Retail in Asia


Vietnamese chocolatier Marou sets sights on cafe concept’s regional expansion

In a little over a decade, Vietnam’s Marou has evolved from an artisanal chocolatier to a cafe and retail concept, Maison Marou, with plans to expand the stores outside of Vietnam starting 2024.

SEE ALSO: Singapore’s Flash Coffee to further Southeast Asia, South Korea expansion, raises USD50M in Series B round

Marou co-founder Vincent Mourou. Source: Marou Chocolate

Founded by Vincent Mourou and Samuel Maruta, who emerged from a soul-searching journey into the jungles of Vietnam with the discovery of cacao, Marou became the first bean-to-bar chocolate maker in the country in 2011.

The Ho Chi Minh City-based company continues to work with cacao farmers, sourcing beans from six provinces in Southern Vietnam to create a range of beautifully packaged single-origin chocolate now available in cafes and grocers around the world.

Marou’s co-founder Vincent Mourou speaks with Retail in Asia on bringing Vietnamese chocolate to the global stage.

RiA: Why did you create Marou chocolate?

Mourou: There are two main reasons why we started Marou back in 2011. The first came from the realisation that there was cacao growing in Vietnam and that no one was making chocolate in Vietnam with it.

Source: Marou Chocolate

The second is that we could be one of a handful in the world making export quality chocolate in the country of origin. The idea of being able to bring an added value to Vietnamese cacao, creating jobs and a Vietnamese chocolate brand was pioneering and very exciting.

RiA: What do you consider some key milestones for Marou Chocolate?

Mourou: Some of the key milestones for the brand include releasing our Vietnam Origin line of chocolates. [By doing so] we were the first to bring the concept of terroir into the world of chocolate. Within one country, we were able to offer different tasting chocolates from different provinces throughout Vietnam.

Source: Marou Chocolate

The opening of our first retail concept Maison Marou [also] transformed us from a bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer to a retailer.

RiA: In 2016, you also decided to expand into a cafe, Maison Marou. Can you tell us about the concept and why you chose to expand in this way?  

Mourou: Opening the Maison Marou concept was an opportunity for us to have a showroom for our brand and to offer the most complete chocolate experience in the world.

Source: Marou Chocolate

It’s the only place where the chocolate is made in the shop from the beans all the way to finished chocolate bars, filled chocolates, fine pastries and drinks – all before your eyes to be enjoyed there.

Expanding Maison Marou is the best way we know how to bring customers into the world of Marou and chocolate – from how we source cacao directly from Vietnamese farmers to the making fine pastries “à la minute” for our guests.

SEE ALSO: Inside Starbucks’ ‘Greener Stores’ in Southeast Asia

RiA: Do you plan to expand further in Vietnam?

Mourou: We currently have eight locations but are expecting to open 10 new ones this year. [Beyond Vietnam] we are currently looking to expand in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Europe.