Cacao Lavezares: The Next Big Thing

Created on Friday, 06 April 2018 Published Date

Cacao, is known to be the “food of the Gods” because its scientific name Theobroma cacao is derived from the Greek word Theos, which means God, and broma which means food. A quick throwback to the Mayan and Aztec civilization would tell that this crop was used as a royal treat for the Gods. They regarded cacao as a sacred plant and its beans were valued as currency.

Now, in this modern world, Dr. Raul Destura and his family enjoys royalty with their chocolate business aptly called, Cacao Lavezares.

Complete Package

Dr. Raul, a physician by profession, is the president of the Cacao Lavezares. He graduated at the University of Sto. Tomas with the course Microbiology. He then pursued Doctor of Medicine at the De La Salle University, and specialized in Internal Medicine in Infectious Diseases at the University of the Philippines Diliman. He then took a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Their chocolate business is the first well-established business in the province of Northern Samar with strong emphasis on social entrepreneurship. The business takes into account the importance of human resource development and the environment.

“We created Cacao Lavezares as a social entrepreneurship where we give importance to human resource, environment and profitability. We designed it in a way that would allow our business to flourish without jeopardizing the environment and our people,” Dr. Raul said.

Introducing Cacao Lavezares. Dr. Raul (Right) introduces their very own Cacao Lavezares to Dr. Francisco Dayap of the DA-RFO 8 (Middle) and Mr. Jesus Legaspi of the Regional Cacao Council (Left).

4 Pillars of Cacao Lavezares

Four pillars support and serve as pedestal to Dr. Raul’s chocolate business. First is the Cacao Lavezares Farms, located in Lavezares, Northern Samar. Its primary objective is to empower cacao farmers in the province by providing them the technical expertise in cacao production.

“We want to advocate best practices in cacao farming by bringing in the latest technologies on post-harvest and processing through the provision of technical assistance even as early as raw material development,” he stressed.

Second, the creation of the Chocolate Academy- Cacao Lavezares School for Chocolates, situated in Marikina City. Third is the Cacao Lavezares Confiserie - a chocolate shop where it showcases the best chocolate treats using Samarenos’ cacao.

Delightful Dark Choco. Chocolate bar with almond and pecan nuts. This 70% dark chocolate is processed up to 15 microns to achieve a smooth and silky texture.

Lastly, the Cacao Lavezares Educational Foundation for Children of Farmers. This project aims to give educational scholarship support for cacao farmers’ children in the province who want to take up agri-related courses.

This project is also anchored on the old adage ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’

“We feel that the best way to give back to our farmers is to give their children educational support but not on a monetary basis,” Dr. Raul uttered. 

He also shared that with this kind of initiative, farmers will be able to improve their lives and get themselves out of the cycle of poverty, and that the province will have a community of knowledgeable and empowered individuals.

Going Back to the Roots

When asked, why cacao? Dr. Raul stressed that his burning passion for cacao mirrors a representation of his family and the whole Province of Northern Samar.

Dr. Raul belongs to a family of farmers. His father, Dr. Pedro Destura was a farmer who has cultured cacao since he was young. Their family is a prime example of “rags-to-riches” kind of story.   

With Dr. Pedro’s perseverance, hardwork, and innate intelligence, he propelled himself from being a gardener/farmer to becoming a President of the University of the Eastern Philippines.

“I owe everything to my parents. They molded us to be who we are now,” Dr. Raul conveyed.

“It reminds me of happiness and home. When we were young, my parents used to make tableya at home which is our favorite drink every morning. Every time I smell tableya, it reminds me of my family,” he added.

Embracing the Challenges

Just like any other businesses, especially when it is in its infancy stage, there are always problems and challenges. Before the business came into fruition, he equipped himself and all his staff, all the knowledge to cope with these challenges.

Dr. Raul emphasized that indeed, workforce or manpower is the most important resource in a business. Hence, he invested heavily in human capital development.

“You have to ensure that you have the right mix of people and the right mix of expertise; finding a well-equipped cacao doctor, chocolatier, and all other members to form a good team is crucial,” he underscored.

Master Chocolatier on the Move. Sous Chef, Ms. Dimp Catherine Dollizon channeling her expertise in making luscious chocolate treats. Chef Catherine, niece of Dr. Raul, is one of the master chocolatiers of Cacao Lavezares.

As for himself, he enrolled and trained in cacao farming to completely understand the nature of cacao and how it can be processed into chocolates. He even went to Europe to see how the best chocolatiers refine their products.

Another challenge for their startup business was the facility and equipment. Dr. Raul and his team studied and visited other chocolate facilities around the country. As of now, they have a newly constructed cacao-processing center located in Lavezares, Northern Samar. They also have an automatic mixing equipment, which refines chocolate and reduces its particle size down to 15 microns; making the chocolate’s texture smooth and silky, leaving no grainy texture in the palate.  

Aside from the facilities, he also considers marketing and sustainability as challenges for his business. He collaborated with an excellent marketing team inorder to promote their products.  

On the other hand, he said that there must be strong financial positioning and cash flow monitoring to be able to sustain the business and to ensure that the resources will not affect the operations.

On the aspect of maintaining the cacao beans supply, Dr. Raul aims to produce one (1) metric ton of cacao beans every month. They also plan to reach out to other cacao farmers in the neighboring provinces.

“Before, a business like this is dependent on how big your land area is, but now, it is largely dependent on how many partners you have among the farmer’s group. You support the farming industry, they support yours too,” Dr. Raul emphasized.

Chocolate Business in Numbers

As a businessman, he understands cacao’s huge potential in the local and global market.

“Because everybody loves cacao. It is the easiest to sell and one of the top agricultural products in the global market,” he asserted.

According to the website Statista, the retail sales of chocolate worldwide in 2015-2016 is around 98.2 billion US dollars. In the Philippine setting, the revenue for chocolate confectionery is projected to reach 74 million US dollars at the end of this year and is expected to have a 6% increase by 2020.

Bright and Chocolate-y Future Ahead

As the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Office-8 continues to intensify its assistance to increase the region’s cacao production, the overall contribution of the region still has a long way to go, only contributing 1% to the country’s total production.

However, according to the 2017-2022 Philippine Cacao Industry Road Map, Eastern Visayas committed a 5% contribution or 5,000 metric tons volume of production by 2022.

The National Cacao Industry targets 100,000 metric tons of cacao production by 2022.

Despite this, Dr. Raul has his fingers crossed that the region’s ambitious target of 5,000 metric tons will be achieved, and the cacao industry development in the region will indeed reach greater heights.   

He envisions his business to boom in the years ahead, and foresees Cacao Lavezares to become one of the models for cacao production and social entrepreneurship. Dr. Raul is determined to make Cacao Lavezares the next “big thing” in the chocolate industry.

“Hopefully, years from now, when I travel to Europe with my family, we would be able to see Cacao Lavezares in the global market, and ultimately put the province, the municipality of Lavezares, in the map of the best chocolate producing provinces in the world,” Dr. Raul ended.  (KEVIN G. BIOL, RAFIS Staff)

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