocoa industry and making it a more egalitarian landscape for stakeholders who have historically been taken advantage of.
To learn more about InnoConcepts dba CocoaTown visit www.cocoatown.com.
By Georgia.org | Original Article: Georgia exporter spotlight - Cocoatown