MUKONO, Uganda  - On a sprawling, lush cocoa plantation in Mukono outside the Ugandan capital Kampala, farmers have been sampling chocolate for the first time ever.

“When we gave our farm manager the first product to taste his face was so amazing, he was saying ‘really this is coming out from what we are doing?’” said Felix Okuye, 28, the executive director and co-founder of startup Pink Food Industries.

“The taste of the chocolate and the taste that is familiar to him with the cocoa from the pods is two different things. The foreigners have a higher affinity with a bit of bitter chocolate, whereas Ugandans seem to have a sweet tooth.”

In the east African nation, chocolate is a luxury product bought by people in the medium and upper income bracket.

“When you were growing up and you had a parent or relative going out of the country, you would always tell them ‘you bring me chocolate’,” Pink Foods CEO and co-founder Stephen Sembuya, 28, told AFP. The chocolate on the shelves of Kampala’s major supermarkets is usually from Switzerland, Belgium, Brazil, Malaysia and Turkey. A 100g bar normally sells for about 20,000 shillings ($7.25, 5.90 euros), according to the entrepreneur.

However since May this year, the pair have been selling their own “Uganda” brand of chocolate, mainly through social media, to Kampala restaurants and hotels who use it for deserts, pastries and in ice-cream. “Our present price is quite good, low compared to the imported chocolate,” Sembuya said, adding a 50g bar costs 5,000 shillings ($1.80, 1.48 euros). The duo, friends since age eight, are happy with the local reception to their products. But they were “amazed” when they began receiving orders for both cocoa beans and butter from a Swiss factory about two months ago.

“We realised that what we were doing is not as ordinary as maybe we thought it was,” said Okuye, adding they’ve also sold to South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey and Britain.