This is how one Lancashire luxury chocolate maker is targeting £2m international sales

A Lancashire luxury chocolate maker is looking to boost sales thanks to support from the Department of International Trade.

By Tim Gavell
Friday, 13th May 2022, 4:55 am

Managing Director Neil Kelsall set up and runs Chocolat Madagascar from the Rural Business Centre in Bilsborrow and from Antananarivo in Madagascar – an island known for producing some of the world's best cocoa beans.

Unlike the big confectionery makers, Chocolat Madagascar does not have a huge marketing budget, but it has won more than sixty international awards fuelling its success as a sought-after gourmet product.

Chocolat Madagascar products are now sold in the UK, Europe, Canada, America, Japan and now in China.

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Neil Kelsall

Sales have grown around 30 per cent year-on-year, and in 2022 the aim is develop £2m in retail sales from the customer portfolio.

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Those export sales help to support around 500 people working on farms in Madagascar and 120 employed in the factory where the chocolate is produced.

Sales, marketing, and innovation are handled in the UK and Madagascar, working with specialist companies dealing with areas including logistics and design.

Lancashire luxury chocolate maker Chocolat Madagascar is aiming to raise sales to £2m

The Department for International Trade has played a key role in working with Neil since he founded Chocolat Madagascar in 2013 and continues to help him promote the product worldwide.

International Trade Adviser Penny Wang-Orme has worked with Chocolat Madagascar on trade missions and exhibitions; and helped the company access the Internationalisation Fund, a co-investment grant scheme initiated and sustained by the DIT and supported by the European Regional Development Fund.

Neil said: "The support of the DIT has been hugely important, and a significant element of our success is due to their energy, effort and know-how. "They have helped us access new export markets by facilitating quality networking in both private and public sectors, exhibitions, trade visits, both real and virtual, and enable market research and various training disciplines from Lancashire.

"Most recently, they have assisted us in accessing China and Middle Eastern markets, all so vital to building a premium brand worldwide that creates a sustainable future for the people of one of Africa's least developed countries."

Neil has a track record of empowering the development and trade of home-grown products from African countries and ensuring they impact world markets.

His simple model “Raise Trade” aims to develop and manufacture products in their countries of origin.

It ensures that a significantly larger proportion of the value goes to the producer economies rather than consumed by commodities traders or manufacturers in the developed world.

Chocolate is made using cocoa beans, and Neil reasons that the world's finest cocoa beans are grown in Madagascar – so that's where some of the world's finest chocolate can be made.

By training and investing in home-grown Malagasy experts, his company has refined the chocolate they produce, introduced world-class hygiene, quality and supply chain standards, and put Madagascar on the map as a producer of gourmet chocolate, pioneering exports of chocolate manufactured in Africa.

Chocolat Madagascar is made from freshly harvested beans, and the flavours and textures of the various chocolate types within the brand depend on careful cultivation and production.

Neil added: "We are proud of what we have achieved so far – through the efforts of our integrated growing and making workforce in Madagascar and the team here in the UK. But a secret ingredient in our success which doesn't appear on the label is the support of the Department for International Trade."