BY ANAAM IKRAM
An exciting range of all things chocolate, from pralinoise, bonbons, chocolate bars, lollipops, marshmallow lollies, enrobed nuts, cookies, caramel concepts, coffee and chocolate creations, and a special range for children, Maya La Chocolaterie is a sweet world of wonders catering to every palate. The brainchild of Sonya Janahi, founder of the parent company The Living Concepts Company, Maya La Chocolaterie’s winning formula relies on the purity and consistency of its raw ingredients, the novelty, and wide selection of flavours and in-depth understanding of customer insights. Perle Magazine got to the opportunity to visit the factory and witness first-hand the creation of the Maya products and sit down with Sonya to learn more about her company’s growth and journey over the last decade and her efforts in evolving Maya in to one of the most recognised chocolateries in the region.
Renowned for its commitment to product excellence and its tantalising concoction of chocolate flavours, Maya La Chocolaterie was set up by Sonya 10 years ago after her impressive career spanning across various industries, including banking and telecom, and with specialised know-how in retail, investment, oil & gas, and real estate. She decided to embark on her entrepreneurial journey and set up her umberella company The Living Concepts – a hospitality and F&B consultancy mandated to inspire homegrown, innovative concepts with vast potential to turn them into international franchise names.Dedicating herself to Maya, Sonya went on to earn her certificate as a professional Chocolatier from the renowned École Chocolat and established her brand that has since become synonymous with exceptional quality, on par with some of the most celebrated chocolatiers in the world. Producing over 25 tonnes of chocolates annually out of its state-of-the-art facility in Bahrain, Maya ships all products fresh to its franchises in Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, to ensure consistency in quality and taste.
Naming the brand after the Mayan tribe who were the first to discover the cocoa beans, Maya uses the latest technology and most stringest hygiene protocols in its factory to maintain product excellence. Housing tempering machines, a 12-meter conveyor belt, and a machine especially for enrobing nuts, the factory is fully equipped to produce the large quantities of Maya’s chocolates in an efficient manner. Using Belgian chocolate, the tempering machines are responsible for giving the chocolate the shine and the quality without using preservatives or additives like cocoa butter. The machine melts the chocolate and through heat and cold removes the crystallisation to get the shine on the top shell. Ensuring the chocolates are not only of high quality, but are also healthy, Sonya states that the brand’s philosophy is dedicated to creating “chocolate for a better world”. “This is our motto and we abide by it. We want our customers to have chocolate but to still be healthy, we want them to indulge without feeling guilty.” Sonya adds that they use the purest of ingredients sourced from the most specialised vendors in Europe, so as not to compromise on the quality. The chocolate is then transferred onto the next production phase, where the centres are filled and any excess is shaken off before they are left to set.
The chocolate bar and bonbons are created using moulds, which are filled with various blends and flavours, such as white, milk, or dark chocolate, espresso ganache, or any other ingredients that the recipe dictates. Sonya explains that she chose to work with Belgian chocolate to bring the same quality and finesse of European chocolate to the Arab market, while adding the local touch her regional clients prefer. She has also worked hard to get all the chocolate bars endorsed for quality certification that is recognised internationally.
Home to over 90 types of chocolate, with each recipe created in-house, Sonya explains all their recipes are approved by a committee, comprising the senior management team who are directly involved in the decision-making for all products and desserts created. Sonya explains she works with the chefs to create the recipes and the styling of the plates. Once ready, the product is brought to the committee, who acts as the focus group, they taste all creations before they are added to the menu. “We work on the ingredients, production, and plating.” Maya has also created a fun retail range called ChocoB’s, which includes plush toys, chocolate lollipops, chocolate bars, and ceramics available at all Maya outlets. The three main characters, Choco Mo, Choco Dee, and Choco Bebe represent milk, dark, and white chocolate truffles, though there are over 15 loveable ChocoB’s characters hailing from the land of chocolate. There is also a special line of chocolates just for children, featuring white chocolate, plain milk, one with rice krispies (for crunch), and a special edition with colourful graffiti design.
Over the course of 10 years, Sonya says she has seen a great shift in people’s taste palates. When Maya La Chocolaterie set it up its flagship bar concept in Seef Mall, and its catering arm, Maya Delices was established, one of the biggest challenges Sonya remembers was introducing customers to the taste of dark chocolate and educating them on the related benefits. Over time, Sonya notes “tastes have changed and adapted and customers are appreciating dark chocolate much more”. “We started with 50% dark chocolate, because we didn’t want to bring something that was so overpowering and very strong, that people will immediately shy away from that taste. But that was 10 years ago, today people understand that dark chocolate is healthy for them”, says Sonya and adds that 10 years ago their sales for dark chocolate was only 5%, and today it has risen up to 45%. Having witnessed physical growth of the factory facility in the past 10 years, Sonya explains that she is preparing to once more expand the production line and double capacities to accommodate the surge in demand and she also hopes to one day take the company public, albeit this is a strategic move that requires time and careful planning.
Boasting 11 franchise outlets in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Maya’s comfortable chocolate bar concept has been designed to provide a dessert sanctuary for chocolate lovers to enjoy. Maya’s dine-in menu allows customers to indulge in a variety of mouth-watering creations, such as the chocolate fondue which has gained a reputation for being the creamiest one on the island. The Maya brand has put Bahrain on the world map and was recently featured on The Insider, garnering thousands of views on Instagram and over 1 million on Facebook. Staying true to the promise of creating healthy chocolate for a better world, Sonya continues to pursue her vision of creating natural products that are superior in taste and quality and promise an ‘almost’ guilt-free indulgence. Her dedication to her brand, her determination and passion have steered Maya’s success over the years, taking the brand on a journey across borders into new territories and paving the way for future growth and expansion. With plans already in the pipeline for new branches across the Middle East and internationally, Sonya perseveres with Maya’s expansion strategy on the backbone of product excellence, driven by her desire to share her delicacies with chocolate lovers the world over.
For more information:
1st floor Seef Mall, New Extension, Seef District
(00973) 1758 3368
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