The European market potential for semi-finished cocoa products
Cocoa processing at origin has seen a boom in recent years. However, this market is dominated by large global multinationals. In general, the European market potential for semi-finished cocoa products is limited, and competition is fierce. However, the growing importance of concepts such as sustainability, traceability and authenticity on the European cocoa market may open up opportunities. Unique products of excellent quality may find a market in Europe, if they are marketed well.
Contents of this page
1. Product description
This study focuses on the European market for semi-finished cocoa products, which are derivatives of roasted cocoa beans. This includes cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa powder. The HS codes for the semi-finished cocoa products discussed in this document are:
Cocoa paste, whether or not defatted
Cocoa butter, fat and oil
Cocoa powder, not containing added sugar or other sweetening matter
Couverture is also a semi-finished cocoa product. Couverture is a type of chocolate used to make pastries, bonbons, truffles, chocolate bars and other confections. There is no specific HS code for couverture; together with other chocolate products it is registered under HS code 180620, 180632 or 180690. As trade data do not distinguish between chocolate and couverture chocolate imports it is not possible to give specific import figures for couverture alone. Read more about couverture developments on the European market in the trend section below.
Semi-finished cocoa products are mainly used in the food, beverages, and confectionery industries. They are usually not sold directly on the consumer market. The cocoa-derived product which is needed and used by a manufacturer will vary according to the capacities and scale of the manufacturer as well as the final use of the product.
The beverage industry mainly demands cocoa powder, while the baking industry demands both cocoa paste and cocoa powder. The chocolate industry uses cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and couverture. The cosmetic industry mainly demands cocoa butter, though many manufacturers increasingly replace cocoa butter with cheaper vegetable oils and fats.
The figure below shows which steps are involved in the production of semi-finished cocoa products.
Figure 1: Steps in the production of semi-finished cocoa products and chocolate
Source: ProFound, adapted from UNCTAD, 2008
Cocoa products can be made of any cocoa variety, of which the most common are:
- Forastero is the predominant cocoa variety. It is mainly cultivated in Africa but also in Central and South America. It accounts for around 80% of global cocoa production. Forastero grows faster and gives a higher yield than other cocoa varieties. The beans have a strong, earthy flavour. Bulk cocoa beans generally come from Forastero trees. Well-known Forastero subspecies are Amelonado and Nacional. Nacional trees in Ecuador produce fine flavour cocoa.
- Criollo (original cocoa tree) is mainly grown in Central America, northern South America, the Caribbean and Sri Lanka. Criollo makes up around 5% of global cocoa production. The beans have a delicate and sweet flavour. Criollo is often mixed with other varieties when making chocolate, since it is scarce and expensive. Fine flavour cocoa beans are produced from Criollo cocoa trees. Well-known varieties are Chuao, Porcelana and Ocumare.
- Trinitario is mainly cultivated in Central and South America, the Caribbean and Asia. The beans are a hybrid of the Criollo and Forastero trees. This variety represents around 10 to 15% of global cocoa production. The beans have a floral, fruity flavour. The cocoa beans from Trinitario trees are classified as fine flavour cocoa. There are exceptions, however, as Cameroonian cocoa beans produced from Trinitario trees are classified as bulk cocoa beans. Well-known varieties are Carenero, Rio Caribe and Sur del Lago.
Cocoa beans are covered in our study on the demand for cocoa on the European market.
2. What makes Europe an interesting market for semi-finished cocoa products?
The European confectionery and food industry demands enormous amounts of cocoa products to manufacture its products. While demand is very high and keeps growing, it is important to realise that European manufacturers tend to process cocoa beans and buy semi-finished cocoa products from European manufacturers. Processing at origin is, however, growing in importance.
The European confectionery and food industry demand large quantities of cocoa derived products
The confectionery and food industry in Europe demands large quantities of cocoa products. According to Prodcom figures, the European Union (EU27) produced an estimated 3.6 million tonnes of products containing cocoa in 2019, at a value of €12.8 billion. Note that this is an estimate, as some country data are not reported due to confidentiality.
Products containing cocoa include chocolate tablets and bars, pralines, spreads and confectionery products. European production of such products remained relatively stable between 2015 and 2019. In 2019, Germany was the leading producer of chocolate products in Europe, followed by Italy, the United Kingdom and Belgium.
Although the chocolate market has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, market growth is still anticipated. Between 2021 and 2026, an average annual growth rate of 4.5% is expected. Several European countries lead the list of global chocolate exporters. In 2019, Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland ranked as the five largest chocolate exporters globally.
