Garoto, Brazil’s famed chocolate company, turns up the volume on product innovation by tapping into its formidable brands.  Nestlé’s resource help facilitate their production.

Just the name,Serenata de Amor(Song of Love), makes it an irresistible bonbon. The ball-shaped piece features a cashew-based filling that’s surrounded by a crispy wafer shell and then enrobed first in milk chocolate, then bittersweet chocolate. 

 But there’s a story behind the name as well, which no doubt has added to its popularity. When Garoto’s founder, Henrique Meyerfreund, came up with the idea of producing such a bonbon, based on a suggestion from his sister-in-law, Erika Meyer, he still hadn’t come up with a suitable name. 

Ericka’s fifteen-year-old sister, Ursula, was at the time being wooed by a very romantic young boy, Hugo Musso. Musso was known for playing long serenades with a mandolin under Ursula’s window. 

One day when Meyerfreund and the family was discussing what would be an appropriate name for the new chocolate, Ursula suggest Serenata ao Luar (Moonlight Serenade). Although initially welcomed, it came to light that there already was a bonbon that had the word Luar in its name. After several other suggestions, the group decided on Serenata de Amor.

Since its introduction more than 60 years ago, Brazilians - as well as other chocolate  lovers - have had an emotional tie to that bonbon. Actually, that emotional tie rests not only with Serenata de Amor, but with Garoto, the company established by Meyerfruend  in 1929.

During the course of its 81-year history, Garoto has evolved with Brazil, growing in its prosperity, contracting when faced with economic slowdown, global conflicts and internal politics. 

When the company was acquired by Nestlé in 2003, the Swiss-based multinational recognized the special tie Garoto had with Brazilians and vice versa. As a result, Garoto actually operates as a separate subsidiary of Nestle, competing with Nestle Brazil as a friendly rival. 

Today, any tourist visiting Vila Vilhe, home to Garoto, or sister city Vitoria in northeastern Brazil, there are two must attractions to see. First, it’s the Penha convent, built in 1583 by Pedro Palacios atop a hill overlooking both cities; and second, it’s the Garoto manufacturing complex. 

Encompassing several building across 68,000 sq. meters (about 50 acres), Garoto employs about 3,500 employees. The company has the capacity to turn out more than 165 million tons of chocolate annually. 

Within the manufacturing complex, the company produces more than 100 different premium confections, including wrapped chocolate candies, chocolate bonbons, chocolate bars, ice cream treats, hard candies, couvertures and chocolate powders. Domestically, the  company battles parent Nestle and Kraft within the chocolate segment to a draw, each garnering about 30% of the market. 

The company began exporting its chocolate in 1978. Today it is Brazil’s leading exporter of finished chocolate products, with shipments going to more than 60 countries. Product innovation, a tradition at Garoto that goes back to Meyerfreund, continues to this day. By building on that tradition, Garoto has taken well-established brands, such as Talento, Baton, Caix Amarela and Frutas, and expanded their range with line extensions, premiumization and more convenient packaging. 

 Take for example, the Talento brand, which was introduced in 1993. The square, 100-gram bar, a virtual clone of the famous Ritter Sport chocolate bar, debuted in four milk chocolate varieties featuring fruits and nuts. 

Since then, 25-gram and Easter egg versions have been introduced as well as have several new permanent and limited edition varieties. This year, the company introduced theTalentoBonbon box, which includes individual milk chocolate pralines featuring a hazelnut cream and whole hazelnut. 

Baton, which translates from Portuguese into English as lipstick, has been a beloved children’s treat in Brazil since 1948. The solid cylindrical chocolate piece now also comes in a bar format, but still in a clever recognizable shape, half cylinders seemingly joined together. 

This year, Baton will be rolled out as a double flavor, alternating milk and white chocolate half cylinders in a 76-gram bar. 

 It would be impossible to mention Garoto without referring to the company’s famed “yellow box” containing individually wrapped assorted chocolates and candies.

Launched in 1959,Caixa Amarellafeatured a new yellow and red box containing an assortment of brightly wrapped sweets. This chocolate and candy mix quickly pioneered the notion of chocolate and candy assortments, and became the leading item in that segment. It’s still the leading gift box assortment sold in Brazil today. 

One of the company’s most innovative new launches for 2010 is Frutas, a combination of chocolate and processed fruit that boasts 50 k/calories per piece. The high fiber, chocolate treat is sold in produce departments to accent its healthy characteristics. More innovations are on the drawing board at Garoto as the company takes advantage of its parent company’s resources and continues to invest in new technologies and efficiencies. 

This year, two investments - one for a Haas-Sollich production line dedicated for Serenada de Amor, the other an Aasted “flexible line” focused on turning out a variety of moulded chocolate items, such as a the double flavor Baton - total more than $200 million. 

 These improvements recognize the growth potential of chocolate in Brazil as well as abroad. They’re also a “labor of love” for a company that irrevocably intertwined with its customers.