Uzoamaka Igweike: Entrepreneur changing the Nigeria’s chocolate narrative
Uzoamaka Igweike is the founder and chief executive officer at Loom Craft Chocolate – a chocolate-making company in Abuja.
Uzoamaka is one of the few chocolate producers creating a niche in the industry and changing the Nigerian chocolate narrative.
Despite being a top grower of cocoa, chocolate found in malls and stores in Africa’s biggest economy is mainly imported. A narrative Uzoamaka is changing with Loom Craft Chocolate.
The Anambra State indigene was inspired to set up Loom Chocolate in 2020 due to the difficulty of getting good quality chocolates in the market.
“As a home baker, I found it very difficult to get good quality chocolate in stores and this didn’t add to the fact that Nigeria produces a significant portion of the world’s cocoa. I started researching how to make chocolate at home,” Igweike said.
“I set up Loom Craft Chocolate when I realized that I was making higher quality chocolate than the imported chocolate that flooded the supermarket shelves.”
In Nigeria, there are not enough chocolate producers, according to the Electronic Engineering graduate from the University of Nigeria Nsukka, there are approximately 10 chocolate producers in Nigeria and that is far from enough.
“The chocolate market in Nigeria is dominated by foreign players and we need scores of Nigerian chocolate makers making great quality chocolate to capture the market so that we can enjoy the full value of our cocoa.”
Insecurity is a major challenge for her business as it limits travel and access to the cocoa farms and getting an education.
“Also making chocolate requires a steady supply of power which we currently lack. There are other challenges we face but solving these two would make a big, positive difference,” she noted.
According to Euromonitor International, the size of Nigeria’s chocolate confectionery industry is projected to be worth $31.1 million in 2021, Igweike says that this indicates Nigerians’ love for chocolate, and therein lies a huge opportunity.
“Exporting locally made chocolate provides another opportunity. But Cocoa is way more than chocolate and we have to come up with creative ways to utilize the versatile crop that is cocoa,” she added.
The local producer also believes that locally produced chocolates can compete internationally. “We have great cocoa and creative chocolate makers! Once we meet the regulatory requirements to export, our chocolate can compete anywhere in the world.”
Although chocolate is a non-essential product, the high cost of Foreign Exchange in the country has shifted consumers’ attention to locally produced chocolates.
“The reception of locally made chocolate has been fantastic and we get a lot of support and encouragement from consumers,” Igweike said.
This has led to more local brands of chocolates in the market.
“I think that with access to information comes confidence in one’s ability to create. Also, more people are realizing that amid challenges lie opportunities.”