Although demand is high, chocolate manufacturers in Europe tend to either process cocoa beans themselves or purchase semi-finished cocoa products from European processors, making competition for exporters of semi-finished cocoa products fierce. Multinationals such as Barry Callebaut, Cargill, Cémoi, ECOM/Dutch Cocoa, Olam, Nederland SA and Crown of Holland (only organic) are based in Europe and supply the whole range of semi-finished cocoa products to the European food and confectionery industry. Generally speaking, chocolate makers and manufacturers prefer sourcing cocoa products from multinational companies because they have the scale and finance to guarantee quality, quality consistency and availability.
Growth in European direct imports of semi-finished cocoa products
In 2020, the total European imports of semi-finished cocoa products reached 657 thousand tonnes for cocoa butter, 669 thousand tonnes for cocoa paste and 324 thousand tonnes for cocoa powder. Between 2016 and 2020, cocoa paste registered the highest year-to-year growth at 4.7%, followed by cocoa butter at 3.7% and cocoa powder at 1.0%. European imports of chocolate and couvertures increased by 2.2% between 2016 and 2020, amounting to 2.8 million tonnes in 2020.
Most imports are the result of intra-European trade. Suppliers of semi-finished products from cocoa-producing countries operate in a limited market and face strong competition from European players. The share of direct imports from cocoa-producing countries differs per product. Cocoa paste registered the largest share of direct imports with 46%, with a total import value of €959 million in 2020. Cocoa butter followed with a 38% market share for direct imports, at an import value of €1.4 billion. Cocoa powder reported the lowest share of direct imports from producing countries, with 8.6% (€186 million) of total imports in 2020.
Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia are the main cocoa-producing suppliers of cocoa butter, cocoa powder, and cocoa paste to the European market. Read more about these countries and their competitive profiles in ‘What competition do you face on the European market for semi-finished cocoa products?’ In general, there is a growing trend for cocoa processing at origin (see the trend section below to read more). This trend explains the higher growth rates for cocoa products sourced from cocoa-origin countries, compared to imports from European processors.
Cocoa butter sourced directly from cocoa-producing countries registered an average annual growth rate of 2.2% between 2016 and 2020, compared to 0.9% for intra-European trade. For cocoa powder, the average annual growth rate for direct imports was 2.3%, versus a year-to-year decline of -3.8% for intra-European trade. An exception to this trend, however, is cocoa paste, where direct imports saw an average annual decline of -1.4%, while intra-European imports increased by 1.9% over the same period.
- Activate the “Translation” function of your browser to make the studies available in your native language.
- Learn more about the food and confectionery industries using cocoa products on the website of CAOBISCO, the Association of Chocolate, Biscuit and Confectionery Industries of Europe. The food and confectionery industries will be the most interesting for semi-finished cocoa products.
- See our study of trade statistics for cocoa for more detailed information about the European trade in cocoa beans.
- Read our study on trends on the European cocoa market for insight into the consumer market for chocolate.
3. Which European countries offer most opportunities for semi-finished cocoa products?
The main importers of cocoa products sourced directly from cocoa-producing countries vary according to the type of product as well as the function of the importing country, as a trade hub or as an industrial or consumer market. In general, Germany and the Netherlands are among the largest and most important European markets for semi-finished cocoa products. At the same time, thanks to their large cocoa-processing industries, both countries are also the largest suppliers of semi-finished cocoa products to other European countries.
The largest European importers of semi-finished cocoa products
The main European importers of semi-finished cocoa products in 2020 were:
- Cocoa paste: the largest cocoa paste importer in Europe is the Netherlands, with 141 thousand tonnes in 2020, of which 85% was sourced directly from cocoa-producing countries. Germany is the second-largest importer with 101 thousand tonnes, of which only 29% was sourced directly from origin countries. France imported 90 thousand tonnes in 2020 (of which 68% were direct imports), Spain 89 thousand tonnes (90% direct imports) and Belgium 86 thousand tonnes (with only 2.1% direct imports).
- Cocoa butter: the largest cocoa butter importer in Europe is Germany, with 152 thousand tonnes in 2020, of which 31% was sourced directly from cocoa-producing countries. Belgium is the second-largest importer with 116 thousand tonnes. Belgium’s direct imports accounted for 10% of total imports. The Netherlands imported 83 thousand tonnes in 2020, of which 87% directly from cocoa-producing countries. France was the fourth-largest cocoa butter importer with 78 thousand tonnes in 2020, of which 77% directly from cocoa-producing countries.
- Cocoa powder: the largest importer of cocoa powder in Europe is the Netherlands, with 69 thousand tonnes in 2020, of which 72% was sourced directly from cocoa-producing countries. Germany is the second-largest importer, with 41 thousand tonnes (6.1% sourced directly), followed by France with 39 thousand tonnes (2.9% sourced directly).
