Meet The Man Behind The Multi-million Dollar Niche Cocoa Business In Ghana

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Edmund Poku, MD Niche Cocoa

Ghanaians are gradually warming up to a ‘new’ taste of indigenous chocolates other than the traditional chocolates they’ve been accustomed to over decades.

The relatively new brand, Niche Chocolates over the past few years has created a niche in Ghana’s chocolate industry but what if I tell you chocolates make only one percent of the total output by Niche Cocoa Industry Ltd, the company that produces Niche chocolates?

“The chocolates you see on the market is just 1 per cent of what we do. The volume is very small compared to the total output of the company,” says Edmund Poku, Managing Director of the company.

Niche Cocoa was set up in 2007 after Mr Edmund Poku was encouraged to leave his investment banking job in the United States and take a dip into the cocoa business.

“After submitting my thesis while studying for my MBA, one supervisor found my research work good enough to start a cocoa processing company and insisted I moved back home and get to work,” Mr Poku said.

He didn’t make a hasty move but the straw that broke the camel’s back was a riveting moment one dawn.

“I was working at Wall Street in the early 2000s; I came back from work around 3 am and had to go back to work around 5 am and I kept thinking how long can I continue doing this? So I packed and came to Ghana,” he recounted.

After failed attempts and a strong passion to make it work, he sought for financing and established Commodities Processing Industry Limited (CPI), which produced only cocoa mass or cocoa liquor with an annual cocoa processing capacity of 8000 metric tons (MT).

“Although we expanded, the factory was still too small for us so we moved to a bigger place (current location) as the business kept growing.”

Niche chocolates, Photo- Simon Tsike-Sossah

In 2011, the brand name was changed from CPI to Niche Cocoa Industry Ltd.

Today, Niche Cocoa is the fastest-rising local cocoa processor in the country and has expanded its production which are mainly for exports to include cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, cocoa cake and the latest addition- chocolates.

Until Niche’s entry, Coco Processing Company (CPC) with its Golden Tree Chocolates brand was the only notable chocolate producing company in the country.

Cocoa Processing Company Limited, was established in 1965 and incorporated as a limited liability company in November 30, 1981. CPC has since been delighting the taste buds of Ghanaian with premium chocolates.

With the total number of both direct and indirect employees at Niche Cocoa pegged at 600, an installed processing capacity of 60,000 metric tons (MT) per annum and an annual turnover of $120m, plans are far advanced to introduce chocolate spread and instant chocolate drinks into the internal market.

When asked of plans to increase chocolate production, the Plant Manager, Lloyd Ashiley indicated that market trends is a major determinant of production levels.

“We are watching the market once the consumption is going up, we have more than enough capacity to supply every Ghanaian a bar of chocolate”

Challenges

As most businesses in Ghana battle with challenges ranging from finance to human resource, Niche has a dissimilar story.

We don’t really face challenges because our input is in US Dollars, returns is also in US Dollars and so you don’t really face the everyday challenge businesses tend to face.”

Ultimately, they maintain a healthy and close relationship with Cocobod which ensures sufficient supply of cocoa beans coupled with a conducive business environment.

“I should say, we are in a lucky industry. There’s a lot of focus on cocoa as a country so the business environment is a bit easier as compared to unregulated markets,” he added.

Packaging of cocoa mass

Ghana’s low consumption of cocoa products

Although, Ghana is the World’s second biggest cocoa producer after Ivory Coast, not much can be said of its cocoa consumption levels.

This has been attributed to the prices of cocoa products such as chocolates as compared to the average income of locals.

Ghana consumes 12.5 million kilograms of cocoa products per year; meaning every Ghanaian consumes 0.5 kilograms of cocoa products produced annually.

“Cocoa is a luxury product – a product for the European market. How many people can afford a bar of chocolate in Ghana?” Mr Ashiley queried.

Mr Vincent Okyere Akomeah, Director, Research, Monitoring & Evaluation at Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod), in an interview with Business World Ghana concurred the market (demand) for cocoa is very low in Africa.

“What we have to do is to nurture the market and what Cocobod is doing in this regard is to build the demand here in Ghana,” he explained.

Niche Cocoa, free zone enclave

According to him, his outfit is running an initiative alongside the Ghana School Feeding Programme by introducing chocolate beverages in addition to meals to enable students develop taste for cocoa as they grow.”

Additionally, the Ghana Tourism Authority, rebranded Valentine’s Day celebration to National Chocolate Day to encourage and promote made in Ghana chocolates and other cocoa products.

Awards and Achievements

Niche Cocoa products was served at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

Presidential National Award for Export Achievement.

Exporter of the year 2013, 2014 and 2015

Pamela Ofori- Boateng/ Business World Ghana 2019©

Credit – businessworldghana.com

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