Despite Hurricane María’s effect on local cocoa production, the demand for Forteza chocolate has reflected growth that “has exceeded expectations for 2018,” said Eduardo Cortés founder of the Forteza Caribbean Chocolate brand that is part of Cortés Hermanos.
Furthermore, cocoa cultivation continues to recover in Puerto Rico.
“Our goal is to ensure that 100 percent of our cocoa consumption for the Forteza brand is grown in Puerto Rico. The impact of the hurricane has delayed, but has not stopped our plan,” said Cortés.
At present, Forteza has managed to exceed the consumption of cocoa recorded during 2017, with five months left to 2018. Cortés explained that more than 100,000 pounds of cocoa should be consumed by the end of the year, 6,000 of which have already been bought, split between local cocoa and imports from the Dominican Republic.
With the expansion of the line in 2018, through the five new flavors of Forteza One Bars, the brand has doubled its sale so far this year, the company executive said.
The company seeks to support local merchants and consumers to maintain growth and continue increasing the demand and production of 100 percent locally harvested cocoa and chocolate.
“We’re working to increase the demand for our products, which will serve to boost the demand for cocoa in Puerto Rico,” said Cortés. “The greatest demand in the market by consumers is for Puerto Rico products, so we’re confident that the brand will continue to grow in the short and medium term and therefore the need for local production.”
The company’s local cocoa suppliers are currently below 50 percent of their production capacity since their trees are still in the development stage, a process that has been delayed due to Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico nearly a year ago.
Despite this, Cortés explained that the crops show signs of a recovery process. He mentioned as an example a farmer whose operation produced 73 pounds in 2017 and 442 pounds so far in 2018 post hurricane. Most of the trees started producing cocoa in 2017, he said.
As part of the brand’s expansion plans, one or more new flavors will be added to the line, which may be permanently or seasonally, Cortés said.