#BounceExclusive: Why Lekki Is The New Home Of Chocolate In Nigeria
You probably love chocolate the way I do, but have you ever thought about the possibility of a Nigerian-made chocolate?
Chocolate is made from Cocoa. As it turns out, Nigeria has an abundance of the crop.
In fact, it is the leading agricultural export of the country and Nigeria is currently the world's fourth largest producer of Cocoa, after Ivory Coast, Indonesia and Ghana.
Nigeria is also the world's third largest exporter of cocoa, after Ivory Coast and Ghana, with an export value of over $292.7 billion as at 2016.
In the second quarter of 2018, cocoa export accounted for 40% of Nigeria’s agricultural export, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics.
Ironically, more than 80% of chocolate consumed in Nigeria are imported.
Statistics show that Nigeria’s chocolate import is estimated at about $60 billion annually as cocoa processing took backstage in the cocoa production value chain, following the arrival of the black gold, crude oil.
But there is a silent revolution that is taking off in the sector across Africa.
From Ghana to Ivory Coast, and to Nigeria, entrepreneurs are making efforts to reverse the narrative by venturing into chocolate manufacturing.
In Nigeria, one of those leading the effort is an ambitious young woman, Femi Oyedipe, who abandoned her day job three years ago so Nigeria could be among countries that makes its own chocolate.
She calls her chocolate Loshes and unlike the commercial stuff you buy off the shelves at the retail stores, Loshes chocolate is handcrafted with natural cocoa ingredients, and without any preservatives.
And that is why we chose to call it Designer chocolate.
And Femi believes that is the way it should be across Africa because of its closeness to the raw material.
In an exclusive chat with Bounce News during a visit to the factory in Lekki, we sought to know why she chose to locate the factory at the heart of Lekki Peninsula, Phase 1 instead of the mainland where there are apparently more people, and cheaper real estate.
And this is what she had to say: “What Loshes is doing is not entirely new. If you go to Paris, Switzerland you will find people like us that make chocolate (by hand) and then you have the commercial guys who make highly commercialized chocolates.
“So, we just felt that coming to Lekki, we are closer to who our target audience may be. It's still a gamble, (laughs), just like everything in life. We felt that if we brought the factory here, there’ll be more of an experience of what the brand is about.”
She added that the plan had been “to create that sort of personal connection," with the customers.
But even for their customers on the mainland, the company still tries to forge this connection by always encouraging them to visit the factory.
“We take them around and they see how we make the chocolate and they get to interact with the workers, while they sample the chocolates,” she said.
As expected, this strategy has worked for the brand “because it has created acceptance”.
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Femi insisted that this strategy was imperative for the brand because in her words: “An average Nigerian is used to the commercialized chocolate. That is what I grew up eating myself.
“So, if you now say you are making something that is new and different, you need to educate as well as create an experience, so that after they have experienced the brand, they will understand what the difference is between what you do and what is on the shelves in the retail stores.
“When they see your product, then they can identify with it. By that time, there is a connection with it and then they purchase it.”
*Loshes Chocolate exquisite packaging
According to the Biochemistry graduate of the University of Ibadan, Africa should be able to make an impact in the global chocolate business because of its proximity to the raw material.
“For us in Africa, we are closest to the raw material. Africa and South America are where you find the most cocoa.
“And if we are dependent solely on the export of chocolate, you can see how that already affects our currency and overall economic growth and development.
“So, it is not only important that we do not leave it at the point of the raw material stage. We need to add some sort of value so that we can even begin to earn some foreign exchange.
“That strengthens our currency and economy at large. But I’ll just say that we need to start from somewhere. These companies that do highly commercialized chocolates have been there for years. They understand the game and are more knowledgeable than we are. But we are closer to the raw material and that should make a difference.”
A full video report on the exclusive interview Bounce News had with Femi will be published in the coming week. Do look out for it.