He has always loved chocolates but when he became part of its manufacturing process, Mark Ocampo says he began to appreciate chocolates even more. That’s understandable considering that the chocolates his company makes have won international awards just over a year since it was launched: two awards from the Academy of Chocolate Awards in London, and the Great Taste Award also in London.
Auro chocolate bars are now sold in Tokyo, Japan, and in San Francisco, California. In the Philippines, Auro is available in SM’s Kultura store, in the Duty Free shops and in specialty stores. Aboard Philippine Airlines, Auro chocolate bars are also given to both economy and business class passengers.
Auro has indeed come a long way from its simple beginnings. A few years ago, Ocampo and his partner Kelly Go were living in Chicago when they chanced upon a coffee shop that was selling chocolate bars made with Philippine cacao beans.
That gave them the idea to come up with chocolate bars of their own, using high-quality beans directly sourced from the Philippines. They started doing research, learning as much as they could about the scientific ways of producing chocolates. Finally in 2017, they launched their product.
“We named it Auro because Au is the chemical symbol for gold in the periodic table and we combined it with the word oro, which in Spanish and Filipino means gold,” says Ocampo. “Chocolate is like gold because when you first find it, it’s rough. You need to work to refine it.”
Auro sources its cacao beans directly from farming communities in Davao, while also doing its part to preserve the Philippines’ heirloom varieties. Buying beans from the farmers at a higher value means more income for the farmers, who can now earn more than twice as much per hectare as they used to.
Going beyond “bean-to-bar,” Auro offers farmers technical support and teaches them how to improve their cacao, Ocampo says.
To elevate chocolate making to international standards, the company has invested in a state-of-the-art, 2,000-sq-m factory equipped with the latest European technology in its Laguna facilities. They’ve also brought in a fermentation specialist from Belgium to develop their fermentation process.
Today Auro has an expansive collection of products that includes cocoa, couverture coins and couverture bars (which are good for baking and for making ganache), cocoa nibs, bottled chocolate spreads and, of course, those chocolate bars.
There are three different classes of bars: the classic, the heritage collection, which incorporates native fruits such as Palawan cashews and banana chips from Davao, and the reserve collection where each bar is made from a single origin estate.
While all the bars have that refined, oh-so-addicting chocolate taste, there are subtleties in their tastes. In the single origin collection, some cacao beans are grown in areas near timber trees, which produces a woodsy flavor. Others may grow near fruit trees, thus imbuing the chocolate with fruity and citrusy nuances.
Being a graphic artist, Ocampo made sure to give Auro chocolates a unique packaging based on Filipino tapestries. The design contains hidden stories, he says, using the different processes involved in making chocolates such as winnowing, roasting, fermentation, tempering and molding.
“It starts with the bean and ends with the bar,” he says.
This Christmas season, Auro is offering chocolate packages just right for gift giving. The packages include a box of classic collections containing milk and dark chocolates (from P685 to P760 per box); a box of reserve collection, containing chocolates of single origin harvest (from P915 per box); and a box of premium collections with an assortment of Classic and Heritage collection bars (P1,250). Also available are sinamay baskets containing an assortment of Auro chocolate products.