Exporting the Unique Tastes of the Caribbean
Gourmet cocoa products with special tastes of the Caribbean
Belarmino Rodríguez is well known for his infectious enthusiasm for his work. He started his own business in 1991 with a particular goal in mind: to establish a unique Caribbean line of wellness and gourmet food products. The name of his company was initially BR & Asociados, but he rebranded it to Caribbean Labs and Traders to better distinguish his company from others. His business mission is to “manufacture the most unique Caribbean products.”
Rodríguez is proud to say that he follows the Kaizen philosophy of continuous improvement. He started his business producing cosmetic products but was soon experimenting with gourmet chocolate flavor combinations. Each year he finds ways to improve his existing products by incorporating new and exotic flavors. His current cocoa product line includes flavor combinations with coconut, macadamia, hazelnut, almond, cinnamon, ginger, and rum-flavored sugar. He calls his pride and joy “Xocolatl,” which is a combination of a spicy chocolate powder with a robust flavor combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
Rodríguez has found a market for his products in the Dominican tourist sector and the surrounding Caribbean Islands. His biggest challenge was to scale up production while maintaining consistency and quality control. He knew he needed help. The Exporting Quality program accepted his application for assistance to purchase more sophisticated equipment, specifically, a filler machine, which would replace their current method of filling packets of flavored cocoa powder by hand, which is both tedious and time-consuming. The program supported Rodríguez with an in-kind donation that would subsidize about 18% of the cost of the equipment.
Since acquiring the filler machine, his business has expanded. He has cut deals with other chocolate companies and is working on new gourmet cocoa products, including a cocoa-based tea.
“This machine has allowed us to fill bags at such a speed that it has helped us increase our sales exponentially with all our cocoa related products, also increasing our production level over 500% with only two operators, therefore also minimizing costs,” Rodríguez said.
When passion and real interest come together with solid business opportunities, people like Rodríguez are rewarded—and consumers reap the flavorful results.
Exporting Quality Program in the Dominican Republic, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) ‘Food for Progress’ initiative and implemented by IESC, focuses its efforts on increasing productivity and sales for domestic and export markets of high-value fruit and vegetable global value chains: avocado, cocoa, pineapple, and greenhouse and Asian vegetables. The program also supports efforts to increase product quality, production efficiency, the value of post-harvest products, and to improve marketing and market linkages.