I’ve found something at Royce’ that I like even better than the chocolate potato chips.
It may be the closest thing we have to a chocolate boutique. There’s something seductive and ”“ shall I say it? ”“ mysterious (exclusive?) about Royce’ Chocolates (mind the apostrophe). Behind the cool, glistening glass sit some of the finest chocolates made available locally. As coveted as MAC lipsticks and boxes of Krispy Kreme before it, boxes of Royce’ were, until recently, squirreled away into suitcases and brought home to chocoholic families in the Philippines. To announce that one had in his/her possession boxes of Nama and those crazy-addicting chocolate covered potato chips invited envious stares and pledges of undying devotion.
“To say that the Chocolate Potato Chips are a bestseller would be an understatement,” avers Crystal Rebucas, Royce’ Philippines’ General Manager (GM). “We add more boxes to every shipment but the demand is really great.”
“What do you think makes it so popular?” I ask.
“The sweet-salty combination of course, plus it’s easy to eat.” Then as an afterthought Crystal adds, “Everyone knows [about it] so yun ang hinahanap.”
Crystal and I are nursing our respective hot drinks in Cibo which sits across the way from Royce’ Philippines’ flagship store in Rockwell. It’s been a wild and heady ride for the brand that hit local shores just last December followed by a stand-alone at Greenbelt 5. “It was the perfect time to open because it was Christmas,” acknowledges Crystal, her eyes shining at the recollection. “[It] passed and exceeded expectations to a certain extent. There was even a time when we had to close the store early because there was no more stock.”
A conscious effort is made to have the same products in both stores. Of the selections available, the Nama (P580/box), deliquescent blocks of soft chocolate and the chief product of Royce’ has a flavor for everyone (au lait, white, champagne, mild cacao, bitter, and limited edition strawberry).
A clever twist on those can’t-get-enough-of-”˜em chocolate potato chips is the Potechi (poh-TETCH-ee; P540), crushed potato chips with cornflakes and milk chocolate. Personally, I prefer these to the hugely popular PotatoChip Chocolate (P540/P990). But as Crystal explains to me, each chocolate (variety) they sell has ardent followers. To wit: milk chocolate fans, of which I’m one, outnumber those who prefer it darker. Chocolate selections to feed our frenzy include the Chocolate Wafers (P540) hazelnut cream-flavored squares cloaked in chocolate. The Nutty Bars (P540/P900), a four-nut variety with a cheekily misspelled label (see photo above) is just plain fun. Also, the Japanese penchant for beautiful packaging that in this case is re-usable too materializes in the Macadamia Chocolate (P690).
I can’t help but chuckle when Crystal relates how people keep on asking for sugar-free chocolates. “We’ve got milk, white, and dark chocolates that have as much as 80% percent cacao, but no sugar-free.”
Uncommon in Manila food retail but practically gospel at Royce’ is the practice of sampling. “Advertising isn’t allowed and that’s why we’re big on sampling,” explains Crystal. “It’s our main advertising. We want you to try it and in this way we let the brand speak for itself.” It’s this uncommonly generous attitude that introduces me to the Baton Cookies (P540), crunchy cookies with one side coated in chocolate. Without sampling some in the store, I’d never have discovered that I’m more keen on the Coconuts variety than the Hazelnuts & Cacaonibs.
Because the local reception to Royce’ is astounding to say the least, it’s easy to assume that everyone knows about Royce’ but that’s not the case. Crystal tells me, “Here, there are still people who don’t know [Royce’]. They’re curious and they approach the store but they won’t buy anything. There are still many more people to reach out to.”
Future plans include adding to the current selection ”“ more variety encourages consumers to try new things. And when it comes to chocolate, that’s never a bad thing.
R3 Power Plant Mall, Rockwell, Makati
Greenbelt 5, Makati