Countless hours of dedication and hard work have turned South African craft chocolate maker Pieter De Villiers’ dream into a nationally loved brand.
The depth of the story behind De Villiers Chocolate, a craft chocolate maker nestled between the rolling vineyards and rugged shoreline of the Western Cape in South Africa, matches the rich flavours of its products.
The company was built on owner and chocolate maker Pieter de Villiers’ passion for authentic, artisanal produce. Pieter, who worked in engineering for more than 25 years, fell in love with local products sold at a farmers’ market in his seaside hometown, where every item had been lovingly crafted by its maker. Deeply inspired, Pieter initially dipped his toe into bread-making, then winemaking, before falling head over heels into the deep, rich world of chocolate.
Pieter’s experiment began with creating the equipment for his chocolate workshop from old appliances in his garage. He converted the double garage at his home in Hermanus and retrofitted an old masala grinder, a hairdryer, and a recycled washing machine to grind, melt and roast the cocoa beans.
But De Villiers Chocolate’s journey starts long before it reaches the workshop, something Pieter is deeply cognisant of. He knew that sourcing raw materials sustainably would be a cornerstone of creating a unique chocolate experience. He travelled extensively before finding the perfect cocoa bean, which today the chocolate maker sources sustainably from farmers in Western Uganda.
These personally sourced cocoa beans became the basis on which Pieter built his brand, initially creating chocolate bars to be sold at farmers markets. He soon gained a loyal following and began to realise that De Villiers Chocolate had the potential to bring something wonderful to the chocolate market.
Pieter was right: Today De Villiers Chocolate is a well-loved and sought-after brand, sold in retailers’ country-wide, with a standalone manufacturing facility and chocolate tasting centre located in the beautiful Cape Winelands.
Just when it seemed Pieter had the world of chocolate at his feet, the global pandemic swept across the world. And this artisanal chocolate maker was not left untouched.
South Africa went into a hard lockdown shortly after Coronavirus reached its shores, limiting all non-essential economic activity and severely affecting small businesses. De Villiers Chocolate was not excluded from the trials of the lockdown – almost overnight, the business lost a substantial part of its revenue.
But always an innovator at heart, Pieter refused to be defeated. He instead took the time afforded to him by the lockdown to craft a new offering. Pieter had been inspired during a journey to Italy in 2014, where he encountered a range of nut butter chocolate for the first time, made using the abundantly available local hazelnut. He immediately fell in love with the sublime creamy texture and rich nutty flavour and set his sights on perfecting his own uniquely African version during the lockdown.
The nut butter chocolate bars, a delicious addition to the De Villiers Chocolate family, are dairy-free and contain no artificial preservatives, colourants, or ingredients. Keeping sustainability at the forefront, the nut butter bars do not contain any palm oil.
But Pieter could not rest there. He knew he wanted to make chocolate accessible to everyone, regardless of their dietary needs. Pieter set himself the daunting task of creating a no-added-sugar option that tasted as delicious as the rest of the De Villiers Chocolate products. He carefully selected ingredients that mimic the sensory profile of sugar, keeping the signature De Villiers Chocolate experience at the heart of his new creations. These bars are also suitable for lactose and gluten intolerant chocolate lovers.
All De Villiers Chocolate bars are Rainforest Alliance Certified, in support of a mandate which secures a better future for man and nature. The chocolate maker is also the only South African chocolate company to have its chocolates certified by the International Vegan Society.