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DOMORI: LICENCE TO THRILL
Rome - (Ign) - Cult cocoa, that occupies a leading position in Italy's Chocolate Valley. This is Domori (www.domori.com), a company from Genoa founded and still led by Gianluca Franzoni, which produces chocolate for connoisseurs, appreciated all over the world, and whose fans include the British actor Pierce Brosnan.
Mr Franzoni, how does one become a producer of chocolate?
Like in stories with a happy ending, everything happened by chance. I had a degree in economics and worked as a company consultant in a completely different field. And, of course, I was dissatisfied. One day I left for Venezuela on business and a friend of mine took me to a cocoa plantation. That's where I fell in love! I thought that it would be a real challenge to try and bring together gourmets and chocolate, and so in 1994 I began to work on this idea. I made a feasibility study and realised that the market might be interested. I was also lucky because right from the beginning I had access to top quality raw materials - Venezuelan cocoa. This allowed me to concentrate above all on perfecting technical aspects. First I worked with contractors, and then I set up shop on my own, finding a network of agents that helped me to develop the business. And now here I am.
I realise that both definitions may seem reductive, but do you feel more of a craftsman or a manufacturer of chocolate?
From a legislative point of view, we are certainly an industrial concern, but I feel more like a craftsman. If nothing else because, in the strictest sense of the term, Domori has always focused on excellent quality, and it is usually artists and the followers of art who aim at excellence.
What is your top product?
Without doubt the Cru line, a quality chocolate with 70% cocoa paste. The Cru chocolates are available in the two Grandes Cacaos packs, named after the Criollo cocoa plantation owners in Venezuela in the 17th century. It later became a synonym of wealth and power. The cocoa used in the Cru is in fact Criollo cocoa, the most prized and aromatic type. Obviously it is not blended: everything comes from the same plantation, to ensure greater quality. Domori introduced the Cru range to restore wealth and power to the most aromatic cocoa anywhere in the world. We consider that every variety should be judged as cocoa paste. So the Crus are made from the toasted cocoa bean, refined and processed without the addition of more butter than that contained naturally, nor of milk or oily seeds. And thanks to experimentation, we are now ready to launch the development of this line, which will bring the cocoa level in the chocolate up to 100%. There will be six classic products, plus another three with different aromas, an organic line and a line called Style. In total, 11 different varieties and flavours. I really think this must be some kind of small record.
How much is your company worth today?
Domori has a turnover of € 4 million, and 50 employees in the two facilities of Genoa and Turin. The company's turnover is undergoing incredible growth, at levels of 50% per year. I don't know if this is a record, but I'm very happy, also because half of what we produce ends up abroad, and in my own small way I thus contribute to the balance of trade!
Your company deals with the whole production process, from the plantation to the table. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this approach?
We have a plantation in a joint-venture with Venezuela. The main advantage is that we can do research and obviously manage to keep control over the entire production process, resulting in extremely high quality. For a company producing chocolate for connoisseurs, this is vital. The disadvantages are economic in nature: since cocoa is a commodity for which you need at least 20 ha in order to produce 10 tonnes, we have to take on the country risk instead of being able to purchase on the market when and as we need raw materials and looking for the most convenient price. This is what the major companies do, and in this way they pass onto the farmers any difficulties that may be affecting the market. This may make sense from a company point of view, but is not an approach that can be adopted by those who focus only on quality.
Domori boasts unique research; is this true?
We would be presumptuous if we claimed that our research is unique, also because we could never replace the work done by national or international centres which perform research on a daily basis and have thousands of employees. What we don't forget is who we are and where we are going: applied research is our daily bread (and chocolate!); it's what day by day may lead to a small innovation, which however may be significant for us considering our limited size. But despite being small, we are complete, since we have the necessary genetic material, a generous land on which to experiment, and people who know how to bring out the best even when situations are difficult.
A final curiosity: what does the name Domori mean?
Domori means Two Moors in Venetian. It was created when I was staying in Venezuela. I was living in cocoa and coffee plantations, and wanted to choose an evocative name for the project, so I thought of Venice as a land of trade, spices and intellectual activity, and of the Two Moors, that is the two bronze statues on the clock tower in St Mark's Square, who for me metaphorically represent the two dark toasted beans of cocoa and coffee.