Conexion, founded by Jenny Samaniego in 2016, was rebranded as “Conexion” from its original name, Chukulat, to pay homage to its mission of ‘connecting’ local cacao farmers with lovers of fine Ecuadorian chocolate.
Conexion, making its chocolate at origin, works directly with cocoa farmers, which not only strengthens those farmers’ contributions to sustainable agriculture in Ecuador, but also empowers and supports them – a brand promise of Conexion.
Jenny grew up in Ecuador, studying and working in hospitality, but it was a move to New York City in 2008 that led her to start a career within the chocolate industry. Whilst then travelling around her home country and sourcing cacao for others, Jenny fell in love with Ecuador’s diverse landscape and its fine-flavour crop.
Having worked for well known cocoa and chocolate companies, Jenny now focuses on sourcing the best Arriba cacao for her own chocolate. This involves partnering with farmers from Manabi and Los Rios, and working together during post-harvest processes, such as fermentation and drying, to ensure Conexion obtains the best cacao possible.
As of mid 2019, Conexion has been in partnership for a year with the new generation of cacao growers, ages 18 to 35, from UOPROCAE Association in Esmeraldas. In partnership, Conexion will launch a chocolate bar made exclusively with the cacao beans UOPROCAE are growing.
Conexion’s goal had been to inspire this generation with personal growth, and avoid the uncertain immigration of young farmers to other cities. Conexion created an equal profit sharing program, with the aim to give the young farmers a better quality of life and to nurture long-term, sustainable farming of fine cacao for their generation. Jenny and her team have started with this association, and are striving to strength the model and be able to work with other cacao co-ops in the future.
When on-boarding Jenny and Conexion chocolate to our Library, we had a handful of questions to ask:
What’s your background? Why and how did you get into chocolate?
I studied Hospitality Management in Quito and worked in hospitality for many years. My dream was always to support my home country of Ecuador and I traveled to the US and began working for a well-known chocolate maker there. I fell in love with chocolate and followed my passion home to Ecuador to begin making and selling chocolate from some great farmers.
What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?
My mission is to make great quality chocolate and build bridges between chocolate consumers and farmers. My tagline is to connect, share and celebrate Ecuador´s chocolate and it´s truly what my goal is for my company.
When did you start your company — and with whom? How many are there of you?
I founded the business 3 years ago but have been working in Ecuador for one year to launch the brand both domestically and internationally. There are two of us, Jenny Samaniego – Commander in Chocolate. Pablo Torres is our business strategist and financial wizard. Together, we´re chocolate rockstars.
How did you source your beans?
I´ve spent a lot of time getting to know the farmers of Fortaleza Del Valle from Manabi and APOV from Los Rios and these bars are made from the beans we´ve carefully partnered to ferment and dry. I work closely with them in all post-harvest production processes.
What inspired your choice of wrapper/mould design?
The artwork of our wrapper is inspired by the indigenous heritage of our country. It was important to us that we share and celebrate Ecuador´s rich culture through our packaging design.
What else are you doing?
We lead tours of chocolate consumers to meet the cacao farmers and learn about processing. This piece of connecting the consumer to the farmer is an important part of our company that other makers aren´t doing.
I also spend a great deal of time in the field with the farmers so we have a constant feedback loop and open communication about what works and what doesn´t. I´m thrilled to launch my virgin line of unroasted chocolate, something unique within the industry.
What is your favourite food? Wine? Other chocolate makers?
I love Japanese food! My favourite wine is a good Merlot. Some of my favourite chocolate includes Pacari, Amedei and Francios Pralus.