Pursuing one’s passion is no easy task. Finding it is a far greater challenge. In truth, it is a journey of a thousand miles that begins with a single step. Yet, for French chocolate makers Samuel Maruta and Vincent Mourou, everyday is a great adventure.
As expats living in Vietnam, the pair shares a common interest in the versatile cocoa bean and founded Marou, Faiseurs de Chocolat in 2011. Locally sourced from Vietnam’s southern provinces, the beans are individually selected and combined with all-natural ingredient to craft one of the rarest chocolates ever made in the country of origin. In doing so, Marou has become the first single-origin, artisanal chocolate maker, showcasing the best of what Vietnam has to offer. ✌
One of the brand’s founders, Vincent Mourou tells us more:
As expats living in Vietnam, what made you decide to pursue artisanal chocolate making and start an actual brand?
“Before starting Marou, I was working in advertising and Samuel was in finance. I was good at it, but it wasn’t completely fulfilling. I felt it was time to move on and do something else, so I traveled to Vietnam.
I met Samuel on a jungle survival weekend and we became friends. We both had a serious interest in cacao and we wanted to do something with it. One day we decided to take our motorbikes and bought 2 kilos of beans from a farm we spotted on the side of the road. We took the beans home and made our first chocolate test. Immediately, we knew we had the potential to do something. Forget trading beans. Why not make chocolate?
Besides the idea, the partnership is fundamentally the most important. We wanted it to be a personal thing –artisanal, authentic, real, not money-driven, and focused on quality of life– things that give meaning to us. Marou is an extension of our personal values.”
Marou crafts single-origin, dark chocolate from purely local ingredients. What makes Vietnamese cacao so unique?
“Like wine, good cacao is all about the terrior: the soil, the region, the slight differences in climate, and the farmer’s intervention. The variety grown in Vietnam is Trinitario, which is a fine flavored cacao. The differences in taste are found from among the different regions where we source our beans. Our chocolate making approach is simple, and attempts to remain authentic to the characteristics of the cocoa that we choose at the farm. We don’t add anything but sugar. We don’t denature it. We don’t make it something it’s not.”
What is the most challenging aspect of starting your own business?
“We initially thought that everything was against us. We didn’t have a background in chocolate. We weren’t in Europe or anywhere else with the necessary expertise. We were in a remote country of origin that was not known for its quality products. We had a lot going against us. That was the challenge.
We believed that if the chocolate was good, we could overcome all of that. We built the brand based on something we were excited about: our values. If we want to do something, we want to do it right. We want to be excited about it.”
Marou prides itself in being 100% local and advocating Fair Trade. How important are these concepts to your brand?
“The essential thing is to strive for quality. Quality pushes everything and everyone up. That’s why we have to take care of the farmers. We pay far more than the market price but insist on quality at the same time. We select the beans bag by bag and taste the cacao with them so they know what we’re looking for. Now, we’re getting to a quality level we’re happy with. It’s beyond fair trade. It’s more sustainable. It’s simply more real. There’s immediate and genuine contact with people. We want our farmers to be happy, to improve and benefit, like we’re benefitting.”
What is next for Marou?
“2013 is a year of growth. We want people to see more of our chocolate. For now, we’re focused on the terrior. Eventually, we’ll want to do a whole other series of chocolate where we add local ingredients, something that is really delicious but has some unique qualities to it.
We also want to increase our environmental efforts. Deforestation is a big problem in Vietnam. Cacao is one solution to help replant these forests and to provide an alternative source of income that’s different from logging. Wildlife protection is another issue. We want to be part of the efforts involved in that, things that reflect us. We’re developing and we want to grow organically. Right now, we want to do things right and these things take time.”
For more information on Marou Chocolate, Indie BRANDS and other brands featured in the Indie BRANDS blog, visit the websites listed below:
The Official Launch of Indie BRANDS (book) was featured in the phillipqgangan website and can be viewed here: Indie BRANDS, the Launch
The 2nd edition of the Indie BRANDS Event (The Denim Edition) can be viewed here: Indie BRANDS | The Denim Edition