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Barry Callebaut looks to Malaysia for alternative cocoa sources

By Jane Byrne , 16-Mar-2010
Last updated on 17-Mar-2010 at 09:15 GMT

Ambitious growth targets are fuelling leading chocolate supplier Barry Callebaut’s strategy to source cocoa from regions other than West Africa, with Malaysia the focus of the first stage of its cocoa production expansion plan.

A spokesperson for the Swiss company told ConfectioneryNews.com that it order to meet its goal of a six to eight per cent hike in chocolate production volume per annum the company needs to generate alternative cocoa bean sources and it said that Asia is the logical move away from Africa, with Malaysia being the largest grinder in the region.

The Swiss based firm said that it is teaming up with the Malaysian Cocoa Board on a research project, which will utilise the Board’s researchers and state of the art facilities, and is expected to result in higher quality chocolate from cocoa beans sourced from farmers in that country.

The project will both enhance farmer training and boost their incomes and will address how the fermentation process can be influenced to improve quality and taste of the cocoa, continued Barry Callebaut.

The firm claims to have developed a way to optimize cocoa fermentation using microbial starter cultures to provide consistent and better cocoa bean quality, which in turn, it said, leads to improved flavour characteristics, zero-default cocoa beans, enhanced levels of functional components such as flavanols, and improved processability.

Barry Callebaut claims that this controlled fermentation process will allow it to match the taste of Malaysian cocoa with that of the West African bean to meet the taste demands of consumers in the Europe and North America, who are used to the flavour of West African cocoa.

The Swiss company explained that the cocoa plantation, Selbourne Estate, will function as one of the test sites for controlled fermentation as well as for the implementation of improved agricultural practices which are expected to lead to improved cocoa tree yields, and more than 20 other sites have been identified for the first phase of implementation.

Barry Callebaut said the projected output for superior grade Malaysian cocoa beans within a three year timeframe will be 5000 metric tonnes, with its plant in Port Klang expected to process the beans into premium chocolate and cocoa products.

The International Cocoa Organisation said last week that Malaysia's grindings may rise to 290,000 tonnes in the current year, up from 270,000 tonnes in the year to September 2009 on a recovery in global demand.

Malaysia mainly buys cocoa beans from Indonesia and also West Africa to prop up declining local production. In 2008, Barry Callebaut bought a 60 per cent stake in the cocoa unit of Malaysian planter Kuala Lumpur Kepong, which primarily produces cocoa products.

The Barry Callebaut spokesperson said that it views emerging markets such as Asia as having huge growth potential in terms of chocolate consumption and in recent years has set up plant operations in China, Japan following on from the establishment of its first Asian facility in Singapore.

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