We had the chance to chat with Rolf, founder of Ubud Raw Chocolate. This article is particularly interesting because it shows sustainability principles applied in the context an industrial process rather than a resort or restaurant. There’s a strong emphasis on waste management, which we’ll describe more in-depth just below.
This adventure started 6 years ago when Rolf, then a photographer and film maker, bought a kilo of cocoa beans and started making chocolate for himself out of curiosity. It turns out that the taste was so good he decided that it’d be a shame not to bring it to the world.
So, what is so special about this chocolate?
A raw version of chocolate
Llike the name suggests, Rolf’s chocolate is special in a particular way : it’s raw, meaning that the beans aren’t roasted like in its traditional counterpart. Chocolate is like coffee in some fashion, and usually the beans are being roasted with more or less intensity in order to allow for a stronger, bitter flavor to develop.
Creating chocolate with unroasted beans (they’re heated up to 55°C against 180° for the industry standard) was therefore a challenge, but it allows for a purer taste of the cocoa product. According to Rolf, the impact on the nutrients are tremendous: unroasted cacao contains up to 3 times much antioxidants, which are important to our health.
This aspect is also used as an element of differentiation. Although raw chocolate and its traditional counterparts share the same name, they’re quite different on so many levels, starting with the taste – don’t forget to visit their outlets in Canggu or Ubud to try it for yourself!
A vegan alternative
The other difference is the fact that no dairy products are used in making any of Ubud Raw Chocolate’s products – the chocolates, the spread and the drinks. The company offers coconut milk as a standard in the café, with almond or soy milks being available alternatives. The drinks turn out to be surprisingly creamy!
This is a deliberate choice. Being himself a vegetarian, it’s a way for Rolf to address the negative impact of raising cattle on reclaimed land, water supplies & methane emissions. In addition, adopting the vegetarian constraint allows for “more creativity”. That’s indeed what’s at stake here in Ubud Raw Chocolate.
Made of locally sourced products
In a sustainable approach, the provenance of the ingredients is of paramount importance. Accreditation labels exists, notably the UTZ accreditation for beans farmers. Nonetheless, if these have a good reputation with customers, they’re extremely expensive to get for farmers. Ubud Raw Chocolate therefore ensures the organic provenance of the beans by working hand-in-hand with the producers.
Inside of Ubud Raw Chocolate shops
The first thing to notice here is the absence of packaging for the standard chocolates. The goal was clear from the beginning: avoid the use of plastic as much as possible.
This matches with the chocolate itself: as it is raw, it can only last for about a week and need to be kept in a cool place. Rold and his team went around the issue by offering customers to purchase small thermo flasks to store and transport their purchases.
What’s remarkable is the incentive they use: customers get 25% discount for any purchase of chocolate that day, and 10% every time they come back with the flask or their own container. As a last resort, standards paper bags are available for customers, but without any discount.
When it comes to furniture, coconut shells are used as much as possible as well as natural material.
Of course, it’s almost impossible to remove all plastic from the sale and production process. The suppliers often deliver in plastic and some items like cacao beans or powder just can’t do without. This is the time when you have to compensate for your actions.
Ubud Raw Chocolate was the first company in Bali to partner with Ecobricks. Here’s a company that makes its business having people fill plastic bottles with clean plastic waste until they reach a given density. The bottles can then be used to form “bricks”, effectively providing a way to keep plastic out landfills or in the environment.
Each brick is approved by the organization, gets a number and a picture. They can then be tracked, used to build furniture and even reused.
Together in collaboration with Ecobricks, Ubud Raw Chocolate has trained its staff to build these in their households and villages. The staff then receive credit for it within the company. This serves as an incentive to form a broader movement of segregating plastic and keeping it out of the environment for good. In the meantime, it’s a way to spread education about the issue while valuing your people: how great of a solution is that!
An organic growth strategy
Just like its beans, Ubud Raw Chocolate grew organically, without outside capital investing. Shortly after Rolf started manufacturing his own chocolate, people showed their support and together with the advice of friends, what was then a back-kitchen venture quickly transformed into a social company.
This method of growth where the company’s benefits are reinvested years after years ensure a financial sustainability, which is also a key component of a global approach to business resilience. In Rolf’s words:
“A good way to learn business is to spend the money when you have it rather than borrowing from investors.”
And that strategy has turned out to be successful, today, their raw chocolate is sold directly in 3 shops and distributed over 75 outlets.
Next steps : Ubud Raw Chocolate’s very own factory.
The next point for the company is to build its own factory and purchase equipment, if possible, on a self-funded base.
“When it comes to sustainability, factories always have a lot of stories to tell, though sometimes these are less visible than in their B2C counterparts.”
Indeed, improvement towards more sustainable process are less visible to the public. A company ready to invest on this aspect can give you a clear hint that they really care about their own environmental and social impact.
When it comes to energy, Rolf underlines the fact that it’s hard to do anything solar in Indonesia. No incentives are really given and electricity is managed by the government.
Finally, the company also want to strengthen its bond with the local farmers supplying the beans. Expansion plans are not out of the way, but the growth will remain organic and the beans must be processed close to the outlets to produce the raw chocolate and its distinctive taste.
Ubud Raw Chocolate is part of BGreener
Rolf and his team are part of the community of like-minded entrepreneurs and change-makers of BGreener. This has helped over the years to keep sustainability questions at the forefront.
Also, having all the other business owners sharing their experience and expertise during the events throughout the years turned out to be really useful. Moreover, it’s an additional source of motivation to see that you’re not the only one doing something for the planet.
Finally, the meet-ups turned out to be useful for ideas generation. The participants would gather in somebody’s place, do a tour, see the facilities like composting, water purification and filtering systems, etc.
If sustainability means the world to you, if you’re a chocolate junkie and want to try this cacao gamechanger, make sure to check out their Facebook page & pay them a visit in Canggu or Ubud! If you want to discuss any ideas from this article, feel free to reach out to Rolf via the contact form!
Guillaume Duckerts is a French writer and open-minded traveler. Read more about his work here.