General News

How Cuna de Piedra is Changing the Perception of Mexican Chocolate in the United States

Guest Blog Feature by: The Chocolate Professor and writer, Pamela Vachon.

At a recent seminar sponsored by the Fine Chocolate Industry Association, one of Cuna de Piedra’s founders, Enrique Pérez, described the brand’s somewhat inauspicious product launch at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in November 2019. The brand had just been conceived of in March of that same year, and the team behind Cuna de Piedra had only received the wrappers for their bean-to-bar chocolates the night before the event. Pérez was already unsure that the brand’s value would resonate with U.S. consumers, consisting mainly of single origin, 2-ingredient, Mexican dark chocolate: “we don’t have creamy chocolate; we don’t have chocolate and hazelnut, etc.” he says.

When the team initially found that not a lot of people at the festival seemed interested in trying their samples, they thought their fears might be confirmed, if it weren’t for one lady who expressed a lot of enthusiasm for what they were doing and wanted to taste. Pérez describes her reaction: “‘You know what? This is incredible and I love it,’ she said, “but I cannot taste the Tabasco…’”

“People weren’t trying our samples,” Pérez explains, “because they saw the word Tabasco and thought, ‘hot sauce.’’ Five of seven of Cuna de Piedra’s chocolate bars (at the time) had the word Tabasco on them, as the cacao beans are sourced from the Mexican state of Tabasco. “After that we started saying out loud every 5 minutes, ‘this is cacao from Tabasco, not with Tabasco,’” and eventually a crowd gathered.

While it might have seemed inauspicious at the time, it is actually a fitting launch for Cuna de Piedra, as it highlights precisely the challenge that the brand was built to overcome: a misperception of what it means to be hecho en México.


“We wanted to create something that was an homage to our land, to our people, to our biodiversity, and to Mexican cacao,” Pérez says. His particular lens was that of a food consultant, who had years of experience working with brands and producers on matters of innovation, quality, and safety. One thing that struck him as a matter in need of serious rebranding was the idea, both inside and outside of Mexico, that Mexican-made products were not naturally of high quality.

He cited a 2016 study conducted by public brand strategy firm Vianovo on the “Perception of Mexico’s Brand in the U.S.,” that found that not only did U.S. consumers not have a high degree of confidence in Mexican products but that its overall perception of Mexico was one rooted in crime and corruption. Perez, who partnered with designer and brand strategy developer Vicky González, wanted to make a difference, even if on a small scale, and create something that Mexicans could be proud of.

“We wanted to create a remarkable product that was not only delicious, but that also had an outstanding design,” says Pérez. “Even in Mexico, people place a higher value in products that come from outside the country, because they are considered to be of a higher quality and more worth spending money on.”

Along with González, they recruited Jorge Llanderal, a former tech worker turned chocolatier, whose family business Chocosolutions provides chocolate supplies and equipment to restaurants, who would help produce the first, Mexican-made, bean-to-bar chocolates for Cuna de Piedra.


Part of Pérez and González’s original mission was also to create a brand that had “human sense,” that raised the quality of life for everyone involved in the making of their chocolate, beginning with the cacao farmers themselves. Doing so meant removing the distribution piece that exists between the cacao farmers and the chocolatiers, partnering directly with growers, and paying them above market price for their cacao beans.

“There’s a tremendous amount of history and culture related to cacao,” says Pérez. “So we envisioned a brand to make 100% Mexican chocolate with Mexican cacao.” This also meant going to the source: a small region called Soconusco in the state of Chiapas, believed to be the birthplace of cacao in Mexico, from which the practice of making chocolate spread. In addition to a Cooperativa Rayan in Soconusco, Cuna de Piedra sources cacao from several growers and cooperatives from numerous Mexican states including Tabasco and Oaxaca


In addition to its collection of various Mexican dark chocolate bars, the Cuna de Piedra team also wanted to bring light to other important aspects of Mexico’s culture and gastronomy, especially heirloom crops. Read more by clicking here.>>

General News

Cuna de Piedra Chocolate Uses Local Ingredients To Elevate Public Perception of Mexico

Cuna de Piedra, a chocolate maker based in Mexico, is using local ingredients to elevate the public perception of Mexican cuisine. The company was started by two young professionals, Enrique Perez and Vicky Gonzalez, who share a commitment to raising the profile of heirloom ingredients indigenous to Mexico, as well as the role of cacao in the history of their culture.

