To express gratitude and give comfort to frontline health care workers battling the novel coronavirus epidemic, a Kyoto-based chocolatier has launched a unique gift initiative that is also aimed at sustaining its business and supporting cacao farmers.

Dari K Co., which markets chocolates made from Indonesian cacao targeting high-end customers, launched in late April the "Pay it Forward" initiative, under which it offers chocolate gifts to hospital workers valued at the sales amount of special sets starting from 2,000 yen ($19).

(Illustration explains how the "Pay it Forward" initiative works.)[Courtesy of DARI K Co.]

"With chocolate gifts, health care workers may be able to relax even for a moment, while customers anxious to do something for them can contribute as they enjoy chocolates by themselves," Dari K said on its website.

The chocolatier said the scheme would "build a win-win relationship" for those involved, as it will also help reduce the company's inventories that had piled up due to business closures amid the nationwide state of emergency and struggling cacao farmers affected by price drops of their products caused by demand reduction.

So far, Dari K has sold via its online shop a total of some 1,700 sets priced at up to 8,000 yen, with their sales equal to the value of about 35,000 chocolate gifts. Customers can choose whether they buy the items for themselves, their designated gift receivers or send them altogether as gifts to medical workers.

On April 30, the company delivered a total of 10,800 chocolates to four hospitals in Kyoto, a western Japan city. Last Thursday, it provided 450 chocolates to a medical institution in Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo.

(Photo shows one of special sets sold online for Dari K's "Pay it Forward" initiativeto support health care workers.)[Courtesy of DARI K Co.]

Even though Dari K staff could not directly see the health care workers' reactions, some posted comments on social media, saying they were "surprised" to receive chocolate gifts and "glad" to feel support, according to Momo Kamisaka, a spokeswoman for the company.

Aiming to deliver chocolate gifts to wide areas of Japan, the company has tied up with nonprofit body Mamoruwomamoru that offers support to medical workers nationwide and has ties with a group of clinical engineers who operate ventilators for COVID-19 patients.

As the state of emergency was expanded to cover the whole of Japan on April 16, many of Dari K's sales outlets such as department stores and hotels were shut and a sharp fall in the number of visitors to the ancient Japanese capital left the company with stocks equal to more than three months' sales, the chocolatier said.

Indonesian cacao producers have seen a 20 percent decline in prices of the farm item between February and April and are wary about the amount the Japanese company will buy in the upcoming harvest season in May and June, Dari K said.

In an attempt to show gratitude to delivery staff as well, the company has begun including in its special sets an additional chocolate to be given as a gift to such essential workers.

"We had initially expected sales of about 500 special sets, but orders came not only from Kyoto but also from Tokyo and other parts of Japan," Kamisaka said. "We'd like to continue the initiative for the time being so that our chocolates will not be wasted and used to deliver customers' support for health care workers."

(Keiichi Yoshino,  president and CEO of Dari K Co., poses with boxes of chocolates in front of the company's main shop in Kyoto on April 30, 2020, before delivering them to health care workers in the western Japancity who are battling with the novel coronavirus pandemic.)[Courtesy of DARIK Co.]