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Fascinating Women 2023: Kelly Go

Her passion and determination created Auro Chocolate, an iconic brand that’s won 54 international awards and transformed lives!

“I’ve been a chocolate lover since birth,” says Kelly Go, co-founder and Managing Director of Auro Chocolate, a proudly Filipino tree-to-bar chocolate brand that’s won 54 international awards from prestigious award-giving bodies such as the Academy of Chocolate (AoC), Great Taste Awards and International Chocolate Awards


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Kelly Go | Ria Regino

The brand has won accolades not just for the quality of their cacao, but for their sustainable practices, including directly sourcing cacao beans from farms in Davao, as well as providing support and education for farmers to learn organic farming, business management fundamentals. 


Kelly made the leap from a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Political Science from the University of Chicago to a Diploma in Cuisine for Basic Pastry from Le Cordon Bleu Paris. She attributes her shift in interest to the influence of her mother, Jackie, an engineer and pastry chef whose own passion for chocolate led her to researching cacao in the Philippines and starting a grassroots program with cacao farmers in Davao.




“For sure, it’s very different,” Kelly admitted when it was pointed out the seeming disconnect between political science and food. “But politics touches everything that we do. Having studied political science, it just shows how I view the world — more from a structural point of view, like in the industry level, seeing all the issues. Now, I’m in the politics of food and I’m trying to make it better. It’s also how we approach things in Auro, and how we try to make things better as much as we can.” 


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Kelly Go with her mother, Jackie | Kelly Go
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Kelly and Jackie Go with Auro Chocolate co-founder Mark Ocampo and one of the cacao farmers they work with | Kelly Go
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It’s no wonder then that Kelly and co-founder Mark Ocampo took an unusual approach in chocolate-making for Auro Chocolate. Their passion for chocolate is only equaled by their desire to make a difference for good in the Philippines. They built Auro on the foundations of Jackie’s groundwork with the cocoa farmers years before and started a social enterprise that revolutionized the bean-to-bar process. Auro’s success would also be the cacao’s farmers’ success.


“The biggest lesson I’ve learned from my mom is that you can put business and people together,” Kelly shared. “We don’t have to prioritize the business at the expense of people and vice versa. I learned this because she didn’t just tell me, but she has shown me what that looks like all my life.” 




Uncovering Gold

Upon starting out in 2015, one of the biggest challenges Kelly and her business partner faced was the state of cacao farming in the Philippines. Despite the Philippines’ long history with cacao, our country is not known at all in the industry as producers of cacao — let alone chocolate. There was a lack of understanding of quality and of what it takes to produce quality cacao.  


It took them years to get the quality of the cacao at least set in the right direction. The pursuit of excellence is a never ending process, after all. “Our initial big challenge was finding a way to have the farmers grow with us, as well as raise the quality and get to the untapped potential we believe Philippine cacao had and — now we have proven — does have,” Kelly said.


“That’s why we named our company Auro, which means gold. We’ve always believed cacao is gold, we just need to transform the product so people would see its intrinsic value.”




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Keep on going

One of the things that Kelly feels people underestimate about women, particularly in the food and beverage industry, is their potential. There aren’t many women representatives in the food industry at large. But their numbers are growing. “I’m fortunate to count my mom as one of the few role models that I have growing up to succeed in this space,” Kelly said. And now she could count herself as one of them. 


“But,” she continued, “I still receive pushback, even in this day and age. And when I reflect on them, I could see that my gender and my age had something to do with it.” 


Kelly recalled that unforgettable incident when a man told her that she was going to fail. It was at a public forum in Singapore and she had been asking some questions to see if there’s another way they could source cacao in the world. “At that time, I cried — in private,” she confessed. “I was emotionally affected by that incident. Thankfully, I don’t react that way anymore. I now understand that not everybody’s criticism should be taken to heart, and not everybody means well. Sometimes they just want to tear you down because they feel threatened by you.


“You can’t just let anybody take your power from you.” 




Today, Kelly continues to prove the man who told her she would fail was wrong. Auro Chocolate is now known locally and internationally for its fine cocoa and chocolate ingredients, as well as retail products made from directly sourced cocoa beans from the Philippines. 


She shares that they are looking to expand Auro’s cafe concept in the coming years — they just opened their flagship care in BGC. “Our goal really is to make sure that our products are accessible to all Filipinos,” she said. With her track record of not giving up so far, that goal is going to be a sure thing. 




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Auro Chocolate | IG: @aurochocolate | FB: @aurochocolate | Website: aurochocolate.com | For list of branches, click here |


Photography by Ria Regino

Sittings Editor: Troy Barrios

Videographer: CJ Reyes

Makeup: Johnson Estrella

Hair Stylist: Borgy Domingo

Hair and Makeup retouch: Patty Cristobal

Photographer’s assistants: Warren Diotay and Hipolito Gangani

Special thanks to SmartBite