From Big Dreams to Dream Team

Vicky and Enrique dared to dream big and ask “What if we create a brand with a humane sense that seeks to create a change in society and reposition the perception of Mexico?” They represent the next generation of fine chocolate entrepreneurs forming partnerships to strengthen the value chain and preserving heirloom foods with a modern approach. Fortunately, Enrique had been working with Chocosoulutions founder and master chocolatier Jorge Llanderal who also realized a “chocolate dream” of his own. Together with Executive Chef Mariana Garza, whose resume includes working in the kitchen of celebrity chef Richard Sandoval (commonly referred to as the Father of Modern Mexican Cuisine)  at La Hacienda, they had assembled their dream team.

Preserving Mexico’s Culinary Heritage

Their limited-edition Smoked Heirloom Chili Bar exemplifies a sense of place through its ingredients. According to the description for this bar on Caputo’s website: “The native Mexican chiles, as these are progressively being displaced by other higher-yield and genetically engineered varieties.”

When this happens we limit our options to just a few varieties that can be found anywhere, losing the unique flavors and culinary traditions that define a particular place. During a time of pandemic-led isolation and travel restrictions, the longing to visit different places and experience  unique local flavors is at an all time high. A sense of place  is one of the key trends fine chocolate wholesaler/retailer  Matt Caputo discussed in FCIA webinar on  October 11,  2021 which The Chocolate Professor also wrote about in a recent blog.

In an exclusive video on Instagram, Cuna de Piedra’s Enrique Perez speaks to Gabino Aquino, who farms and harvests the chilis used in the chocolate. He shares the importance of preserving the unique flavors and culture of Mexican gastronomy. Click here to view the video.

Preserving culinary traditions, however, takes work and dedication by small farmers and commitment from culinary professionals and organizations like Slow Food to raise  public awareness of heirloom ingredients.

The next video clip by Lalo Plascencia, Mexican chef and consultant, founder of CIG Mexico actually shows the labor-intesive process of deseeding and smoking the chilis, which Gabino described to Enrique. Click here to watch the video. (NOTE: Video’s music track could be loud, turn the volume down or mute, as needed.)

During the recent FCIA webinar hosted by Dr. Lee Theisen, a.k.a. @chocolate_guru, Cuna de Piedra chef, Mariana Garza explained adjustments to recipes are required working with ingredients such as this smoked heirloom chili.

Ironically, the chocolate most Mexicans find in their local markets or malls is not from their own country. It’s imported from the United States or Europe.

So, Cuna de Piedra needs to educate and expose the local palates to what authentic Mexican chocolate tastes like through tastings.

The U.S. market however, poses a different challenge for this Mexican craft chocolate company. Like most bean to bar chocolate makers, Cuna de Piedra lists the origin of the beans used in their chocolate bar on the wrapper.  Unfortunately, most Americans are not aware that Tabasco is the place where the beans are harvested.


Click here to learn more about Tabasco from It’s definitely a place you will want to visit!

The mental association Americans have to Tabasco is the hot  sauce and it’s so strong that attendees at the Northwest Chocolate Festival  simply couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that the chocolate itself was not spicy.

Enjoy Cuna de Piedra & Share Your Thoughts

Are you curious how smoked chili chocolate tastes or would like to try chocolate from Tabasco, Mexico? Order a few bars from Caputo’s and be sure to share your thoughts with us in the comment section here, or on social media. They offer full size and mini bars, which are perfect for someone who can’t decide which ones to try first.

About: The Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) is the only organization focused 100% on supporting fine chocolate professionals. We promote the artistry and craftsmanship of the chocolate professional focused on producing superior products made from premium chocolate and natural ingredients. We believe in using best practices in cacao processing and chocolate production; and transparent labeling and marketing practices.

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