Alexandra Clarks story is not your typical one. Although not directly involved in the agricultural industry, it was agriculture that helped her get to where she is today. Based in Detroit USA, Alex is a free-spirited, entrepreneurial chocolatier who has taken her love for cacao and sustainable chocolate production to the next level.
In 2014 Alex fulfilled her lifelong dream when she opened the first artisan chocolate shop, Bon Bon Bon, in Hamtramck, Detroit. To get to this point Alex has also honed her skills in food production and agriculture. She holds degrees in Hospitality Business & Food Science from Michigan University and Agricultural Commerce at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand. Alexandra has travelled extensively immersing herself in the world’s finest cacao producing countries.
Alex directly sources cacao from small plantations in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, working closely with the farmers involved.
“There are two processes on-farm that are really critical during and after the harvest of the cacao bean – the fermentation and the drying process. These are all important to flavour development. So if corners are cut during these two main processes which often happens in an industry that’s always in a hurry and cash-hungry, it can really impact on the quality of product that you’re trying to achieve at the other end.”
Alexandra is therefore particular when it comes to choosing those to work with in the supply chain.
Like many other crops, the flavours of the cacao bean are also influenced by the microclimates that they grow in – from location of the farm, its soil and water, the nearest trees, the way the sun effects the growth cycle and harvest – these are all considerations Alex needs to take in when creating her chocolate creations.
“Ultimately I am part of a food supply chain – I take a raw agricultural commodity like the cacao bean and turn it into a product that the consumer demands. It is great being at the end of the chain as I get to be involved with the farmer’s processors but also get to add value and interact with the end customer”.
Alex then mixes in local ingredients from nearby farmers in Michigan to make her trademark chocolate delicacies that range from the conventional to the uncanny.
Alex believes the closer they get to the farmers or producers in the supply chain, the more actual control they have over their price and the quality of the products they produce.
“It means that the chocolate our customers are eating is honest and sustaining the lives of farmers all working to produce products of the highest quality.”
In less than two full years after first opening up shop, Alex has held pop-ups in New York, introduced and was named Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2016 for the Food and Drink category. She has just relocated into a new 6,000-square-foot chocolate factory in downtown Hamtramck (ten times the square footage of the old space) and is in the process of developing an online store that will launch in October.
Awesome work Alex! We totally understand why you enjoy your position in the consumer process. Being able to be involved with the production of a product whilst also being involved with how it reaches the consumer is a lucky place to be! Keep on reaching your goals!