3 YEARS OF HARD WORKING TO BUILD THE BRAND OF HANDMADE SOCOLA
Accidental chance to start a sweet dream
In 2016, on a business trip to Ba Ria Vung Tau, Mr. Ho Si Bao – the director of a transportation company in Saigon, had the opportunity to meet the cocoa farmers here. The land currently has about 1,200 hectares of cocoa tree, which is one of the seven place with a large cocoa area in Vietnam. The harvested area is 520 hectares, the annual harvested quantity is over 300 tons.
Mr. Bao founded that this is a big material area. The quality and taste of cocoa were very good, but the farrmers only sold the fruits and were easily pressed by the traders, so many farmers were discouraged and cut down to plant other trees which are more economical.
As a person who loves cocoa taste, so he has learned a lot about the uses of cocoa for health, Mr. Bao pities when cocoa trees were cut down and cocoa beans were thrown away in the garden. While the cocoa powder or chocolate in Viet Nam is considered as the premium products. These products are often purchased in overseas or imported into Vietnam from famous brand in abroad.
Access to the hope land
Returning to Saigon, although he is very busy but he can not forget the cacao tree. After a night of thinking, with an increasingly intense love and determination to create a brand for Cocoa and Chocolate of Ba Ria Vung Tau in particularly and Chocolate of Viet Nam in generally, Mr. Bao told the “shocking” idea to his wife to give up the stable job and sell their house to paint his dream of making Vietnamese handmade chocolates. After a time of persuasion, his wife agreed to sell their house and took their two children to Song Xoai, Ba Ria – Vung Tau to buy land, build house and make a cocoa processing workshop.
Many people said that he want to work related to cocoa fruit and chocolate, he can still stay in Saigon city, he just need to buy cocoa seeds and bring them to Sai Gon city to manufacture products. But Mr. Bao thinks that to produce quality products, the first criterion is to understand the origin of these products, Mr. Bao wants to be really a farmer to understand the desire of farmers. He also thinks that when farmers are happy and satisfied with their products, it is certainly the quality products. He and farmer will feel happy when they feel the value of the product bringing to the community.
Condidered a farmer as root of successful
From the beginning, Mr. Bao recognized the value of organic cocoa. Cocoa brought many benefits to the health and identified cocoa farmers as his root. The thinking of farmer is the immediate benefit, so they think that the normal cocoa tree will achieve a higher output than organic cocoa, they did not found that the economic potential of organic cocoa is better than the normal cocoa. Mr. Bao takes 4 months to received the acceptance of more than 30 farmers in Tan Thanh and Chau Duc districts to establish Organic cacao co-operatives in Chau Duc, Ba Ria Vung Tau to grow cocoa tree according to organic standards, without using chemical fertilizers on 55 hectares of area land. He accept to buy and underwrite for farmers at a price higher than the market of 20,000-30,000 VND/ kilogram in order to farmer feel secure to plan cocoa trees, reinvestment of organic fertilizer, improve the quality of organic cocoa seeds. According to him, it is a worthy value that peole deserve to get.
Overcoming the first defeat – Incubating fermented cocoa beans
When the source of cocoa was available, Mr. Bao invested 8 wooden boxes to ferment cocoa beans.
To make dried cocoa beans from cocoa pods, we need to incubate the fermented cocoa beans from 16 to 18 days, with a lot of effort and love and enthusiasm. He uses 12 kilograms of the best cocoa pods to make 1 kilogram of dried cocoa beans.
Each batch took 6 days to brew, it must be turned once per 24 hours.
During this process, Mr. Bao has to carefully check the temperature, moisture, odour and flavor of the fermented cocoa beans to ensure the fermentation process is completed. After 6 days of fermentation, cocoa beans were sun-dried for 10 days, the drying floor must be turned 4 to 5 times a day to allow the beans to dry naturally and retain flavor.
Due to lack of experience, the first batches failed completely. Without discouragement, he found out the reason after each failure, after several dozen incubations and losing hundreds of millions of VND, he finally succeeded in producing fully fermented cocoa beans, without being harden, purple and acrid. Cocoa beans have a strong taste and very good quality. He shared this joy with his family and farmers, and everyone was happy and excited.
