Syrian chocolatier sweetens Hungary’s job market

Global Business

Syrian chocolatier sweetens Hungary's job market

One Syrian entrepreneur escaped Damascus, as the war forced him to close his business. Now he is bringing his two century-old family dessert making expertise to Budapest.

CGTN’s Nanuka Danelia reports.

Handmade chocolates are drawing crowds to Hungary’s capital Budapest. While the craft chocolate boutique was opened recently, its story stretches back 200 years.

It belongs to a fourth generation Syrian confectioner Bassam Ghraoui, who had to leave Damascus three years ago when the war ruined his business. He escaped to Europe and took his craft with him.

“Fine chocolate making is two things together: It is an art of making chocolate, and it is the technology. You need very good machines, but you really need people who know – qualified chocolatiers who know and who are in love with the art of making chocolate,” Ghraoui said.

Six Syrian chocolatiers trained 65 employees at Ghraoui’s first artisan factory in Hungary. The company is opening a second plant near Budapest where it will create 540 new jobs.

For Ghraoui, Hungary is a springboard to the global market. The brand has already claimed some of the most prestigious international awards, defeating competitors from Switzerland and Belgium.

“We are forecasting to produce almost 7,500 tons of chocolate, hopefully we will produce more per year and 95 percent will be exported, so it is a project which will put Hungary on the map of higher-than-average of EU exporters of chocolate.” Said Ghraoui.

The European Union dominates the chocolate industry with 44% of the market share. And while the sector at large has taken a hit in recent years with rising cocoa prices, the odds for Ghraoui seem pretty sweet. According to the International Cocoa Organization, fine cocoa is the fastest growing segments of the industry, as health conscious consumers move away from mass produced bars that tend to have higher levels of sugar.

Ghraoui’s team said there’s also a more romantic reason for its popularity.”Chocolate is not only a product, it is more of a declaration of love,” Ghraoui communications director, Rania Ismail said.

The Syrian chocolate brand will be opening its next boutique in France, taking that declaration to the city of love, Paris.