Pick your flavor: Colombian cocoa industry discovers 14 new Fino de Aroma cocoa genomes

By Vladimir Pekic

- Last updated on GMT

CasaLuker says  fine flavor genome discovery could led to unique-tasting chocolate couvertures
CasaLuker says fine flavor genome discovery could led to unique-tasting chocolate couvertures

Related tags: Cocoa, Dna, Chocolate

Fourteen genomes of Colombian Fino de Aroma cocoa have been discovered and analyzed in research that could lead to unique flavors for the chocolate market.

The new research, which aims to put Colombia at the forefront of cocoa genome science, was carried out by Granja Luker—CasaLuker’s cocoa research center—located in Palestina (Caldas), in conjunction with the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and Yale University.

Juan Carlos Arroyave, manager of agricultural development at Colombia’s fine chocolate manufacturer CasaLuker, told ConfectioneryNews: “This research will give us valuable information from the industrial point of view for the development of [chocolate] couverture and cocoa derivatives for the world with differentiated flavors, which is the strategic focus of CasaLuker.”

Export potential

CasaLuker hopes that the findings of the latest study, which analyzed phenotypic, genotypic and chemical properties of the 14 types of Fino de Aroma (fine flavor) cocoa, will boost the sale of cocoa derived products on the international scene.

“This will happen thanks to the greater variety of specific aroma and flavor characteristics— which depend on where the cocoa is grown—on offer for each of the markets,”​ explained the company that exports cocoa-derived products such as chocolate couverture, dragees, origin chocolate and Fino de Aroma blends to more than 30 countries.

The findings will be used to widen the portfolio of products that CasaLuker can offer its clients and in advanced plant breeding programs. “CasaLuker has a cocoa business development program which involves the planting of these varieties of Fino de Aroma cocoa that will enrich the exportable offer of the company. Likewise the genome of these varieties will be very important for research institutions to develop and improve the currently cultivated [cocoa],”​ said Arroyave.

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CasaLuker hopes the research will lead to a greater variety of flavors for the chocolate industry.

Scientific advances

The study involved extracting the DNA of 14 cocoa varieties from a sample of Fino de Aroma trees.

Up until now, only two types of cocoa had been sequenced, both in the US. The first is Criollo cocoa from Belize and the other, the Matina variety from Central America.

The Colobian study obtained 10 million DNA sequences, of which 5.5 million were retained and filtered. This final sample was the source from which special markers were obtained and these markers show the differences existing between the 14 genomes under study.

“The study highlights Colombia’s scientific and academic advances by presenting the international cocoa community with a number of conclusions that will allow us to forge ahead with the development of this exotic fruit destined for the markets in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia,”​ declared the company.

Benefit sharing

The benefits will also be shared with the Colombian agricultural sector, as it will be able to rely on new knowledge and expertise that will allow growers to achieve more variety in terms of cocoa quality and productivity.

“For example, farmers will be able to plant cocoa with certain types of flavor, aroma, and color according to the fruit’s destination. These new varieties are more resistant to disease and to the absorption of certain toxic metals. These advances will stimulate the international cocoa business given that Colombia will be able to produce cocoa with specific characteristics required by each of the markets in any part of the world,”​ said the Colombian chocolate manufacturer.

CasaLuker’s contribution to this study was the evaluation and characterization of the different varieties in the Granja Luker germplasm bank, its research and development team, and all the specialists and professionals that work at Granja Luker.

CIAT, with its scientific knowledge, obtained the DNA of each variety and undertook a genome analysis of each. Yale University worked on bioinformatics and sequence analysis in order to classify each of the elements discovered in this study.

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