The meaning of brandname
Looking at happy smiles and hopeful eyes of farmers, Mr. Bao is more determined in creating a brand for cocoa, Ba Ria Vung Tau chocolate. After a time with a hundred names, he finally chose the name BAPULA. The word “BA” had the meaning of Ba Ria Vung Tau, and it was also his name “BAO”, the word “PULA” had the meaning of “PHUC LAM”, it was the blessing of the mountains where he were living, it was also the names of his children, with the profound meaning of creating a brand of hereditary chocolate and having a long-term value.
The Second failure – The faith crisis
In 2017, Bapula cocoa powder was officially launched in Ba Ria Vung Tau market and distributed by Coop food system. Bapula Cocoa Powder was handcrafted with roaster, focusing on quality and non-alkaline so it preserved all the typical flavors of cocoa, it was completely different from cocoa in Vietnam market. Bapula cocoa powder was evaluated by most consumers as aromatic and delicious with a slightly sour and bitter taste which was very different, the flavor stayed long after enjoying.
However, the weakness of brand and incorrect identification of customer segments made output poor, backlog production, large operating costs while the distributors did not pay the arrears. At the peak, the warehouse still had 500 kg of powder worth nearly VND 240 million. The company must pay 5 employees and receive 4 tons of cocoa from 30 members each month. He feels time is so long when he must to face with many problems of capital, people, beliefs, …, He nearly feels to fall down and gives up his work.
Never give up – It means the chances of success is still existing.
Difficulty in piling up, shaky beliefs, pressure and crisis. But in the most difficult moment, he remembers the hopeful eyes of farmers and people in the company and especially of his family. He spent a day poring upon everything, remembering the first days he had dreamed of making the most delicious, pure and different chocolate bars from the best cocoa beans of Ba Ria Vung Tau.
He looked back on the work he had chosen, the work was not wrong but probably the business way is good. Feeling to find out enthusiam myseft of the past, he decided to return to the first step, which is to make pure chocolate, the highest value of cocoa and chocolate, to create a chocolate brand of Ba Ria Vung Tau in particular and of Vietnam in general, bringing chocolate to all Vietnamese people.
He sold a large part of cocoa beans in stock to get the money to continue his work. The money he sold, he paid all the debt to farmers, paid the salary for staff of company. The rest of money is using to make chocolate. The cocoa powder is still consumed by trust guest so he can maintains retail to cover his life.
The last chocolate batch – Original recipe
The rest of cocoa beans in stock are used to research, experiment by Mr. Bao. By one day of September 2017, Mr. Bao has a chance to meet representative of Meiji Chocolate Union (Japan) when they came to Ba Ria Vung Tau to visit the cacao garden. After visiting the cocoa gardern and listen his story, the representative of Meiji Union decided to support the technique of making handmade chocolates for Bapula. After making the new sample chocolate,he sent it to Japan for the partner to check, evaluate the taste, quality and fine tune. Some days, he have to work until 2-3 a.m to send the sample in the early morning.
Although determined to meet with difficults, the difficulties that arise when working are much greater than he imagined. Due to the determination of making pure chocolate, good for health, no preservatives, no lecithin stabilizer, chocolate is difficult to make. He changed the ingredients, tried more than a hundred treatments but still did not reach the desired quality. The cost of making, the cost of sending samples has reached hundreds of millions, the remaining capital is also exhausted. It takes nearly a year but he can meet the demand of Japanese co-operatiion and they also lost patience. “The bitter chocolate”, he felt the bitterness of chocolate and nearly completely helpless. He thought he should come back to Saigon city, resting in his daily life. In this warehouse, there was only a little cocoa beans, a little sugar and butter, he put everything in to make a last batch of chocolate, not to send to Japan but to give neighbors to make a farewell gifts. But this farewell could not have happened.
He discovered a new batch of chocolate, which is unusual, shiny, beautiful reddish brown, good crystallization, passionate flavor. Chocolate when eaten has a good melting, sour and bitter taste, feeling very different. He know he have done it. Especially, the last batch of chocolate is successful thanks to the original recipe from basic ingredients, simple but extremely artistic. Immediately, he sent this batch of chocolate to his Japanese counterpart, they greatly appreciated the taste, quality. The recognized the handmade chocolates which passed the tests in August 2018.
