Its specially fermented cocoa will also soon be in private label chocolate tablets for some major French supermarkets and in couverture and cocoa liquor supplied to third parties.
Drying & fermentation centers
Perpignan-based Cémoi operates 17 company owned and managed cocoa drying and fermentation centers in Côte D’Ivoire, Ecuador, São Tome and Dominican Republic.
It works with agri-research firm CIRAD, and yeast and bacteria supplier Lallemand for a box fermentation method intended to improve chocolate’s flavor by borrowing techniques from the wine industry.
Patrick Poirrier, CEO of Cémoi, told ConfectioneryNews at the ISM trade fair in Cologne last month: "We think the fermentation will help us give the best of each origin as a taste."
'Grand Crus Cacao'
The company has introduced 'Grand Crus Cacao' chocolate tablets to the French market under its namesake brand, using cocoa from the project.
It plans to roll out the range across Europe from September and is considering future distribution to North America and Asia.
The bars will retail for a suggest price of €2.50 ($2.63) in French supermarkets.
The launch fits the trend for premium quality products driving growth in developed markets.
“People will perhaps eat less chocolate, but a better quality product,” said Poirrer.
Cémoi has also launched a couverture brand for chefs and artisanal chocolatiers named Empreinte that uses beans from the controlled fermentation project.
Cemoi's 'Selection Cacao Frais' controlled fermentation initiative is part of its broader Transparence sustainability program launched in 2015. Transparence covers 60,000 cocoa farmers throughout 100 cooperatives in Côte D’Ivoire, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. The Cémoi group sources 80% of its cocoa from Côte D'Ivoire. It has set a goal for all cocoa in the Cémoi brand to come from a sustainable source by 2020, but has no target for B2B volumes.
Reducing losses for farmers
Cémoi employees handle the fermentation and drying at company-owned collection centers, which differs from the conventional method.
Cocoa is typically fermented at plantations by farmers leaving piles of wet beans covered in banana leaves for around seven days. Farmers then dry the beans in the sun for around a week. Fermentation is crucial to chocolate flavor development, but has been been managed this way for decades.
"The whole process takes sometimes 15 days in the best case and in the worst case, it can be 20 days because it's raining,” said Poirrier.
“Each time we talked to farmers, their yields after fermentation are low because it rains and they lose some beans,” he said.
The CEO said farmers had reduced loses by selling wet beans to Cémoi’s fermentation centers and could even trim their workforce by eliminating the 15-20 day drying and fermentation stage.
“We don’t want to patent the way of fermenting, we want to help the cooperative to do better,” added Poirrer.
According to its own database, the majority of farmers supplying Cémoi are young, which helps it foster the next generation to focus on selling wet beans rather than fermenting themselves.
Input from chefs
Cémoi took professional chefs to origin countries to perfect its fermentation process.
“A lot of them have been working in cocoa and chocolate for a long time, but have never been to the origin... They helped us to develop this new range of chocolate,” said Poirrer.
He added: "Ivorian cocoa is top quality. It's not just because there are large quantities in the country that there are not some farmers or cooperatives doing excellent cocoa on top of the others."
Cémoi told us last year it was working with French trade body Le Syndicat du Chocolat to help the top cocoa-producing nation Côte D’Ivoire win fine flavor status for part of its exports.
The French chocolatier also plans to expand its fermentation program to Peru next year.