Lovers of chocolate! Have you ever stopped and thought about where it is your favorite chocolate comes from? Or the process in which it is created? Whether it is imported or created just around the corner? Not many people know that Kuwait has been very fortunate in having its very own chocolate factory located in the city and this is all owed to the Al-Kazemi group of companies. Finance major turned chocolate connoisseur, meet the man behind the corporation, the man behind our very own chocolate factory, Ali Al-Kazemi, and learn the difference between compound and coverture chocolate.
Ghadeer Al-Otaibi: Who is Ali Al-Kazemi?
Ali Al-Kazemi: You are the first person to ask me this question. In a nutshell, constantly seeking for perfection. I am a perfectionist. If I put my hand in something, I don’t like the idea of it leaving my hands without it having a personal touch and striving to make it the best that it can be.
GA: A little bit of a background on the company?
AA: The Group started off as a shipping company established in 1951, and it progressed throughout the years up until this day into the tourism industry (with travel agencies and a hotel), manufacturing business (chocolate factory) as well as a tourism office in Iraq and Dubai.
GA: How hard is it then to run all of these companies and demand perfection at the same time?
AA: You need to be constantly involved in your work. Not just stable at one's desk. You need to move around and make sure that all of your companies are functioning in the manner that you want them to function. I don’t like to sit around and have coffee and read about the news, I like to get to know my employees and make sure I pay tentative attention to every detail.
GA: How did you get into the position that you are in today?
AA: During the time I was at university I used to always pass by and look around to have a feel of what it was like around the company, so I graduated and joined the team last year. I started off with the chocolate factory. It is the company that I am managing on a day-to-day basis. When I entered the company it was quite big, so I asked my father for advice on what it expected. He told me when he started off in life he worked his way up and created what our company is today. In order to own a business, you need to get a feel of what it is to run a business. It will be pointless just looking at numbers from a desk. So what one has to do is work closely with people who are hands on in order to get a feel of what it is like and be able to have some input.
GA: So, tell me about the chocolate factory…
AA: You know, not a lot of people know that a chocolate factory exists in Kuwait. We started off with creating and supplying basic chocolate blocks. Confectionaries or bakers only use them. They use them and melt them to create pralines or they use them as fillings for croissants, etc. When I entered, this was the sole purpose and function of the factory. I felt that with the set-up that we had we could diversify and gain recognition in the market rather than being silently supplying away. So when I came in, we diversified our product line. We started supplying pralines, hard shell chocolates, truffles, etc. We started supplying finished goods to chocolate shops around Kuwait. The purpose of this was not only more profitable, but also we got recognition for being a company that supplies quality products. So now we are capable of meeting our clients' sweet tooth demand by modifying the product to their demands. Around 60%-70% of chocolate shops in Kuwait, you wouldn’t know it, supply chocolate from our company.
GA: That’s the thing; you are a very hidden secret. I just recently found out you supply to some of the top coffee houses here.
AA: Yes. Basically these companies used to get their items from out of Kuwait, but now we are the local and regional suppliers to a lot of companies.
GA: The quality of the chocolate that you use, what is it?
AA: Do you think that the majority of chocolate bars you eat are made from pure chocolate? You assume it is?! It isn’t. What you are eating is not chocolate. There are 2 types of chocolate: coverture and compound. The commercial chocolate that you usually find and eat is compound. What is compound? Chocolate beans when crushed are split into 3 fields: Cocoa butter, cocoa mass and cocoa powder. When you separate the mass from the butter, you get cocoa powder. Cocoa powder is the item used in compound chocolate. It is the waste product made when you separate the mass from the product and it gives it the smell as well as the color, and sometimes a taste to some extent of chocolate. You can call it fake chocolate to some extent! When you look at a chocolate's ingredients, you should read cocoa solid, cocoa mass, cocoa liquor or cocoa butter. If it contains any of these words, know that what you are eating is real chocolate. Our company supplies both.
GA: So all of the products are made in Kuwait?
AA: Yes! All of our products are made in Kuwait. People always assume that chocolate here is imported or that good quality chocolate is imported. 90% of it is all made in the region. I don’t understand why there is such a misconception about chocolate's quality depending on where it comes from. The assumption that if chocolate was made in Kuwait then it isn’t good quality; that good chocolate has to come from Belgium or Switzerland. Do you think that cocoa beans grow in Switzerland? Or in Kuwait? No. The beans and the products that they get come from Africa, South America, South East Asia, same as we do. The only tweak and difference is the formula that companies use. We all import the same raw materials at the end of the day. Preference of where one wants to buy his chocolate is what has become a trend.
GA: What’s a piece of advice you were given that you cherish dearly?
AA: Never give up and always have faith in God.
The team at Khaleejesque has had the opportunity to visit the chocolate factory and savor the yummy goodness that is created at the Al-Kazmi Chocolate factory. Watch out for this space to learn more about our Willy Wonka chocolate factory experience.
For more information about Al Kazemi Food Industries, their services and chocolate products, visit www.alkazemifood.com