The confectionery year starts almost immediately as soon as we return to our desks in January with preparation for ISM/ProSweets show in Cologne. Last year was my first experience of the world's leading trade fair for sweets and snacks and I have to say, it was daunting trying to cover all the events and exhibitors gathered under the sprawling Koelnmesse building.
ConfectioneryNews will be back in 2020, and we also look forward to visiting Sweets & Snack’s Expo in Chicago in May. Again, this was my first visit to McCormick Place - and the hype didn’t disappoint as it was also a truly impressive show. ProSweets and Sweets & Snacks are the two most important trade fairs in the calendar for new innovations and trends.
My other personal highlights of last year included being invited to the NCA’s State of the Industry meeting in Boca Raton, Florida, in March. I knew the US confectionery and candy business was big and important to the country’s economy but the sheer diversity of companies that make up the association was an eye-opener and I made many contacts from the great and the good like Mars and Hershey to the small independent firms, all creating innovative products that I am sure will give them the edge going in to this new decade.
I also had the pleasure of visiting Barry Callebaut’s impressive factory and chocolate academy in Belgium, attending the launch of its 100% cacaofruit in San Francisco and seeing first hand its operations in Ghana and the impact of its sustainability work.
The most satisfying visits I undertook last year were to York, England, my home town, and a visit to the Rowntree factory, which now, of course, is owned by Nestlé. Although the manufacturing side has declined, the York site is one of the company’s top R&D centres, and it was the York team who achieved a stunning technical breakthrough with its 100% recyclable wrapper for its Yes! bar.
This was an incredible story of scientific endeavour, team work, tenacity and high technological achievement, which is why I feel compelled to put it at the top of my list of highlights for 2019.
Nestlé claimed a ‘world first’ in recyclable packaging on confectionery back in July after experts working at its R&D centre in York, UK, discovered a way to use a recyclable paper wrapper in a high-speed ‘flow wrap cold seal’ packaging line. The company’s new range of fruit-based and nut-based ‘YES!’ bars were the first brand to convert to the new revolutionary technique and Nestlé said it represented a world first for a process that, in the past, was only suitable for plastic films and laminates.
Staying with innovation, Barry Callebaut launched its ‘Cacaofruit Experiences’, another new category in the confectionery sector, which, for the first time, uses the whole cacao fruit in its products and is slated to be rolled out in 2020. The launch was held in San Francisco, and the breakthrough was provided by Barry Callebaut’s research and development team, who unlocked the full potential of cacao, ‘the food of the gods’ by utilising the whole fruit.
The National Confectioners Association’s (NCA) get-together in March in sunny Boca Raton will be remembered for many things – not least its president and CEO, John Downs, opening the conference with a Freddie Mercury impersonation to the tune of We Will Rock You. The sketch was spot on and took guts to get up in front of a packed room of colleagues and peers as Downs’s upbeat tone resonated with his key message that the confectionery industry in the United States is “alive and well”.
An excellent podcast by Oliver Nieburg, a former editor of ConfectioneryNews and now an analyst at Lumina Intelligence, explored Ecuador’s efforts to create value at origin and why its cocoa industry could be damaged by the EU’s regulation of heavy metal cadmium in chocolate. Researchers have suggested that cadmium traces in cocoa beans are more prominent in Latin America than West Africa due to higher volcanic activity, and the EU’s move this year has clearly upset many cocoa growers.
'You, the whites, are eating cocoa. You bring the price … you have to give us a chance to sell it at the price that we want’
We were very grateful to Dr Kristy Leissle, scholar of the cocoa and chocolate industries, for her exclusive article on the life of a cocoa farmer in Ghana. Leissle profiled one individual who makes a living growing cocoa, exploring how he came to cocoa farming, his relationship with the crop and its financial impact on his life, among other issues. This article was the first in a series by Leissle and we look forward to reading more stories from her trips into other cocoa growing communities.
Forever Ghana: how Barry Callebaut’s sustainability program is impacting on the lives of the country’s cocoa farmers
Staying in Ghana, ConfectioneryNews visited Barry Callebaut’s operation in the country in November ahead of the official publication of its worldwide sustainability program’s Forever Chocolate Progress report. The trip resulted in a number of articles, which will run into the new year, and we spoke to key players involved in the group’s ‘making sustainable chocolate the norm’ plan.
The World Cocoa Foundation’s partnership meeting in Berlin in October focussed on ‘Drivers for Change’ in the industry and led to two days of intense discussions and debates from high-level and influential delegates on how to move forward on some of the main issues impacting cocoa, namely, deforestation and child labour. Heidi Hautala, vice-president of the European Parliament, issued a powerful call to action for a responsible cocoa supply chain, saying there is a strong case for mandatory due diligence legislation to ensure human rights and environmental protection and support of voluntary corporate action that are already in place.
The seventh Chocoa Conference in Amsterdam got straight down to business on the opening day, with discussions ranging from deforestation, child labour and famer incomes. In his keynote speech, and his first at Chocoa as the new executive director of the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), Michel Arrion said there was a valid argument “to triple the price of cocoa for farmers” and that any certification program must include “a solid component for living income”. Arrion’s speech set the tone of the debate around farmer income throughout the year and was a bold and important move by him.
Another important event to recognise farmer income was the move by Fairtrade to increase its Fairtrade Minimum Price - which acts as a safety net for farmers - by 20% for conventional cocoa from October 1, with an extra raise for organic. The Fairtrade Premium will also rose by 20%. At the same time, Fairtrade and Tony’s Chocolonely collaborated to establish a new industry reference: the Living Income Reference Price for cocoa.
Finally, the announcement by ethical Dutch chocolate company Tony’s Chocolonely that it was coming to the UK in January brought a certain amount of joy and cheered up a dreary winter. The B-Corp certified company, which has become the bestselling chocolate brand in the Netherlands, started by selling its unique bars in Selfridges, Waitrose and Wholefoods before branching out into mainstream stores.
- What grabbed you this year from our coverage on the confectionery world? Send us your comments!