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Interview with German Chocolate Master, Kevin Kugel

Kevin, as a renowned chocolatier, you’ve been pivotal in crafting unique and luxurious chocolate experiences. Could you share what drives your creative process and how you tackle the challenge of constantly innovating in the world of chocolate?

Yes, on the one hand, I think it’s very important that you simply love your job, because then you’re generally curious and of course you create a lot of new things. For me, I like to eat a lot, and I spend a lot of time with other chefs. Then, naturally, you consistently get exposed to new things, new flavours. And then you’re always thinking: What could I do with this new spice? What could I do with this ingredient? What new flavour compositions are there? So, actually, it’s always in your head and that’s how new and creative stories emerge.

‘Until now, there was always just chocolate where other sweeteners, milk powder, and other powders were added. And now you can actually make a chocolate that is simply made from the cocoa fruit. I think that’s the most important thing, the most meaningful thing.’

Behind every remarkable innovation, there’s an intriguing story. Could you share with us the ‘eureka’ moment or the inspirations that led you to incorporate Koa products in your chocolate creations?

I was in Ecuador for the first time in 2014, visiting the farmers there and watching how everything was harvested and processed. That’s why the connection to the origin is very, very important to me. We then started making our own raw chocolate and always had a direct connection to the farmers, to the partners. At some point, I heard about Koa. I think it was at a trade fair. I heard about the project, about the products, and it was of course immediately fascinating for me because Koa offers products straight from the origin – simply pure cocoa. And then the connection was immediately clear to me to include these products in our own. This closes the circle so that everything can be easily processed again directly from the origin.

The sweetener market is diverse and extensive. In your view, what distinguishes Koa’s cocoa fruit ingredients as a distinct and superior choice for use in chocolate-making compared to other sweeteners?

These products inspire and fascinate me because you can produce a chocolate that consists only of the cocoa fruit. Until now, there was always just chocolate where other sweeteners, milk powder, and other powders were added. And now you can actually make a chocolate that is simply made from the cocoa fruit. I think that’s the most important thing, the most meaningful thing. You get a nice fruitiness in the chocolate, a slight acidity in it, and something fresh. It gives dark chocolate just a fascinating aroma. Then with the cocoa beans and the Koa Flakes as a sweetener, it’s just a perfect addition. You have a chocolate made from just two ingredients. That’s what’s so fascinating about it.

Since introducing Koa products into your chocolate creations, what has been the response from your customers? Are there any notable reactions or feedback that have stood out to you regarding this unique twist in your chocolates?

At first, you just had to explain [cocoa fruit pulp] a little, and sometimes you still have to. I think it’s very important because many customers don’t even know about this product, or the cocoa bean, or the fresh pulp. We’ve been doing this for a long time now, in our shop, or at tastings. And as soon as customers try it, they are simply fascinated because they often don’t know anything about [cocoa fruit pulp]. Most people just know what chocolate tastes like. But how does the fresh fruit, or the juice, or the flakes, or whichever taste? I think once customers try it, they’re just fascinated by the product. 

A cocoa-fruit-shaped praline made with only cocoa fruit. A chocolate shell made with dried cocoa fruit pulp envelops a cocoa fruit juice marmalade, a ganache sweetened with concentrated cocoa fruit juice, and crunchy cocoa fruit flakes mixed with cocoa nibs, cocoa butter, and ganache.

Imagine we are in the year 2034. How do you envision Koa’s cocoa fruit ingredients transforming the chocolate creation and consumption landscape in the future?

Because many end consumers still have very, very little contact with this product and, in this case, know very little about the cocoa fruit, I think that it can be implemented in a lot of applications or confectionery. We have included cocoa fruit in many things and you can easily tell a product story. I think it can be implemented very strongly in gastronomy, in desserts or as cocktails in bars. You can add it to tarts, to ice cream, or pralines, for instance. You can create different textures: something creamy, something crunchy, or something soft as a drink. So it’s just very, very versatile. There are so many possibilities where this product can be processed very beautifully. 

As a fun closing question, if you could share your chocolate creations featuring Koa products with any historical figure, who would it be and why?

I would probably like to share with Alain Ducasse from France. On the one hand, he is one of the best chefs, a 3-star chef, and also knows a lot about chocolate, so the connection is simply perfect. And on the other hand, my first apprenticeship was as a chef. That’s why I still really enjoy being involved in the subject matter and would love to try it out with him and philosophise about it.

Are you interested in learning more about the cocoa fruit ingredients that Kevin used? See all of our products on the page below and get in touch with us to share your idea.

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