Representatives of Brazilian cocoa growers and researchers have lent their support to a new Senate bill PLS 93/2015, authored by Senator Lídice da Mata, which calls to raise the minimum pure cocoa content in chocolates - produced and sold in Brazil - from the current 25% to 35%.
“In general, the chocolate Brazilians consume is of a very low quality,” said Henrique Salles Pinto, a legal consultant to the Brazilian Senate, as the bill was discussed during an official public audience organized by the Senate Commission of Economic Affairs (CAE) last week.
“For a product to be considered chocolate in the North American and the European markets, on average, it has to contain 35% cocoa."
A stricter definition of chocolate
The new bill proposes to define chocolate as “a product composed of cocoa and sugar, containing a minimum of 35% of total dry mater from cocoa, including at least 18% from cocoa butter and 14% from dry matter of cocoa that is free of fats.”
This definition would replace Brazil’s existing definition of chocolate, which was set by the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA). This states chocolate is “a product obtained from the basis of a mixture of cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) derivatives, cocoa mass (or paste or liquor), cocoa powder and/or cocoa butter, with other ingredients, containing, a minimum of 25% of total cocoa solids”.
Furthermore, the bill proposes that products with less than 20% cocoa - and added ingredients such as nuts, honey or other foodstuffs - should state: “This product is not considered chocolate according to Brazilian legislation.”
“No one would prevent its production, but the product label would state ‘This product is not chocolate,’” said Senator Lídice da Mata. “Consumers would be able to know what the products they buy are.”
Cocoa content could become obligatory
The new bill calls for an obligatory display of the cocoa content on product labels and proposes fines for manufacturers and importers who flout the rules, which are supposed to come into effect 180 days after the law is signed.
According to the Brazilian Consumer Protection Institute (IDEC), more than half of the eight best-selling chocolate brands in Brazil (Arcor, Brasil Cacau, Cacau Show, Garoto, Hershey’s, Kopenhagen, Lacta and Nestlé) did not include information on labels about the quantity of cocoa present in their products.
In the case of milk chocolate products, IDEC claims that only Brasil Cacau includes the cocoa percentage on the label. With regard to semi-black chocolates, only three brands included the information on the label (Cacau Show, Hershey’s and Arcor).
Among black chocolate (dark chocolate), only two did not include the cocoa percentage: Kopenhagen (on its 40g and 85g chocolate bars) and Brasil Cacau (on its 20g and 100g chocolate bars).
Senator Lídice da Mata argues the increase in cocoa content would serve as an impetus to the national cocoa bean industry, as it would bring Brazilian legislation in line with existing laws in Europe and the USA.
“We need to transition from our status of commodity exporting country to a country that is able to add value to its products,” she said.
All cocoa-based products could get a makeover
The new bill also provides definitions and specifies intermediary values of cocoa content for other types of cocoa-based products such as:
(i) cocoa powder (product obtained from processing powder of cocoa beans and which contains at least 20% cocoa butter - expressed in relation to dry matter - and a maximum of 9% of moisture),
(ii) soluble cocoa (a mixture of cocoa powder with sugars, but at least 25% of the product should be cocoa powder),
(iii) chocolate powder (a mixture of cocoa powder with sugars, but at least 32% of dry matter should be cocoa),
(iv) milk chocolate (contains a minimum of 25% of total dry matter from cocoa and at least 14% of dry milk matter),
(v) white chocolate (a product excluding colorants, composed from cocoa butter, sugars, milk and milk powder, with at least 20% of cocoa butter and minimally 14% of dry milk matter)
(vi) composite (fantasy) chocolate (a mixture that contains less than 20% of cocoa and of other products, including milk, nuts, honey and other foodstuffs),
(vii) chocolate candy or molded filled chocolate (the filling should clearly differ from the covering in composition, with at least 40% of the total weight of the product consisting of chocolate).
The bill also proposes that all labels and written ads for cocoa-based products should contain information on the percentage of dry (fat-free) cocoa matter, cocoa butter, total fats and sugars contained in the products.
A welcome boost for cocoa growers
Brazil’s cocoa bean production in 2014 is estimated at 279,000 t, according to the federal cocoa research and extension institute CEPLAC. Cocoa growing is concentrated principally in the states of Bahia (63%) and Pará (35%), while some production also takes place in the states of Rondônia, Amazonas, Espírito Santo and Mato Grosso.
The institute says Brazilian cocoa growers receive around 3% of the value obtained from the sale of chocolate, less than the 5% that the government takes. Cocoa bean crushers take a slice worth around 7%, transporters around 12%, chocolate manufacturers keep 20% of the pie, advertising accounts for 10% of the price and the largest share (43%) ends up in the pockets of supermarkets.
“This project will provide a significant impetus for cocoa bean production in Brazil, which we believe, has the full capacity to attend the growing domestic demand for cocoa beans," reads the bill.
"On the one hand, cocoa bean production in southern Bahia state has shown a tendency for recovery ... while on the other hand, production in the Amazon region is in clear expansion, gaining a growing importance."