Bringing Vietnamese handmade chocolate to the world
After having a recipe for making chocolate and confident in the quality of his products, Mr. Bao decided to bring the Bapula Socola brand in Ba Ria Vung Tau to international level. In order to people in the world can know the Cocoa of Ba Ria Vung Tau province, he brought the product to the International Chocolate Competition. In September of 2018, Ba Ria Organic Chocolate 92% product won the Silver Award in the International Chocolate Award in the Asia-Pacific region in Taiwan and this product went on to the international round in Italy with Final prize. He became the only Vietnamese have this award and make Viet Nam handmade chocolate named in the world.
With Bapula this international award is not only of Bapula but also of all cocoa farmers of Ba Ria Vung Tau province in particular and Vietnam in general. This award has affirmed the quality of the organic cocoa source in Ba Ria Vung Tau province, Vietnam. It has created motivation to farmers believe in the future of organic cocoa and spend their time and effort to cultivate quality cocoa beans.
After the award, Bao’s Bapula handmade chocolate began to be known by many domestic and foreign partners, the amount of goods exported was quite a lot, hardship seemed to be backed up for success.
With the desire to bring the true value of cocoa fruit to consumers, Bapula focused on pure black chocolate, no preservatives, no flavor, no stable substance, with high cocoa content from 68% up to 92%. The pure black chocolate not like the industrial chocolate line as on the market today. Actually, this is an extremely difficult choice because consumers are mostly familiar with sweet chocolate and milk chocolate. With the patience, on a special occasion of the end of 2018, Mr. Bao was contacted by Japanese Cpoint Corporation to investigate Bapula chocolate and conduct sightseeing to check and evaluate the factory, Cpoint Corporation was led by Bapula to visit the organic cocoa garden, the leader of Cpoint Corporation, Mr. Hiroki Nozawa was very touched when he saw the production process of Bapula handmade organic chocolate from planting, harvesting, fermentation, sun drying, roasting, tempering, casting and packing.
After a long time of research, recognizing the quality value of organic cocoa source of Ba Ria Vung Tau Province, Japan C-point Group decided to build and develop the Chocolate Bapula brand in the Japanese market. In April 2019, Cpoint Corporation together with Red Sun Company (Cpoint representative in Vietnam) signed a contract to exclusively distribute Bapula chocolate in Japan market in April 2019, marking a new development of Bapula Chocolate. At the signing ceremony, Mr. Hiroki Nozawa, Director of Cpoint Corporation (Japan) said that he and his partners and friends in Japan highly appreciated the quality of Bapula’s organic chocolate products. With pure chocolate products, safe and healthy organic cocoa, this organic production had achieved the strict criteria set by Japanese customers. Therefore, the Cpoint Corporation (Japan) had decided to choose Bapula’s chocolate products to import and distribute into this market.
By May 2019, along with the Red Sun Company, Bapula opened the first chocolate shop in Vung Tau City, where tourists and locals in Ba Ria Vung Tau could visit the process of producing handmade chocolates, tourists and locals were instructed to make handmade chocolates and they could buy the best chocolate products to bring as gifts for relatives and families. This was the first model in Vung Tau. This is the first model in Vung Tau. To help consumers get a new view of the development of Ba Ria Vung Tau agriculture and get a certain recognition of chocolate made from cocoa fruit of Ba Ria Vung Tau province, of Viet Nam.
For emphasis, assertion of the organic products of Bapula. , 5/2019, Bapula products reached two certified, certified organic foods of the United States of America (USDA) and certified organic food in Japan (JAS). These are both certified organic standards with strict conditions. With two certificates, Bapula has confirmed the quality of products, confirmed its position on the market for consumers, as well as eligible exporters through two major markets is considered the most demanding US and Japan.
In the next time, Bapula will produce more new, delicious and healthy chocolate lines. In order to meet the high demand of customers, Bapula has produced Bapula Kid for children. We hope to contribute to the children’s confectionery market a quality and safe product for health. The dream of Mr. Bao is to be able to bring chocolate products to all Vietnamese families, to make chocolate become a daily dish of Vietnamese people. He hope that he can build Viet Nam chocolate become to chocolate powerful countries like Japan, Belgium, ..
In the future, Bapula will try to assert its brand in the international market by the quality of its products, with the goal of building a brand of handmade Vietnamese chocolate of international stature. Become a pioneer chocolate brand in the 3rd wave of chocolate, bringing chocolate products directly from farmers to customers.