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Transforming Jamaica’s finest cocoa beans into exquisite chocolate bars has been the passion of co-founder of Pure Chocolate Jamaica, Wouter Tjeertes.

Tjeertes’ journey into the world of chocolate began long before the inception of Pure Chocolate Jamaica.

As a young pastry chef in Holland, he honed his craft in chocolate and pastry shops, guided by mentors who instilled in him a deep appreciation for the creative possibilities of chocolate.

But it was his Caribbean adventure that would truly ignite his passion.

Arriving in Curacao in 2008, he found himself immersed in the vibrant culinary scene of the Caribbean.

From there, his journey led him to Jamaica, where he met his wife, Renée, while working as an executive pastry chef at the Half Moon resort.

Together they embarked on a journey to St Lucia and while working on a property there, he learned how to turn cocoa pods into chocolate.

“Normally as a pastry chef, you buy a block of chocolate, and you make a brownie, and now I got the opportunity to actually make the chocolate from scratch from the fruit,” he shared.

While in St Lucia, the couple learned that Jamaica not only grows some of the finest cocoa in the world, but that it is a premium crop that was underutilised at the time. Thus, Pure Chocolate Jamaica was born.

“Besides our passion for chocolate, knowing and seeing where the country of Jamaica can benefit so much better if we create added-value products here was really at the heart and the core of why we decided to start doing it,” Tjeertes explains.


Returning to Jamaica in 2017, Tjeertes took on the role of executive pastry chef at various resorts in Montego Bay, while his wife spearheaded the launch of Pure Chocolate Jamaica from their home.

With a mission to elevate Jamaica’s cocoa industry, they set out to create premium chocolate bars that would not only delight the taste buds, but also tell the story of Jamaica’s rich culinary heritage. “When we started deciding on what kind of flavours to make with our chocolate, we immediately realised that through chocolate and, more so, flavoured chocolate bars, you can really tell the story of Jamaica and its cuisine, and that’s always at the forefront of what we’re doing,” Tjeertes says.

This process led to the dynamic duo crafting an array of unique flavours, from rum-infused bars to jerk-seasoning delights.

As it relates to the jerk-seasoning bars, the co-founder points out that “it is one of our first bars and, funny enough, locally it wasn’t really taking off. I think it was a bit too out-of-the-box for the local market, but we reached out to our distributor in Holland, and this is now one of our best sellers”.

Their innovative approach caught the attention of chocolate enthusiasts both locally and internationally, earning them numerous accolades and awards.

These include the International Product of the Year in the United Kingdom, an Academy of Chocolate Gold Award, and an International Chocolate Silver Award.


However, for Wouter and Renée, success went beyond accolades.

They were determined to make a positive impact on the communities they worked with, starting with the farmers who grew the cocoa.

“Our goal is always to make sure that not only our product is sustainable, but that the business model is sustainable; and how we believe to do that is by ensuring that everybody is treated fairly and is happy to work with us,” Tjeertes says.

He had discussions with his first cocoa farmer in Portland, St Mary.

“Initially, we had a conversation and we asked about the prices that he was getting for his cocoa, which he shared.

“We asked him what he needed, because while doing the product calculations, we soon realised that the raw materials going into a product is normally not where most of your cost goes. It normally goes into your packaging, overhead, marketing, and staff,” he says.

Armed with this knowledge, he knew that he did not have to pay the farmer double for his cocoa beans; but knowing the huge difference it would make in his life, he decided to do so.

“By doing that, he (the farmer) was able to take better care of his farm, his crop and his family and in return, we get better quality cocoa beans,” Tjeertes says.

Last year, the company received the Cocoa of Excellence award – the highest international award for cocoa beans.

Another notable moment was recently receiving the Jamaica Business Development Corporation’s Building Opportunities for Strong Success (BOSS) Man of the Year award.

With plans to expand their operations and share their passion for chocolate with the world, the couple dreams of building their own chocolate factory.

“We, in our mission, vision and values, always say we want to become the leading artisan chocolate maker of the Caribbean. If you say Caribbean chocolate, I want people to say Pure Chocolate,” Tjeertes said.

From their storefront in Ocho Rios, St Ann, they currently offer workshops on Saturdays for persons who are interested in learning about the Jamaican cocoa, as well as making their own chocolate bars.

Pure Chocolate Jamaica partners with graduates from the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, or otherwise creatively inclined, to create the design for its products.

“We partner with them, feature their bios inside our packaging; so if my customers like the art, they can go online and support the artists. We take it one step further by also offering a commission on each bar sold,” Tjeertes says.


Source: Jamaica Gleaner –


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