ICAM prides itself on partnerships. Its chairman and president, Angelo Agostoni, has spent the last 45 years working with farmers in Central and South America, and most recently, Uganda, in helping them produce better cocoa beans as well as improved yields.
It also looks to its suppliers that way. Arlington, Mass.-based Global Organics has been supplying organic sugar to ICAM for the past several years. Given the Italian chocolate company’s stringent quality control standards, that in itself says something.
That relationship has, similar to the company’s partnerships with cocoa farmers, also evolved. Global Organics began working with ICAM in 1997, at first selling only the company’s organic powder, liquor and butter. The concept made sense, since it sold other organic ingredients used in chocolate to a broad range of customers.
A few years ago Dave Alexander, president and managing director of Global Organic, began discussing the idea of selling the Agostoni line of couvertures as well as ingredients to his customers. Last year, the company inked the deal, making Global Organics the exclusive importer of semi-finished products and couvertures under the Agostoni brand name to the United States. The move proved timely as sales of chocolate products rose nearly 40 percent in 2013 — most of it coming from ICAM’s product line.
As Alexander points out, U.S. consumers are returning back to organic products after a brief hiatus during the Great Recession.
“There’s a swell of people concerned about sourcing,” he says. “We’re seeing interest swing toward organic as an alternative to GMO-based products.”
Giovanni Agostoni, marketing and sales director for ICAM concurs, adding, “It’s a natural evolution in our relationship with Global Organics. It’s clear that the organic and premium chocolate categories are merging together.”
That convergence also happens to tie into several other positives for the Agostoni brand: manufacturing prowess and Italian culinary heritage.
“When people think about the Italian culinary heritage in the United States, that’s a positive trend,” says Carla Baroni, export manager for North America. That connotation also applies to chocolate.
The company also serves important retailers in the United States with its premium line and increasing range of private-label products through its subsidiary, Agostoni Chocolate North America in Los Angeles. Of course, it’s also capable of developing customized branded products for clients.
It’s simply a matter of increasing ICAM/Agostoni’s visibility in the United States, adds Giovanni. Retailers are taking note of the Whole Foods model, he says, which provides customers with certified, organic products. ICAM/Agostoni’s offerings address consumer concerns about sourcing while simultaneously delivering a gourmet experience. Once again, an ideal partnership.