Sustainable chocolate at high risk of fraud: Ecovia Intelligence

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Simplifying supply chains can help companies avoid false fair trade and organic claims, says Ecovia Intelligence. ©GettyImages/Masuti
Simplifying supply chains can help companies avoid false fair trade and organic claims, says Ecovia Intelligence. ©GettyImages/Masuti

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Confectionery containing fair trade or organic cocoa and sugar carry one of the highest risks of adulteration and mislabelling in the food & drink industry, according to Ecovia Intelligence.

The research firm - formerly named Organic Monitor - estimates one in 10 foods across all food and drink categories are adulterated or mislabelled.

Concerns on cocoa and sugar

Amarjit Sahota, president of Ecovia Intelligence, told ConfectioneryNews: “There is no hard data for organic and sustainable confectionery products, however there are concerns about cocoa and sugar.”

He said food fraud is a major issue facing the food industry, especially in premium products such as sustainable and organic foods.

“These labels are at most risk because of the high premium of certified products, e.g. organic and/or fair trade chocolates command a higher price,” ​he said.

“Food fraud is mainly motivated by economic considerations, i.e. getting a higher price for lower quality products. This was the main motive for the horsemeat scandal, the recent Brazilian meat scandal, and other food fraud cases.

“The same is true for sustainable food products; unscrupulous businesses or traders look to get a premium for their products, by adulteration or misrepresentation,” ​said Sahota.

Adulteration through complex supply chain

Ecovia suggests mislabelling of sustainable & premium products is rife in Asia, partly because it claims there is lack of enforcement or regulations.

Sahota added complex supply chains for cocoa and sugar put them at great risk since these ingredients pass through multiple intermediaries between growers and confectionery companies.

For example, fair trade cane sugar can be mixed or replaced along the supply chain with uncertified beet sugar, bringing a brand’s sustainable labelling claims into question.

Sahota added: “There are also environmental impacts, whereby high pesticide crops are being marketed as sustainable or organic. Such incidents discourage farmers to convert to sustainable farming practices.”

Vertical supply chains

Ecovia hosted its Sustainable Foods Summit in Sao Paulo from September 18 to 20 discussing the impact of food fraud in eco-labels and mitigation steps for companies.

It urges confectionery brands making sustainable claims to shorten their supply chains or move to vertical integration to lower the risks.

“We believe ‘prevention’ is better than cure,” ​said Sahota. “In this respect, sustainable confectionery companies should strengthen their supply chains, i.e. attempt to get greater transparency in their ingredient chains, and know what intermediaries are involved.

“There should be more audits and scrutiny of ingredient origins. Analytical tools like mass spectrometry and isotopes also play an important role in detecting food fraud,”​ he continued.

Ecovia will dicuss further measures for companies to combat fraud in eco-labels at the Asia-Pacific edition of its Sustainable Foods Summit​ in Singapore on November 29 to 30.  

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