Yiga Chocolate and Mountain Hazelnuts kick off landmark collaboration to produce hazelnut chocolate

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At a simple ceremony at Yiga Chocolate’s headquarters and chocolate factory within the Start-Up Center in Changzamtog, Thimphu, the Founder of Yiga Chocolate, Kinley Pelden, and the CEO of Mountain Hazelnuts, Dr. Sean Watson, jointly signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which will guide collaboration between the two companies over the next three years. This is part of Mountain Hazelnut’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program, and in line with the Company’s broader commitment to supporting Bhutanese entrepreneurship, a key driver of job creation.

This strategic partnership is based on a joint commitment to shared values which were reiterated at the signing of the MoU. Kinley Pelden expressed, “MH and Yiga both being sustainable enterprises and the products complementing each other, the synergy from this collaboration can create better and far reaching impact than we can create on our own.  We look forward to this partnership and how it can mutually leverage these common goals of social and environmental impact. With our wider goals aligned and the resources complementing each other, we foresee lot of innovations and creative offshoots down the years. For Yiga, this strategic partnership will help us diversify our product lines and enhance wider access to the global market.”

The CEO of Mountain Hazelnuts said: “Whilst Mountain Hazelnuts brings international experience and good practices, we still have a lot to learn from Yiga Chocolate about how to be successful in Bhutan. We are excited to work with entrepreneurs such as Yiga Chocolate, which will help us refine our approach as well as explore potential opportunities that the hazelnut value chain opens up. Yiga Chocolate and Mountain Hazelnuts share very similar values – we both prioritise social and environmental impact alongside economic profitability. These overlapping values are a strong foundation for partnership, and it is our hope that they will be embodied in the chocolate we are jointly creating”.

As part of the agreement, Mountain Hazelnuts will supply Yiga Chocolate 250kg of in-shell hazelnuts in 2020, which Yiga Chocolate will use to produce hazelnut chocolate. The hazelnut chocolate will be packaged using Yiga’s own brand packaging, as well as carry the Mountain Hazelnuts logo, symbolizing the close collaboration between both companies. Both entities look forward to supporting the Brand Bhutan initiative which is currently being developed by the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB).

This event was carried out in line with modified practices because of COVID-19. A small team of representatives from both parties were present, and both companies closed the agreement with an elbow bump instead of a traditional handshake. To mark the event, chocolate suja and hazelnut desi were served, to encourage the integration of chocolate as well as hazelnuts in Bhutanese culture. Such practices of innovation and cooperation from the outset lays a strong foundation for the cooperation between Yiga Chocolate and Mountain Hazelnuts.

The event was also graced by Phuntsho Namgay, Executive Director of the Loden Foundation, as a witness on Ms. Kinley Pelden’s behalf. “Yiga Chocolate is a pioneer in producing premium artisanal chocolates in Bhutan using local products with health benefits collected directly from the growers and has recently pioneered cacao cultivation on a trial basis in partnership with the Agriculture Ministry’s Research and Development Center in Gelephu. Mountain Hazelnuts is a company that empowers Bhutanese farmers to grow hazelnuts, which is considered a super food. Therefore, I think the partnership is very timely and a good example of how businesses can collaborate and complement each other to add value to their products. I look forward to seeing this partnership grow so that aspiring or existing Bhutanese entrepreneurs can draw inspiration and explore similar opportunities”, said Phuntsho Namgay, of the Loden Foundation.

Mountain Hazelnuts is a social enterprise developing environmentally sustainable hazelnut cultivation in Bhutan, and works closely with Bhutanese companies to encourage participation in the hazelnut value chain.

Yiga Chocolate is a Bhutanese start-up company that uses high quality local products to produce artisanal chocolate products which are hand-tempered in Bhutan.

Tshering from Thimphu

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