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Willie has just the ticket for chocolate

Thursday, April 21, 2011 - 02:45

Apr 21 - An eccentric chocolate maker by the name of Willie (Harcourt-Cooze) explains how he's been able to avoid the ill-effects of rising cocoa prices with his version of a 'golden ticket'. Hayley Platt reports.

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His name is Willie and he's considered a bit of an eccentric in the chocolate business . At a difficult time for some parts of the cocoa industry, he believes he's holding a golden ticket - in the form of his own cocoa farm in Venezuela. SOUNDBITE: Willie Harcourt-Cooze, saying (English): "It helps growing my own beans more because I really have a good understanding of the bean, you know I have access to my beans." These days, Willie Harcourt-Cooze is something of celebrity in Britain thanks to the TV documentaries about his so-called Wonky chocolate factory. However, his decision over a decade ago to buy a South American cocoa farm brought him to the brink of bankruptcy. His dream - to make a hundred per cent pure chocolate from bean to bar. In other words, from the source to the shop. SOUNDBITE: Willie Harcourt-Cooze, saying (English): "The biggest challenge was being able to get to market. I came up with the idea wouldn't it be great to make a television programme about me and i shot a whole load of tapes and made a taster tape that enabled me to make a jump into the supermarkets because obviously with the exposure they would happily accept me." Upmarket UK retailers Waitrose and Selfridges started to stock his premium brand of eating and cooking chocolate.. Other brands such as Green and Blacks helped broaden the British palette...and suddenly this dreamer was on to a winner. He says the recent unrest in Ivory Coast, responsible for around 35 percent of the world's cocoa supply, has had minimal impact on his business. SOUNDBITE: Willie Harcourt-Cooze, saying (English): "We're dealing only with premium beans so we haven't noticed so much of a rise in prices because our beans are basically are not reflected by the terminal market where you see these great gains." Now he's published his second cookbook and is on a mission to educate consumers about this bittersweet treat. SOUNDBITE: Willie Harcourt-Cooze, saying (English): "I've spread my wings further I've tried to bring different flavours to people so buying Madagascan beans, Peruvian, Indonesian to show the different faces of cacao. I've spread myself out and that also accommodates any kind of political fluctuations around the world if there is a problem with one I've always got the other family of beans so to speak." Hedged to ensure continuity of quality supply - Willie is confident that his business has a bright future in selling distinctive dark chocolate. He's also hatching a plan to make a premium brand of milk and white chocolate. Hayley Platt, Reuters

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Willie has just the ticket for chocolate

Thursday, April 21, 2011 - 02:45