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US organic confectioner to source direct from farmers

By Jane Byrne , 16-Aug-2010

Trading directly with Ecuadorean farmers ensures a better quality bean and boosts the ecological and ethical profile of a chocolate company, claims a US manufacturer.

North Carolina based Nahualli Trading Company, which produces a product comprising shelled cocoa beans covered in dark chocolate, has begun sourcing its beans from Fonmsoeam – an association of certified organic cocoa farmers in Ecuador’s Esmeraldas Province.

The company claims that by avoiding using an intermediary and paying a wage above prices identified by the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) for organic cocoa beans, it secures a better type of bean for its product.

Paul Mosca said that by going directly to the farmer and not through a broker, the manufacturer can build a relationship and ensure it receives high quality beans. “We buy our beans from just a few farms, and although we place multiple orders in a year, just one order could pay for a farmer’s entire annual salary. And buying direct from the farmer is key to the product and to our customers,” he said.

The purchase from the cooperative represents only a small percent of what they can produce annually, said Mosca, who added that Nahualli is limited by its small capacity. The artisan chocolate maker said with greater sales of its Chocolate Seeds, the company “can purchase higher volume and more frequently.”

As part of the deal, Mosca told ConfectioneryNews.com that the US firm supplied Fonmsoeam with additional funds to be used towards improving crop production.

“I have high expectations for both groups to benefit from this arrangement. The farmers know how to produce a fine product and many have been doing so for decades,” said the owner of Nahualli, who added that he was optimistic about the organic cocoa sector.

Mosca hopes to offer a variety of beans from different regions as future sourcing allows.

The ICCO states that certified organic cocoa producers must comply with all requirements associated with the legislation of importing countries on production of organic products. “The benefit for cocoa farmers is that organic cocoa commands a higher price than conventional cocoa, usually ranging from $100 to $300 per tonne. However, originating countries with smaller volumes can fetch much higher premiums.”

But the organic cocoa market represents a very small share of the total cocoa market, estimated by the ICCO at less than 0.5 per cent of total production.

However, the demand for organic cocoa products is growing at a very strong pace, said the global cocoa group, citing consumers increasing concern about the safety of their food supply along with other environmental issues.

According to Euromonitor International, global organic chocolate sales were estimated to have increased in North America from a value of €26.6m in 2004 to €114m in 2009, and globally the market analysts note that in 2004 the market was worth €294m rising to €441 in 2009.

Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) reveals that worldwide there were 475 new product launches of organic chocolate products last year. Germany accounted for 107 of these, while the US had 74 and the UK 31 similar launches.

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