Premium chocolate using fine flavor cocoa from Criollo and Trinitario cocoa tree varieties could be the catalyst to grow developed confectionery markets in North America, Western Europe and Japan.
But luxury UK confectionery firm Duffy’s Chocolate says the industry must pay more and directly source beans instead of buying on commodities exchanges to ensure quality and to develop cocoa markets in Latin America and the Caribbean, which together produce 80% of the world’s fine flavour cocoa.
‘Dispersed, sporadic and sometimes disingenuous’
What is fine flavor cocoa?
The world cocoa market distinguishes between ‘fine flavor’ and ‘bulk’ or ordinary cocoa beans. Fine Flavor beans generally come from Criollo or Trinitario cocoa tree varieties rather than common Forastero trees. But nacional trees in Ecuador are derived from Forastero trees.
“At present the production of beans in the Caribbean and Latin America is dispersed, sporadic and sometimes disingenuous,“ Duffy’s Chocolate founder Duffy Sheardown, told ConfectioneryNews.
For example, he said criollo-variant beans in Peru were quite often viewed and sold as bulk cocoa without fetching a premium.
“More countries need to recognize the quality of the fine flavor beans that are being grown and the growers need to market them more effectively,” he said,
Sheardown continued: “Chocolate makers need to pay more for their beans and they need to market them with a reference to where the beans were grown, who grew them and what variety they are. We also need a sensible way of getting small quantities of beans to the US and EU markets in a financially viable way.
“The beans should be sold at a price that recognizes their flavor and quality - not just the weight of the sack of beans. The Direct Cacao model is one way of achieving exactly this.”
The Direct Cacao model proposes chocolate makers source cacao directly from growers to ensure farmers receive the benefit of premium payments for quality produce.
“Growers need mechanisms that allow them to deal directly with the chocolate makers and chocolate makers need growers taking pride in the taste and value of their crops,” said Sheardown.
He added that governments should recognize that difference is good and not all cocoa beans need to be sold centrally.
Personal favorites: Honduras and Nicaragua
Sheardown will speak at the 3rd CARIFORUM-EU Business Forum on April 15 – 16, in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The event will explore trends and innovations in the Caribbean’s specialty cocoa industry.
Duffy’s Chocolate currently buys fine flavor cocoa from Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Venezuela and Panama.
“The beans that I am currently enjoying the most are from Honduras and Nicaragua and I know that growers there are in the middle of a process of grafting saplings and planting out so they will be increasing volume very soon,” said Sheardown.
He added that he was keeping an eye on Guatemala as another fine flavor region of interest.