Innato is the brainchild of Peruvian cocoa and coffee giant Grupo Romex who launched the brand to explore the world of small, 200-250kg, bean-to-bar chocolate production.
Innato’s beans are constantly threatened with natural disaster, growing on a fault line!
When Grupo Romex subsidiary Innato launched its Premium bean to bar line, its central mission was to showcase internationally the ancient traditions and unique characteristics of Peruvian cacao whilst committing to sustainability and improving the quality of life of their farmers, suppliers and employees.
Fundamental to vision is its name, deriving from the latin innatus, it embodies that which is not learned but innate in a being, inherent in characteristics from its very origin. For a line which centres upon the importance and uniqueness of terroir and variety, the name couldn’t be more apt, enabling a naming system in which the origin is incorporated into the name of each variety. This is further reflected in the fingerprint logo of the brand, a unique identifier which narrates an individual history, from the origin of the beans to the bar that we hold in our hands as a finished product.
HOW THEY BECAME MAKERS…
Bean-to-bar craft chocolate is a recent venture for Grupo Romex, a venture that is skilfully achieved in Innato’s Premium diffusion line. Inspired by the increasing esteem in which Peruvian cacao is held internationally, Innato’s Premium line is all about showcasing the unique tasting possibilities imparted by origin and varietal characteristics within Peru. At its inception is the “happy encounter between artisanal knowledge and the best of the Madre Tierra, united in the promise of safeguarding sustainability along with the communities who are guardians and protectors of this ancient fruit.” For its Premium line, Innato travels Peru, selecting the best cacao harvests grown in distinct regions, bringing back to life ancient cultures and traditions which can be shared with the world.
Innato strives to work directly with farmers, forming long standing relationships, and collaborating with their associations and cooperatives. Innato works with the APROCHEN community association whose mission is to grow cocoa in the most efficient and sustainable manner possible whilst negotiating better prices for the producers.
Cacao sourcing for Innato’s Juan de Cheni 72% bar is a true triumph in the face of adversity. It is a tale of particular poignancy and yet positivity. Juan de Cheni is situated in the west of the “central jungle” of the Junin region of central Peru. Here, indigenous communities have used cocoa farming as a means to resist the devastation cause by guerrilla warfare. Working with producers such as Innato has enabled them to receive a fair price for premium beans. Profits are reinvested in the rebuild of their communities. However, cacao production in this region has not risen solely in the face of human and political adversity as Junin is situated on a large fault line, threatening destruction of natural origins too.
For Innato’s 72% Jaen bar, it has worked together with a cooperative of farmers from the city of Jaen in the region of Catamarea, north west of Peru. Here, in the highland jungles amid mountainous terrain, warm weather and frequent rain prevail, providing an ideal climate for growing fine cacao.
Innato highlights the unique origins of its cocoa as the source of the resulting unique organoleptic experience and a flavour profile that is unmistakably Peruvian. In 2017, both Innato’s Jaen 72% bar and it’s San Juan de Cheni 72% were recipients of Silver Awards at the Peruvian Salón de Chocolate. These bars in particular provide a fascinating tasting experience demonstrating the profound influence of terroir on taste, both crafted to a similar recipe and with the same cacao percentage. Here, the distinctly different flavours are imparted primarily from the difference in altitude between the two regions where the cocoa is grown. Innato’s texture is characteristic of that of many Latin American bars, where an absence of added cocoa butter that so often give European bars a buttery texture, results in a certain graininess and dryer mouthfeel.
Innato is passionate about showcasing the difference in flavour produced by topographical regional variations in its finished product. From the exotic floral and fruit aromas of north eastern cacao, to the delicate hints of cinnamon that prevail in cacao from the south, to the pale colour and subtle tastes of northern varieties, Innato’s Premium line offers a unique and exciting exploration of Peru.
We sat down with Alexandra to find out more about her passion for cacao, and the brand she has helped to build.
How many are there of you?
In the main office within Romex we are 40 people. In our cocoa plant in Chincha there are 38 workers.
What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?
Our mission is to make the world aware of Peruvian chocolate offering products that fulfill and satisfy customers, which will in turn improve the quality of life of our farmers, suppliers, customers and employees.
Where do you want to go next? New bars? New beans? New markets?
We want to keep developing new bars with exotic Peruvian origins and enter new markets.
What is the story behind your company name?
Romex- ROM comes from our family name Romero and EX for exporters. We are the second largest exporters of cacao beans in Peru.
Who designed your packaging – and what are you most proud of about your packaging? What inspired your choice of wrapper/mould design?
An agency called Studio A designed our packaging. The term innate comes from the Latin innātus, “to be born in”, and refers to that which is natural, inherent, unlearned, such as your fingerprint which is represented in our packaging. This fingerprint represents that which is innate, which is essentially cocoa that is born with an excellent makeup. The name also refers to the cacao / Romex / Chef, who have an innate passion for cocoa and chocolate, whose process is based on the characteristics of the origin of the product. Also innate to Romex is a commitment to the cocoa farming communities and finally to the product itself in order to develop the market.
How did you source your beans?
We work directly with the farmers for some years and collaborate with their associations and cooperatives.
What innovations in tech, crafting, marketing etc. are you pursuing?
We are developing products with exotic flavours and inclusions.
What chocolate achievement are you most proud of to date?
Our two silver awards in different categories at the Peruvian Salón de Chocolate. It was our first time participating in any competition.
Is there anything else you want to tell us, or you think our customers should know?
The origins of the cocoa that we have discovered are particular, unlike any other. The organoleptic notes are native to Peru.
Who farms them? What’s their mission? How long have they been growing cacao? (co-op, the farmer, bean supplier)
We work with the APROCHEN association in the areas of Jaen more specifically Canana, Bellavista, Inguro, Playa Grande; for Cheni, Rio Grande Centro Poblado de San Juan de Cheni. Their mission is to grow cacao in the most efficient and sustainable manner.
When are the harvests?
From January to June.
What is the fermentation like? How long is it? What do they use?
The fermentation process starts from the collection of fresh cocoa and is fermented using wood boxes of 200 kilos. It lasts about 5-7 days.
How are the beans dried?
The drying is natural direct to the sun and gradually.
How is the cacao transported?
It is coded and packaged in jute bags and then transported to the processing plant.
How did you find them? (Sent a sample, visited them, etc.)
We visited them.
Are there any unique steps/special tweaks to this recipe? (Without revealing any secrets!)
The special part of our process is the dedication we spend working in the field selecting the cocoa for our chocolate.
What machinery has been used?
A roaster toaster (drum), similar to coffee roasting. It is refined with a cocoa refiner and mixed and refined with a roller mill. The conch is Charles Montanari.
Any other notable ingredients? (e.g. particular sugar, milk or additional flavour)
We only work with cocoa paste from the grain and refined white sugar.
Roughly how long does it take? How long is roast, conche, ageing?
The toasting is high medium temperature 100-110 C and less than one hour. The conching time is between 12-15 hours. And the maturing of the chocolate takes about three months.