Demand for Chocolate During Pandemic Saved This Woman's Business

Exquisito Chocolates is an artisanal chocolatier in Miami that was forced to reinvent its business model due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Exquisito Chocolates is a chocolate factory in Miami’s Little Havana district that
produces about 20 tons of cacao a year.

Everything is made by hand, from individual chocolate bars and candy to the
chocolate Exquisito Chocolates sells to hotels and restaurants.

Before COVID-19 hit South Florida, much of the company’s revenue came from
wholesale deals it struck with other businesses, like hotels and breweries. But
everything changed in March 2020, when the first possible cases of coronavirus
were registered in the United States.

“We would sell products, and people would pay us within 30 to 45 days,” said
Carolina Quijano, owner of Exquisito Chocolates. “And what happened? In that time window, contacts at those companies started disappearing a bit. So we had all these pending invoices.”

“And since everyone was scared, our cash flow started drying up. All of a sudden,
people weren’t answering my calls. I think that happened to a lot of people,”
Quijano said.

However, Quijano says mandatory quarantine measures triggered a spike in chocolate sales.

During a 17-month period that ended on June 27, 2020, U.S. consumers purchased about $3.7 billion in chocolate. That is a 6.3% increase compared to 2019, according to Nielsen.

“Apparently, chocolate became the guilty pleasure of the pandemic,” said Quijano.
“Since seeing that boom, since watching the news and [what was happening with]
the industry at large, I’ve put much more effort into online sales because I knew it
would be our saving grace.”

In addition to online sales through her website, Quijano started offering virtual tours of her Factory and DIY kits so customers could make chocolate truffles at home.

Today, Quijano has been able to thrive with her business, keep all her employees
and support cacao farmers.

“Knowing that we can keep producing chocolate is about something much bigger
than my company,” Quijano said. “It helps others, since we all live off of this.”

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