Togo and Gabon: two promising outsiders

Gabon: Julie Nyangui imbues her original creations with an African twist

The founder of the ‘Les Chocolats Gabonais de Julie’ brand has become a standard bearer for this central African country’s cocoa transformation and finished product businesses.

In 2007, Julie Nyangui founded Gabon’s first ‘Made in Gabon’ chocolate factory called ‘Les Chocolats Gabonais de Julie’ (Julie’s Gabonese Chocolates). On her premises in central Libreville, this Gabonese entrepreneur offers a range of products using cocoa beans sourced locally from her pilot plantation in Cap Estérias, about 20 km north of the country’s capital, as well as from various other regions within Gabon (Sindara, Oyem, Bifoun, Franceville). Julie offers a multitude of products including ‘plain’ chocolate bars, ‘flavored’ bars, as well as ‘chocolate balls’, honeyed cocoa beans, pralines, ganache chocolates with a variety of fillings, and chocolate sweets (flavored with local ginger, pineapple, peanut, lemon, banana, coffee, cinnamon, pistachio, bitter almond, mint, vanilla, chili, hazelnut, red berries from the Gabon’s forest, and even the Badame country almond). The cocoa used to make these chocolate delights is either bought directly from local cocoa growers or from Gabon’s intermediary, the CAISTAB (Caisse de stabilisation et de péréquation, Stabilization and Equalization fund). The cocoa is then sent to France to undergo the primary transformation process before returning to Gabon where it is worked into finished products using exclusive recipes.

Julie Nyangui in her shop ©Frédie Marufu

Before launching her trademark business, Julie Nyangui, who grew up in a rough neighborhood in Gabon’s capital Libreville, and who worked her way through a multitude of mini-jobs (fast-food seller, manicurist, chef in an ethnic brasserie-type restaurant) was managing a small business selling imported French chocolate when one of the shop’s customers suggested that Julie should create her very own chocolates. Rising to the challenge, Julie taught herself the basics before undertaking formal training programs with French chocolatiers. Today, with four boutiques to her name (one in the center of the city, one in the Radisson Blu Libreville hotel, and two at the international Léon Mba airport), Julie finds rising demand is now outstripping her capacity to supply (the King of Morocco is a customer), and she is currently seeking to acquire new machines to boost production, with a view to completely covering the domestic market and launching her business abroad using her original creations to promote her country’s rich and fertile land. Attributed the Distinguée du Chocolate Award (Excellence in Chocolate Award)at the 2015 Milan Universal Exhibition, Julie Nyangui regularly represents Gabon at international events and notably, she was chosen by the AWEP (African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program) to be the face of African chocolate in the USA.