Maki Yasuda, center, and her staff at the Pana Chocolate store in Tokyo's Ginza. Photo: JO COX
food

Pana Chocolate hits Japan; guilt-free has never tasted this good

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By Jo Cox

Someone once said, “I’ve never met a chocolate I didn’t like.” It’s true. I’ve also never met a chocolate that didn’t leave me feeling stupidly guilty and vacantly promising myself I will definitely, absolutely, get to the gym this week. Until now.

Pana Chocolate has arrived in Japan and it is nothing short of a miracle for those who find themselves in the same conundrum.

Originally from Australia, Pana Chocolate is completely and utterly guilt free, for the body and the mind. This product is organic, vegan, sugar free, gluten free, dairy free, soy free and made with raw ingredients. Even the ink and the glue on the packaging is plant-based, with all products carrying the ACO (Australian Certified Organic) stamp and the JAS organic stamp. The chocolate itself is nourishing; full of minerals, enzymes and antioxidants.

It is also halal, kosher and fair trade sourced.

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The first Pana Chocolate store in Japan recently opened its doors on the 3rd floor of Kirarito Ginza, thanks to Maki Yasuda. Born in Japan, Maki grew up in the U.S. and studied in both Japan and London. In recent years she's had a number of business trips to Melbourne, where as a part of her work, she visited numerous health food and specialty food stores.

“I kept seeing this beautifully packaged chocolate, so one day I bought it and after just one bite I fell in love with it” she recalls. “Every time I went to Melbourne for a business trip, I would bring back cases and cases of it because I loved it so much.”

Maki had been working for a large Japanese corporation as part of their think tank for five years and decided she was ready to start her own business.

“I’ve always loved the organic and natural scene, so I thought, just naturally, Pana chocolate was my most favorite food in the world and Japan doesn’t have anything like that, so I might as well make it my business to spread the love in the world.”

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Photo: JO COX

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Photo: JO COX

One would assume that bringing in any new, offshore product to the Japanese market would be quite an arduous task, but this was not so in Maki’s case. “Actually, I think when something is really meant to happen, it goes pretty easily” she says.

She looked up Pana Barbounis, the founder of Pana Chocolate, in Melbourne , and messaged him. “I said I just love your chocolates and I think Japan needs them, so can we get together?” Maki met with Barbounis, a Greek Australian, and Pana Chocolate made its way to Japan.

The arrival of Pana Chocolate is quite timely, with the organic scene in Japan steadily growing. “The organic lifestyle expo started two years ago at the Tokyo International Forum and that was a pretty big deal for the organic scene in Japan” Maki comments. “There’s also Bio c’Bon with stores in Azabu Juban and Nakameguro. Major corporations are starting to take notice of organic. Aeon actually has its own organic line too.”

Pana Chocolate flavors include Coconut & Goji, Mint, and the very chocolatey Sixty, which you can purchase by the bar or in a gift pack for that special someone. Currently, the store in Ginza is the best way to buy Pana Chocolate, but an online store is on its way and the products will soon be available in a number of cafes and boutique food stores.

Address

Kirarito Ginza 3F, 1-8-19 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0061

Tel: 03-4400-6302

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soy free

Is soy now on the puritans' hit list? Will people no longer order an undrinkable-milk-substitute latte?

Anyway, can't wait to try this chocolate.

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