Germany and the Netherlands dominate imports of semi-finished cocoa products in Europe
Within Europe, the Netherlands plays an important role in supplying its neighbouring countries with cocoa products. The Netherlands has the world’s second-largest cocoa-processing industry, second only to Ivory Coast. Besides the processing of cocoa beans into semi-finished cocoa products, the Netherlands also refines, for instance, cocoa butter imports for further use in cosmetics and health products.
The Netherlands imports a significant volume of cocoa products. The Port of Amsterdam is the largest cocoa port in the world and plays a key role in international cocoa trade given its expertise, the concentration of facilities and actors around it, their focus on sustainability and the flexibility to innovate. Dutch cocoa butter imports from cocoa producing countries increased at a year-to-year rate of 1.3% between 2016 and 2020. Cocoa paste imports by the Netherlands increased at an average annual rate of 12% between 2016 and 2020, and cocoa powder imports registered an average annual growth rate of 22% over the same period.
Another leading market for semi-finished cocoa products is Germany. This country has a large demand for cocoa products, since it has the largest chocolate consumer market and food-processing industry in Europe. At the same time, Germany functions as a trade hub due to its central location and well-developed logistical network.
Between 2016 and 2020, cocoa butter imports by Germany increased at an average annual rate of 3.2%. In the same period, cocoa paste imports increased by a year-to-year rate of 0.6%, while cocoa powder imports decreased by -4.5%. Germany imported most cocoa paste from Ivory Coast. Ghana was the largest cocoa-producing supplier of cocoa butter. The largest share of cocoa powder was imported from neighbouring European countries in 2020. With 1,263 tonnes of cocoa powder, Malaysia was the largest non-European supplier of cocoa powder to Germany.
Belgium’s chocolate manufacturing industry provides interesting opportunities
Belgium is an interesting market for semi-finished cocoa products, given its large chocolate-manufacturing industry. Belgium is the world’s second-largest chocolate exporter. In addition, a core activity for Belgian companies is the production of industrial chocolate. Investments in chocolate production facilities, such as those by Cargill, underline and strengthen the important position of Belgium as a key chocolate manufacturing country and major supplier of chocolate around the globe.
The large chocolate-manufacturing industry in Belgium requires high volumes of cocoa butter and cocoa liquor. Although Barry Callebaut, Cargill and Puratos have grinding facilities in Belgium to produce these derivatives, Belgium also imports large volumes of cocoa products.
In 2020, Belgium imported most cocoa derivatives from the Netherlands. For instance, about 50% of its cocoa butter imports (57 thousand tonnes) were supplied by the Netherlands. With 11 thousand tonnes in 2020, a significantly smaller share was supplied by Ivory Coast. Nevertheless, supplies by Ivory Coast grew at a high average annual rate: from 2016 to 2020, year-to-year growth reached 308%. This high growth rate is explained by recent investments in cocoa-processing facilities in Ivory Coast, aimed at increasing processing capacities.
Well-known Belgian chocolate companies are Godiva, Leonidas and Neuhaus. The largest chocolate manufacturer in Belgium is multinational Mondelez, thanks to its popular brands such as Côte d’Or and Milka.
Chocolate manufacturing industries of France and Spain require large amounts of cocoa derivatives
France and Spain both have large and growing national chocolate industries. Both countries produce most of the cocoa derivatives needed for chocolate production themselves. France has Europe’s third-largest cocoa-grinding industry, while Spain has the fourth-largest. The cocoa processing industry in Spain is dominated by players such as Natra, INDCRESA and Nederland SA. Cémoi is a large cocoa processor in France.
Still, both countries are among the largest importers of semi-finished cocoa products in Europe. Both countries also registered growing import figures. French cocoa paste imports increased at an average annual rate of 3.0% between 2016 and 2020, amounting to 90 thousand tonnes in 2020. French cocoa butter imports increased at an average annual rate of 4.8%, reaching 78 thousand tonnes in 2020. Cocoa powder imports remained stable, reaching 39 thousand tonnes in 2020.
In 2020, 77% of cocoa butter imports were directly sourced from producing countries, as were 68% of cocoa paste imports. The largest suppliers of cocoa butter were Ivory Coast (22 thousand tonnes), Cameroon (18 thousand tonnes) and Ghana (9.7 thousand tonnes). Cocoa butter imports from Cameroon and Ghana increased by an average annual rate of 18% and 62% respectively between 2016 and 2020. Imports from Ivory Coast decreased by -7.7% in the same period. French cocoa paste imports from Ghana increased at an average annual rate of 57% between 2016 and 2020.
