Valrhona and Millot: A long-standing relationship
Thanks to its sourcing team, Chocolaterie Valrhona has had a presence in Madagascar since 1986, and it has maintained a long-lasting partnership with Millot, allowing both companies to work together to improve production processes. With help from sourcing staff, planters and R&D teams, these improvements have covered everything from cocoa farming techniques (such as trimming and pruning) to fermentation and drying.
One notable result of this sustainable, exclusive collaboration is the development of aromatic chocolates including Manjari, Tanariva and Ampamakia and the double fermentation range: Mananka and Kidavoa. Manjari was Valrhona’s first Grand Cru de Terroir. It was produced in 1990 using cocoa from a single source, four years after the partnership with Millot began. It took all this time to perfect the recipe and precise set of specifications for preparing the cocoa so it would retain all the aromatics which make this Madagascan produce unique.
Alongside this work, for many years Valrhona has been supporting the financing of local infrastructure. This support has not only been lent to cocoa producing facilities, the aim has also been to improve living conditions in producer communities (see our Village Renovation Program and “Rice Fund”, below). In addition to this long-term support, some of the gastronomy professionals who number among Valrhona’s customers have asked to be involved in various individual projects, such as digging a well to give access to drinking water and providing school equipment for plantation workers’ children (both these initiatives were carried out during our last customer and employee trip in 2015).
More than just a partnership: A long-term commitment
In 2016, Valrhona sought to strengthen its commitments to Millot even further by becoming a 40% stockholder in the estate alongside two other long-standing investors. This considerable investment was sealed on July 1, and will allow Valrhona and Millot to share their ambitions through the implementation of a long-term development plan. “By coming together in this way, we are securing the technical, social and financial foundations for future projects to sustainably develop the Millot estate’s business and expertise,” explains Jean-François Dargein, Valrhona’s purchasing and logistics manager.
He goes on to emphasize that this commitment to Millot “comes down to the close relationship we have that goes beyond that of a buyer and seller, and to our determination to conjointly develop the Millot plantation’s business, sustain our growth and secure our cocoa supplies in Madagascar”.
About the Village Renovation Program and “Rice Fund”
In the wake of 2015’s poor weather conditions, Valrhona has created a permanent rice fund which supplies rice to cocoa producing communities in exchange for cocoa (when harvest levels permit it). 112 families have benefitted from this support.
That same year, Valrhona launched a three-year project to renovate the estate’s village. This involved building 45 homes specially for Millot’s employees: Once the work is complete, accommodation will be available for just over 200 people. This village will also have its own basic healthcare center, as villagers currently have to walk for miles to get medical assistance. A nurse will be constantly on site and a doctor will visit once a week. Medical equipment will be provided. The village will also have access to running water, electricity and bathroom facilities. The community will be managed by a committee made up of both village tenants and people who live elsewhere but use the health center. Employees will pay a small sum into the management committee’s bank account, and these funds will be used to repair village infrastructure and/or develop new activities. Valrhona and Millot will have no say in the management committee but will be kept up-to-date on what the funds are used for.