BARQUE CHOCOLATE stands out with eye-catching colorful packaging.
This chocolate was created by Onomichi Satsuki Workshop, a social welfare facility in Onomichi, Hiroshima- a historic town facing the Seto Inland Sea. Meticulously created with carefully selected ingredients, the authentic chocolate is a unique product of Onomichi, is filled with local passion.
With refined packaging and quality, BARQUE CHOCOLATE is a perfect gift for people of all ages from children to adults.
Here is why BARQUE CHOCOLATE makes a perfect gift.
BARQUE CHOCOLATE is completely hand-crafted using a method known as Bean to Bar where all processes from cacao beans to making chocolate bars are done in one location by hand. It becomes possible to adjust roasting temperatures or time fit for each batch of cacao beans. Unnecessary shells can also be removed by hand, so the chocolate will have a deep and original flavor of cacao, free of unwanted taste.
When we bit into the thick chocolate bar, a rich cacao bean flavor and citrus peel flavor spread softly in our mouths. Facing the Seto Inland Sea, Onomichi has a moderate climate with little rain, which is conducive for producing large amounts of citrus fruits including Iyo and Shiranui citrus. Using local, peak season citrus, BARQUE CHOCOLATE has gained much support as an Onomichi product.
The colorful eye-catching design is based on citrus and cacao illustrations drawn by disabled people who use services of the social welfare facility. The sleeve box, which is too good to throw away, is designed to be reused as a book cover after all of the chocolate is eaten.
How did BARQUE CHOCOLATE come to be? We asked Tomoki Okada, of Onomichi Satsuki Workshop.
The parent entity of the workshop, a public welfare corporation Onomichi Satsukikai, opened in 1978 with efforts by disabled people who wanted to live in the local community, their guardians and educational associates. Later in 1983, Onomichi Satsuki Workshop opened in Hisayamada, Onomichi. Now people at the workshop engage in the food business as contracted custodians. The workshop supports people participating in society through work.
The workshop had been producing and selling bread and cookies for the past 20 years. The reason it started producing BARQUE CHOCOLATE is that it received a product development request from Discover Link Setouchi Company, a group company of multi-complex facility ONOMICHI U2, which reopened after renovating a historic marine shipment warehouse in Onomichi in 2014. It serves as an accommodation and commercial facility. Their request was to develop highly marketable chocolate to be sold at ONOMICHI U2.
Onomichi Satsuki Workshop responded by developing chocolate focused on quality. Eventually they came up with the Bean to Bar method, where all processes—from cacao beans to making chocolate bars—were done by hand in-house.
“Instead of melting and molding chocolate bars, we took on the challenge of authentic Bean to Bar chocolate making because we had a strong desire to demonstrate that a welfare facility could make products equivalent to products made by businesses. We are not looking for customers to buy our products because we are a welfare facility, but because our products are quality products,” says Okada.
However, for Onomichi Satsuki Workshop, which had no prior experience making chocolate, it was struggle after struggle until the product was ultimately commercialized.
“First we had experts instruct us on techniques and provide us with knowledge; however, until we mastered the entire process we could not really start selling it as a commercial product. We also had to incorporate processes that the disabled people using workshop services could take on, and find ways to support them at the same time. So there were many issues we had to overcome,” Okada reflected.
After much trial and error with the development coordinator of ONOMICHI U2, and after much time, BARQUE CHOCOLATE was perfected as a marketable product.
Although it was a constant struggle to commercialize BARQUE CHOCOLATE, there were advantages unique to Onomichi Satsuki Workshop.
Shelling the cacao beans by hand is a very labor-intensive task, but is something that severely disabled people using workshop services can also take part in. The work suited one of their strengths, which is the ability to stick with tasks that require much patience.
For packaging design, disabled people using workshop services drew illustrations with citrus and cacao themes. A designer added the finishing touches and turned them into designs that match the product concept.
“Disabled people using workshop services draw original illustrations for the packaging with a creativity that goes beyond our imagination. The unique packaging of BARQUE CHOCOLATE is one of the reasons customers take the product in their hand.”
For disabled people using workshop services who draw the illustrations for the packaging, the experience gives them confidence and pride. It is a fruit that has been born out of the passion of ONOMICHI U2 development coordinator and the workshop staff wanting to let society know of the abilities of these disabled people.
It was also important to put citrus peels from Onomichi in BARQUE CHOCOLATE.
“When we thought about the product’s marketability, we felt strongly about using local citrus fruits. We talked to citrus producers and local grocery stores in Onomichi about how we could source citrus fruits. This kind of local connection has become an important asset, not just because we could source the citrus fruits, but because they understand what we’re trying to accomplish at the social welfare facility,” says Okada.
Now, BARQUE CHOCOLATE has become one of ONOMICHI U2’s most popular products. Chocolate bites that branch off the series, available from winter to spring, have many fans around Japan awaiting its launch.
We talked to Miki Manabe, who is in charge of sales at ONOMICHI U2／Butti Bakery.
“To make BARQUE CHOCOLATE, we tried and failed many times. Although we faced many challenges, we continued with the joint development. It was perfected because of our strong desire to create a good product. Sometimes we faced harsh realities, but we overcame them, and everyone involved learned the joy and fun of manufacturing. We would like to continue developing products where all parties concerned can advance together.”
According to Okada, the next issue is improving productivity. Some people who liked the product asked Okada whether they could sell BARQUE CHOCOLATE at their outlets, and Okada wants to accommodate such enthusiasm.
In French, BARQUE means a small boat. Despite waves and winds, the small boat of chocolate continues its voyage in the ocean, carrying the passion and hope of local people.
Writer : YOKO AOYAGI / Photographer : SATOSHI TACHIBANA
*Some of the images posted on our website have been provided by those whom we interviewed.
|Address||1786 Kubo-cho, Onomichi-shi, Hiroshima Prefecture|
|Address||5-11 Nishigosho-cho, Onomichi-shi, Hiroshima Prefecture|
|Hours||8:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.|