To express gratitude and give comfort to frontline health care workers battling the novel coronavirus epidemic, a Kyoto-based chocolatier has launched a unique gift initiative that is also aimed at sustaining its business and supporting cacao farmers.

Dari K Co., which markets chocolates made from Indonesian cacao targeting high-end customers, launched the Pay it Forward initiative in late April under which it offers chocolate gifts to hospital workers that are worth the same as its special sets starting from ¥2,000 ($19).

“With chocolate gifts, health care workers may be able to relax even for a moment, while customers anxious to do something for them can contribute as they enjoy chocolates by themselves,” Dari K says on its website.

The chocolatier said the scheme would “build a win-win relationship” for those involved, because it will also help reduce its chocolate inventories, which swelled from business closures requested during the state of emergency, and support struggling cacao farmers damaged by price drops from slumping demand.

So far, Dari K’s online shop has sold about 1,700 chocolate sets costing as much as ¥8,000, with sales equivalent to the value of about 35,000 gifts. Customers can choose whether they buy the items for themselves, others or send them altogether as gifts to medical workers.

On April 30, the company delivered a total of 10,800 chocolates to four hospitals in Kyoto. On Thursday, it provided 450 chocolates to a medical institution in Saitama Prefecture.

Even though Dari K staff could not directly see the health workers’ reactions, some responded on social media, saying they were “surprised” to receive the gifts and “glad” to feel support, according to Momo Kamisaka, a spokeswoman for the company.

Aiming to deliver the gifts to wide areas of Japan, the chocolatier has tied up with Mamoruwomamoru, a nonprofit that offers support to medical workers and has ties with a group of clinical engineers who operate ventilators for COVID-19 patients.

After the state of emergency was expanded to all of Japan on April 16, many of Dari K’s outlets, including in department stores and hotels, were shut. This, along with the plunge in tourism in Kyoto, left it with a surplus equivalent to over three months’ sales, the chocolatier said.

Indonesian cacao producers saw a 20 percent drop in prices between February and April and are wary about how much the Japanese company will buy during this year’s harvest, Dari K said.

To show gratitude to delivery personnel as well, the company has begun including an additional chocolate in its special sets to be given as a gift to such essential workers.

“We had initially expected sales of about 500 special sets, but orders came not only from Kyoto but also from Tokyo and other parts of Japan,” Kamisaka said. “We’d like to continue the initiative for the time being so that our chocolates will not be wasted and used to deliver customers’ support for health care workers.”

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