Made in Croatia

Made in Croatia: Japanese Customers Love Sesvete Chocolates

By 29 December 2019

As Novac writes on the 29th of December, 2019, everything went much more spontaneously than it did in a planned fashion when it comes to these Sesvete chocolates that have won over Japanese customers, acting as yet another example of just how successful the ''Made in Croatia'' tag could really be for this little country.

''My father had had a plan in his mind for ages to produce some authentic Croatian desserts, chocolate balls. Four years ago, when the possibility to obtain EU funds was opened, we decided to take a chance,'' recalls Fran Reizl, the son of the owner of the Sesvete family-owned chocolate factory - Vrsna.

Together with his mother Jozefin and his father Mirko, the small factory produces handmade pralines, truffles, white, milk and dark chocolates that have broken through the borders of Croatia and have become popular even in Japan.

''My parents founded a consumer goods distribution company 20 years ago. They mostly imported sweets, biscuits and chocolates. Over time, these jobs were less and less fulfilling. During this time I studied design. After graduation, I worked for a short time in an agency, but I wasn't satisfied with that. I decided to try to work with my parents, even though that was never my plan,'' explains Fran.

With the help of EU funds, they were able to equip a small factory for the production of the Sesvete chocolates, and as Fran explains, it took them almost two years to master the craft.

''At first, we had no idea what we were doing. We'd get the temperatures wrong, then we'd put the chocolate in the fridge and everything would crust over. I had some crazy combinations in my head, like olive oil in chocolate, which was a total failure… We had total chaos in the kitchen. Chocolate was all over the walls too,'' he said.

Although these Sesvete chocolates are of course made here in Croatia, they do not process raw cocoa themselves, they buy it from a French-Belgian company as raw material, which they then process according to their own recipes in Sesvete near Zagreb.

The first brand with which they bravely came to the market was white chocolate with black dots, called Dalmatiner. After that, they just kept on throwing out new products. This year, they grabbed more attention with the first pink chocolate made in Croatia - Ruby. The price of their chocolates ranges from 30 to 35 kuna. They are of course more expensive than chocolates from major manufacturers, reports tportal.

''That chocolate has no artificial colour and doesn't contain any berries. The natural colour of cocoa seeds is rosy. Chocolate makers discovered just two years ago that it can be preserved if the cocoa is kept in lemon juice for 24 hours. And there's the secret for you,'' he adds.

Reiz currently has more than fifty brands, all of which have been made in Croatia, out on the market. In addition to chocolates, there are various types of pralines and truffles under their name, too. Almost 40 percent of their production is exported to the markets of Japan, Australia and Austria, and may soon be present in neighbouring Montenegro, and even in the United Arab Emirates and in Pakistan.

''Most of our customers came to us alone. They would taste our products and that would interest them. The story with the Japanese is interesting. I got an email from their big distribution house. At first, I thought someone was messing with me because it seemed too good to be true. But then their representative came to us by plane directly from Japan. She was with us for an hour and immediately returned home. The Japanese are our favourite customers now. They're particularly delighted by our family story. They want us for long-term partners,'' says Fran proudly.

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