Its Flavor Labs and sensory panel training are part of the company’s sustainability goals prioritizing flavor, quality, and value with investments in education and training to improve farmer livelihoods.
The project is supported by The World Cocoa Foundation, USAID, Swisscontact, and the Millennium Challenge Account.
For example, in 2019, Guittard will expand its Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) sensory training program and bean-to-bar production equipment to produce thousands of samples for farmers and cooperatives to taste their own chocolate.
‘Incremental degradation’ is the result of an industry-wide shift toward breeding cocoa for high yields and disease resistance without any consideration for flavor.
“It takes flavorful, high-quality beans to make great-tasting chocolate, and no one knows this better than the fourth and fifth generation of Guittards who are in charge of this 151-year-old premium chocolate company,” said Gary Guittard.
“Recognizing the need to be competitive in the cocoa market, the flavor labs allow researchers in their respective countries to develop the tools and skills to objectively assess the flavor of different cocoa varieties and incorporate this basic and critical component into their breeding programs together with productivity.”
'Learn by tasting'
Guittard added most cocoa farmers have not tasted the chocolate made from their beans, nor had the opportunity to taste the differences among the varieties of their country’s cocoa or the results when harvesting, fermentation, drying, and storage are done correctly and when they are not.
The program works with cocoa farmers, cooperatives, and extension agents to “learn by tasting” how their skill and craftsmanship can build value and strengthen customer relationships.
“This all makes good business sense because the company, as well as its customers and supply chain partners, are at their best when there are long-term, consistent sources of high-quality ingredients from stable business partners.”
Guittard’s work in each country:
Through the USAID/WCF Africa Cocoa Initiative, Guittard has trained a cocoa sensory panel at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) to identify and preserve the rich chocolate flavour of Ghana cocoa in their breeding program and pre- and post-harvest practices. These skills have allowed CRIG to train over 500 extension agents who, in turn, are training Ghanaian cocoa farmers on the best on-farm practices to achieve great flavor and protect Ghana’s market position. In 2019, the CRIG sensory training program and lab will expand with the installation of bean-to-bar production equipment to produce thousands of samples for farmers and cooperatives across the country so they can taste for themselves the impact they can have on cocoa and chocolate flavour and value.
Guittard’s partners in Ghana helped them set up a similar lab and training program for their sister cocoa-producing country at Ivory Coast’s Centre National de Researche Agronomique (CNRA). John Kehoe, Guittard’s director of sustainability, travelled to Ivory Coast in September 2018 with cocoa processing equipment for their lab to expand this critical WCF/USAID work to the world’s largest cocoa-producing country. Ongoing training, the development of new partnerships, flavor-based research, and farmer extension will add important skills and knowledge to unlock value within the Ivoirian cocoa sector.
Indonesia has a rich cocoa-growing tradition with genetics dating from the 1500s and ranks third in the world in cocoa bean production behind Ivory Coast and Ghana. Unfortunately, Indonesia’s cocoa quality does not reflect this unique history and in recent years, cocoa production has contracted due to disease pressure and cocoa farmers switching to other crops. In partnership with the Indonesia Coffee Cocoa Research Institute (ICCRI), Swisscontact, and the Millennium Challenge Account, Guittard helped install a flavor lab in December 2017 along with continued sensory training both on-site and via Skype. These new tools and skills are allowing ICCRI and Indonesia to recognize, assess, and celebrate the quality and diversity of flavor inherent in Indonesian cocoa and to access new markets.