The 5th annual Salon del Cacao y Chocolate was held in Lima, Perú July 4-6. This was followed up by La Ruta del Cacao, a trip into la selva (the jungle) in and around Tarapoto in San Martin province July 7-9. I was one of a group of more than 20 invited international guests who attended both the Salon and La Ruta.
As with last year, the two events were organized and enjoyed the support of a broad range of organizations and government ministries including the Perúvian federal government Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Economic Development, DEVIDA (National Commission for Development and Life without Drugs), PromPerú (the Ministry of Foreign Commerce and Tourism), Technoserve (a US-based NGO), APPCACAO (the Perúvian cacao growers association), and USAID, among others.
The Salon del Cacao y Chocolate and La Ruta del Cacao serve a number of purposes:
This year, the Salon was held near the Parque des Aguas in the Parque de la Reserva instead of in a hotel conference center. 5 tents were erected for the Salon - one for general business activities, one for a series of kitchen demos, two for art exhibits, and the main tent which held all of the stands for the exhibitors.
As a venue, the Parque was a much better choice than a hotel ballroom because it offered more or less unlimited outside space to relieve crowding and congestion - and this year the organizers were expecting as many as 30,000 (!!!) visitors to attend. Sadly, attendance did not meet expectation as there were two quarter-final World Cup matches on both of the first two days. Much as people love chocolate, their love of and for the World Cup runs deeper.
I arrived in Lima on the 2nd in order to attend the opening session on the morning of the 3rd. This included talks by the head of DEVIDA, the president of APPCACAO, a representative of the Ministry of Agriculture, and the #2 person from USAID in Perú. These presentations were to be as expected. What was unexpected was the attendance - especially the number of media outlets that were represented including national newspapers, radio, and television. We don't have any event in chocolate here in the US that can match the attention that gets paid to the Salon in Perú. We certainly don't have the head of the USDA showing up to any chocolate festivals telling us how important cocoa and chocolate are to the US economy - because they're not that important.
After the opening ceremonies and before we headed out to a lunch for the international contingent hosted by ChocoPerú - a group of chocolate makers and confectioners in Perú, the exhibits were open so we (actually, the government ministers and the press) could take an advance look.
Above: A shot of the attendance and media at the opening session. Below: VIP guests in the booth of the Mishky cooperative. which is located in Chasuta in San Martin province. Bottom: A view of the Pacific Ocean from the Larco Mar - where we had lunch - an upscale shopping mall built into a cliff in the Miraflores neighborhood of Lima. I did not see the sun break through the clouds the entire time I was in Lima.
The international group for the Salon this year was entirely different from last year - except for me. A number of ChocolateLife members were in attendance, from the US, Australia, Chile, Mexico, and Belgium. (The entire list of countries represented also included Holland, France, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia.) Several members I'd never met before, and some were old friends - though we were all fast friends by the end of the trip. Although we were there to be be observers, we were also there to be active participants. Every single one of us had the option of giving a presentation or to give a kitchen demonstration. I chose to give a presentation (my topic was marketing Perúvian finished chocolates internationally), but the projection screen was broken so all of us had to improvise and give our presentations without our support materials.