Bioko is Dedicated to making Artisanal Chocolate using Locally-Sourced Cocoa in Ghana
Jeanne Donkoh, the Founder of Bioko Treats, started the company as a retirement project built upon her passion for cooking and her interest in the chocolate industry. She invested the initial capital into setting up the business, took classes on cooking with chocolate and started the project out of her dining table.
Commercial cocoa farming in Ghana takes up over a million hectares of farmlands, secures the livelihood of over 800,000 farmers, accounts for roughly 22% of global cocoa production, and remains one of the country’s economic pillars. However, Jeanne wants to be part of proving that there is more value to the Ghanian chocolate industry beyond raw exports.
“Our challenge at Bioko is to educate consumers to know and accept that Ghanaians are capable of producing international standard chocolate bars, pralines and bonbons incorporating many of our local fruits, spices, nuts and other ingredients. Bioko gives me an avenue to prove that Ghanaian made chocolates are just as good as those made anywhere else and the emerging small batch artisanal chocolate industry deserves to see more financial gain than is currently available to us.”
Through the COVID-19 Relief Program, Bioko Treats, a team of 8, were able to continue their operations and expand the business. They built a dedicated bean-to-bar workshop which has enabled them to keep production running 24/7, 280 days and meet increasing demand for its chocolates which are made with traceable beans. They also worked on digitalization as a result of the training and built a better website with online payment capability which has been responsible for an increase of 5% more sales through this channel.
Bioko Treats gained new partners and suppliers throughout the program, one of which is a direct result of participation in the program. The business development training also gave Jeanne and her team the confidence and tools to seek more collaborations and prepare an investment document for prospective investors. Jeanne was matched with Ben Heinemann, who has 36 years of experience in building sustainable products in Food and Beverages and Agritech.
“I found Ben to be not only a mentor but at times a coach who not only gave advice but always had an action plan to be worked on in-between our phone chats. He went beyond the assigned number of sessions that were expected of him and was always available to support us. He generously shared his knowledge of entrepreneurship and some of the challenges and successes he had observed with SMEs and encouraged me very much during the pitch training and competition part of the program. We are still in touch almost one year after the program ended.”
Since the programme ended, Bioko Treats established a corporate social responsibility program and registered 78 farmers and their children on the National Health Insurance Scheme in November 2021. They also began producing their first vegan bonbons in February 2022 and are working on expanding their operations to be able to produce more and pass onto their customers the benefits of lowered prices from a scaled up operations. They are working to increase local consumption of chocolate and its other products beyond the current level.