The South American firm has teamed with the non-profit organization under the Swiss Import Promotion Programme (SIPPO), a Swiss government-backed initiative that facilitates trade into Switzerland and the EU from developing countries.
Interest in Switzerland and the UK
Cacao Pacifico began selling raw cocoa beans eight years ago via a longstanding relationship with smallholder farmers cultivating African palm.
In 2012 it started to process beans and to sell cocoa liquor, powder, mass and chocolate couvertures after establishing a plant in Cali, Colombia.
The company already exports raw cocoa beans to Europe, but was at trade fair Food Ingredients Europe (FiE) last month seeking European customers for its couvertures, which have become its leading product.
"In Switzerland and the UK we see some opportunities and in France also we have some potential customers,” Anotonio José Varela, president of Cacao Pacifico, told ConfectioneryNews.
Colombia’s rising reputation
According to Varela, European interest in Colombia cocoa has been mounting since the country was declared a fine flavor origin in 2011 by the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO).
Government pushes for cocoa cultivation
Last year, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Colombia supported renewing 10,000 hectares of cocoa plantations in the country. It also provided funding for 8,000 additional hectares as it saw opportunities for export.
"Ecuador has developed more vast regions for fine flavor... I think Colombia has been lacking in the past some more support from the agencies to get more cocoa and fine flavor - but this has changed and Colombia is cultivating more and more fine flavor nowadays,” said Varela.
Cacao Pacifico does not own any plantations but has relationships with 450 farmers that are part of two associations spread around the Tumaco and Santander regions.
The firm receives government grants to support farmers hoping to plant cocoa.
The company is providing competition to Casa Luka and Compañía Nacional de Chocolates, which also process Colombian cocoa.
"They commercialize cocoa from all the regions of Colombia. We only emphasize the region of Tumaco and Santander. [Tumaco cocoa] has a wood flavor and a very fine aroma, which differentiates it from the cocoa in Santander, which has more fat content,” said Varela.
Fine flavor and no CCN-51
Cacao Pacifico sells 39% milk chocolate couverture as well as 50%, 60%, 70% and 85% dark chocolate varieties.
The couvertures are derived from fine flavor cocoa beans from a mix of Trinitario and Forastero trees and also some Criollo.
The company sources no CCN-51, a high yielding tree variety that had been touted as a savior against impending cocoa shortfalls.
“We know the European market doesn’t want CCN-51,” said Varela. “We don’t process and we don’t buy CCN-51 because we know that it has a very strong characteristic that the industry doesn't like. You have to process it twice to get rid of the strong aroma and taste."
CCN-51 has been widely planted in Ecuador and has double the yields of regular cacao tree varieties.
"For the farmers it's better, but in the end if they [chocolate companies] are not going to buy that cocoa it's the worst. The governments in these countries have to be aware and to promote the good types of cocoa beans for the growers to have good business otherwise it's a waste of time,” said Valero.
Cacao Pacifico agrees a price with its customers for its chocolate couvertures for a six-month period.
The farmers it sources from are not certified fair trade or organic, but Valero said it could help farmers gain accreditation by customer request.