Updated: Sep 21, 2020
It is a great honor for me to welcome Georgia Ramon to my newly-born bean-to-bar chocolate virtual reality.
I do not deny it is one of my favorite European makers, specifically one of my favorite German makers.
Now you might think, I am just blinded by their stunning packaging. The completely redesigned aesthetics of their collection have surely a leading role in securing confirmation of high-quality products. But I should probably let Georg fill you in on that bit.
In the meantime, let me emphasize their focus on quality, creativity, sustainability, cacao variety, and transparency from the beginning to the end of the creation process.
Now more than ever, priority is given to organic raw materials but G. R. never leaves out the aspect of rarity: limited supply of precious cacao beans cannot go unnoticed, although not necessarily bio.
So let`s cut right to the ooey-gooey centre with some questions I asked Georg about their multi-award-winning brand.
Why and when did you start your craft chocolate career?
I started my first Company "Confiserie Coppeneur" in 1993 while I entered the craft chocolate market in 2005. At the time, the capacity of the machines was 60, 250, and 500 kg. Then I sold my shares of my very first company in 2010.
I founded Georgia Ramon with my partner Ramona in May 2015 because when I wrote my last book "The Chocolate Tester" for which I tasted more than 6.000 chocolate products from 550 different companies, I found out that the chocolate industry had many gaps intensified by a truly disappointing lack of transparency harming the quality of the final output and causing a potential health risk for the costumers. Therefore I decided to undertake a new course for showing that it is possible to produce good chocolate in the most honest way.
Writing and reviewing chocolate is easy and when I started I was the only one with a deep knowledge of chocolate in my country not only as a taster but also as a producer.
After writing two books with engaging reviews, I took the risk to produce again craft chocolate raising awareness but also criticism. During that period, the bean-to-bar chocolate movement was very weak. And the idea of a new, beautiful and successful brand just sort of came to me.
I believe your name comes from the mix of Georg Bernandini and Ramone Gustmann. Is it true? Yes, we just changed the gender: Georgia instead of Georg, Ramon instead of Ramone.
What is the first cacao origin and/or variety have you come across? My first experience was with organic cocoa from Ecuador from an incredible plantation with the Name "Hacienda Lara". It was an original Nacional cocoa with great flavor and low cadmium. I remember some of those trees were 60-70 years old. We immediately understood its quality so, since 2005 and for four years in a row, we had the exclusivity to purchase the whole harvest of 60-64 tonnes. It was a great achievement for us since, based on all my research, "Hacienda Lara" was almost certainly the first organic single plantation chocolate bar in the market.
Sadly, the owner of the plantation sold it to a palm oil company without even considering us as possible and more suitable buyers. Few days after the selling the new landlord started to destroy all the precious and ancient trees. It was around 2008-2009.
In terms of bars and packaging, how did you introduce your brand to the craft chocolate market? We started in May 2015 with a craft paper bag and stickers on the front. We produced some organic single-origin bars like Belize 70 %, Madagascar 70 %, and Ghana 75 %. And also few inclusions options like Coffee & Cocoa-Nibs milk chocolate and Sea Salt dark chocolate, or more adventurous products as Broccoli with salted almonds or Superfood mix.
ClearChox is our distributor in all of Europe since day one.
How much is important the packaging in this industry and how do you design yours? The truth is the packaging and design are more important rather than the quality of the bars.
But at the same time, quality is the key to a successful and enduring company.
In fact, at first, people acknowledged our bean to bar talent but, from the customer viewpoint, our design was our weakness.
Basically people are not willing to pay a high price for such a "simple and plain envelope" non-suitable for a gift idea.
The ideal condition is to build both deeply-rooted aspects of this profession.
This is the reason why since April 2016 Georgia Ramon changed for a more appealing look. We accomplished an unbelievable explosion of sales overnight. For the first year, the design resulted in an encouraging increase in sales of 700%.
The side part of our eye-catching style is the cost and Germany designers are too expensive.
From the very beginning of our look revolution and after worldwide market research on the freelancer platform, we opted for the colorful and playful concept as we have it now (the very first design that we saw was the current Belize 70 %) and we chose a couple from Serbia as our designers. They are currently working with us and we do not think to change: they are creative, fast, honest, flexible, payable. Better than that?
How did you end up working with such great assortment? Is it difficult to keep a diversified selection? Yes, it is very difficult to have such a wide range. The problem is not different origins or dark/milk selection. The challenge comes from the production of beetroot or lime bars, chanterelles/cardamom/espresso, or any other option with pieces and complex inclusion. The maintenance as the integrity of our equipment is the real deal. It is a time-consuming and laborious process. Now you have a better understanding of why our bars are so expensive.
Do you plan to create a Vietnam origin dark chocolate bar? At the moment we have no interest in this cacao origin. But we always try to find rare cocoa to make new origin bars. Next winter we will have an organic Chuncho bar and a limited edition of very rare cacao beans which come from just 2.000 trees...
Have you always love fine chocolate? Yes, since the first time I tasted Chuao Amedei and a Domori bar.
What is the best and the worst part of being a craft chocolate maker? The best part is to be able to unleash your creativity. The worst part is the hard work. Almost everything is handmade and you need to be in perfect physical health.
What the effects of the COVID on your business? Any long term precautionary steps can you recommend? The sales dropped down dramatically in March. While between April and May things have moved ahead making us breathe. But now the summer is coming and I am afraid that a lot of small shops will not survive. We are in a good situation as we didn' t spend the money we earned in the last two years. Unlike many small companies, we are very lucky with good asset management.
Does Georgia Ramon have a flagship bar or a black sheep one? Since the first release in April 2016, Carolina Reaper is still our bestseller. In my opinion, our best single-origin bar is Belize 70 % but our costumers love more Haiti 80 %. I also think our best-flavored bar is Coffee & Cocoa-Nibs. Very popular are also the Beetroot & Coconut, Raspberry & Rose and Pistachio vegan. At this moment our black sheep is the Philippines 75 % made with coconut sugar. Indeed I will stop its production in the near future.
Do bio cacao beans have a different taste? No. Any difference is always due to origin, treatment, genetic, etc.
What is the most challenging part when you try to reach a new market like the U.S.? The shipping costs to send bars to the USA. And also that you have so many craft bean-to-bar makers in the USA. There is no need to import anything from Europe as you have yourself many and enough great chocolate makers. Only for diversification reasons, it makes sense to import chocolates from Europe.
What is your chocolate message to the world? People should stop buying cheap chocolates: good chocolate can not be cheap, fair chocolate can not be cheap.
Special thanks to Georg and Ramona for all your patience, helpfulness, and kindness towards me...