European Union chocolate makers have an opportunity to make significant cost savings through the use of cheaper fats. European legislation, which could come into effect as early as August 2003, will allow chocolate confectioners to replace some of the expensive cocoa butter used to make chocolate with cheaper fats.
The proposals still need to go through several EU approval stages. But many chocolate industry experts believe that chocolate makers could soon be substituting up to 5 per cent of more expensive cocoa butter with other cheaper fats and still be allowed to call their products chocolate.
This could save them as much as $300 (€253.8) per tonne a year. Cocoa butter equivalents (CBE) are priced below cocoa butter and can also simplify the manufacturing process.
As a result, the legislation could have a significant impact on the cocoa butter industry. Some 50,000 tonnes of cocoa butter destined for Europe could be replaced annually.
At present, chocolate with 5 per cent vegetable fats is already approved in many countries. The implementation of the new legislation is likely to be phased in gradually, and consumers are likely to see a limited impact on products.
Producers from developing countries such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast are fearful that they will bear the brunt of the cost cuts. Many of these nations rely heavily on the sale of cocoa and are highly susceptible to market conditions.
Some manufacturers however believe that legislation could benefit the developing world. One industry consultant told Reuters: "The lower prices for ingredients could mean we'll have cheaper chocolate and we might be able to grow demand more quickly in developing countries."