Aequare Chocolates recently completed its first export transaction successfully. We produced a co-branded box for a U.S. based client, Ms. Elizabeth Pitcairn. The project involved the design and printing of a 20 piece, half-pound box of gourmet filled chocolates, as well as the production of the chocolates themselves.
We used a local designer who also happens to be the in-house designer for the printer we also use; we had used him on other projects and his skills and creativity were really top notch. Besides, it was much easier to work with a designer already in-house with an excellent printing company, as it made coordinating all the work much easier. He also produced a stunning four page mini brochure which included information about Aequare as well as photos and descriptions of the chocolate pieces.
I had never been so closely involved with printing before and was able to visit the printer the day they planned to run the press. The press is a huge machine probably two meters wide, one and a half meters tall, and at least 15 meters long. They had several copies run off for me when I got there to inspect under the light table. I asked for some minor adjustment in the color to be made…of course,this is not a machine that you can just run off one copy at a time, so they had to spit out maybe another twenty or thirty prints before the actual color change was noticeable. I signed off on it and it was a supposed go.
But because of the complexity of the box shape, there were some delays and I later learned from my sales rep they had to rerun the whole printing. I gathered they had overlooked something in the design that required them to reprint. And since the box consists of five separate pieces of paper, each one had to be hand assembled, which delayed the delivery by several days.
We also used a local plastics company to design and produce the thermoform trays which hold the chocolates with in the boxes. They were able to produce an excellent quality tray as well as form-fitting plastic sheet which covered the tray before the box was closed.
Despite this being our first major project for export, we it done in time and out the door smoothly, with no major hitches in shipping despite the product going out the day before Thanksgiving. We used very competent customs/freight brokers on both ends; our local broker took care of all the paperwork and bureaucracy and got it on the plane. Once the shipment arrived in Houston, our US broker took over and got it smoothly through customs and to the client’s door. Shipment time is usually between 3-5 days.
If you are interested in a custom co-branded product or simply our stock packaging, in 6, 12, or 21 piece boxes, please do not hesitate to contact us via www.aequarechocolates.com. Currently, we do not offer a private label program. We will be happy to discuss your project with you, pricing and promotional programs, shipping, and any other details or concerns you may have.
To see and purchase the violin box, please see the links below.
We had a meeting last week to with Fedex to see if they could help us with our air freight to the US. You can’t just go to Fedex here and ship a box if you want courier service, first of all. You have to set up an account with them, which involves the usually bureaucracy here; copies of your ID, your business tax license, and a number of other forms. If you plan to live and do business in Ecuador, you better get used to more paper than you’ve ever seen in your entire lifetime.
To get cargo service, which means you’re planning to ship something like 100kgs or more by air freight, you have to apply for yet another level of service, and you have to provide estimates about what kind of volume/weight you think you’ll be shipping, how frequently, to where, and to how many addresses. They can’t give you air freight rates right off the bat, because this information first has to be sent to their regional headquarters up in Bogota, and then up to Miami…the chain of command. Supposedly it takes three to four weeks for them to get back to you with air freight rates. I have some friends in another business who have been waiting three to four MONTHS. So we gave it our best shot, estimate that is, and we’re in week two of waiting for the rates.
However, we’ve already decided that we WON’T be using Fedex, or Fedex’s contractor, who operates the service for them here under the Fedex name. This is because they request a number of documents that are not only a hassle to get, but are unnecessary for export, yet they insist on having them. In particular, the Registro Sanitario, which I have discussed in a number of other entries.
Logically speaking, there is no reason why anyone should need this document for export. It’s a document that is purely to certify that products for consumption in Ecuador are fit for consumption locally; when you export something, it’s usually up to the country it’s being imported into to decide whether that item should be allowed in. The FDA plays this particular role in the US. But no one seems to understand that here. If you ask five different people involved in export if the Registro Sanitario is needed to export a food item to the US, you’ll most likely get about five different answers.
Fedex’s transport subcontractor requires the Registro Sanitario. We’ve got an air freight broker who has regularly shipped all kinds of products out of the country, and no registro sanitario is required. So we’re going with him. We can’t afford to do it any other way, given that a RS takes several hundred dollars and several months to obtain. We have another export project coming up with a number of different products; to get RSs for each of them would take months and thousands of dollars.
It’s typical of Ecuador, as I’ve discussed, that things are arbitrary, there are no clear guidelines, and no one seems to be able to give you the same answer twice; this can depend on who you are talking to, the time of day, the mood of the person, the alignment of the stars and planets, the season, and a number of other random factors.
It’s a real shame that US companies can’t get their overseas counterparts or contractors to operate with the same service level they do in the US.
We are now offering chocolate classes in our workshop, primarily on weekends. The classes are approximately 2 hours and the curriculum is as follows:
Level I-Introduction to Chocolate-Roll Them!
* Introduction to cacao, chocolate origins and manufacturing
* Chocolate Tempering
* Ganache Based chocolate truffles
* Truffle Hand Rolling, dipping, and coating (hands-on)
Level II-Intermediate Class-Dip and Mold
* Flavored Ganaches
* Truffles, Slabs, and Filled Pralines
* Dipping Techniques
* Cooling and Molding Temperatures
* Decorating with Chocolate
Level III-Advanced Techniques-Molding, Enrobing, Decorating
* Decorating Molds with Airbrush and Other Techniques
* Advanced Decorating Techniques
All classes are $25 per person, with a minimum of 6 people and maximum 8. Please contact us if you would like to organize a group or participate in one of our classes. You must have completed the preceding class in order to move to the next level.
See our video of chocolate production in Quito, Ecuador.
I am posting some new links to youtube on the right hand side of the site. These will lead you to several how-to episodes in chocolate and pastry that I have filmed for a local TV station here. Hope you enjoy, and please provide feedback. Here’s the first one embedded, on how to make basic truffles.