The large increase of imports from Ghana is thanks to France’s presence in Ghana through the large multinational Touton Group. An example of a French trading company importing semi-finished cocoa products is SALDAC.
Spain mainly imports cocoa paste. About 90% of cocoa paste imports by Spain are sourced directly from producing countries. Imports grew at an average annual rate of 5.3% between 2016 and 2020. The largest suppliers to Spain were Ivory Coast (39 thousand tonnes), Ghana (24 thousand tonnes) and Indonesia (13 thousand tonnes). Supplies from Ghana and Indonesia increased most between 2016 and 2020, with a year-to-year growth of 30% and 15% respectively.
Poland’s growing chocolate sector drives up demand for semi-finished cocoa products
Total cocoa butter imports by Poland increased at an average annual growth rate of over 13% between 2016 and 2020. The country imported a total of 45 thousand tonnes of cocoa butter in 2020, of which only 6.6% was directly imported from cocoa-producing countries. Germany (15 thousand tonnes), France (9.8 thousand tonnes) and the Netherlands (9.1 thousand tonnes) were the largest suppliers in 2020. Ivory Coast was the largest cocoa-producing supplier, with 3.0 thousand tonnes in 2020.
Polish imports of cocoa powder reached about 24 thousand tonnes in 2020. Between 2016 and 2020, the average annual growth rate of cocoa powder imports by Poland was 4.6%. Only 5.2% of cocoa powder imports was sourced directly from cocoa-producing countries. The largest suppliers to Poland in 2020 were Germany (12 thousand tonnes) and the Netherlands (8.0 thousand tonnes).
Regarding cocoa paste, Poland imported almost 60 thousand tonnes in 2020. About 48% of cocoa paste was imported directly from cocoa-producing countries. The largest cocoa-producing supplier of cocoa paste was Ghana with 16 thousand tonnes, followed by Ivory Coast with 12 thousand tonnes. With 17 thousand tonnes, however, most Polish imports were supplied by the Netherlands. Polish cocoa paste imports registered a year-to-year growth of 5.1% between 2016 and 2020.
The increasing import volumes of semi-finished cocoa products by Poland are thanks to a growing chocolate sector in the country. In the past years, both national companies and multinationals have invested in their production facilities in the country, indicating an expected continuation of growth. For instance, market leader Mondelez and national companies Wawel and Lotte Wedel have all invested in increasing their production capacity in the country in recent years.
- Access EU Access2Markets to analyse European trade dynamics yourself and to build your export strategy. By selecting a specific country, you will be able to follow developments such as trade flows with established suppliers, the emergence of new suppliers and changing patterns in direct and indirect imports.
- Investigate whether your target market is an important trade hub and/or a large consumer market. This information will help you to create a more accurate export strategy for cocoa products. For example, if you know which industries in which countries demand your cocoa products, you can try to contact end-user industries directly.
- Use industry associations of specific countries to understand their markets and to find buyers, such as the Association of the Belgium Confectionery Industry, the Dutch Association of Bakery Goods and Sweets (the Netherlands), the Association of the German Confectionery Industry, the Confederation of Chocolate and Confectioners of France or the Italian Association of Confectionary Industry and Pasta Industries.
4. Which trends offer opportunities on the European semi-finished cocoa products market?
Sustainability, traceability and authenticity are important concepts on the European chocolate market, both for industry players and for consumers. As a result, single-origin chocolate and ethically produced and traded products are gaining popularity. Offering Fairtrade and organic-certified cocoa products from a single origin might be an interesting value proposition for your product.
Processing at origin is growing for bulk and fine flavour cocoa
The European cocoa and chocolate industry traditionally sources cocoa beans as raw material. However, cocoa is increasingly processed at origin, evidenced by an increase in cocoa grinding in producing countries. In the 2020/21 cocoa year, it is estimated that cocoa grinding at origin accounted for around 46% of all grinding activities worldwide. For comparison, the share of grinding at origin was 43% in 2015/16.
Grinding at origin is most common on the bulk cocoa market. This process has been used as a strategy by large multinationals to lower production costs as well as to target regional markets. Given investments of multinationals, cocoa grindings at origin are expected to grow even more in the future. In some producing countries, the growth in grinding activities also aims at increasing the value of exports and protecting the economy from fluctuations on the global cocoa market.
The general prediction is that cocoa grindings at origin will increase over time. Nevertheless, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, global cocoa grindings, including those at origin, saw a decline of about -10% early 2021 compared to 2020. This is mostly due to a strong drop of out-of-home consumption of chocolate worldwide.
Ivory Coast is the world’s largest cocoa grinder, with 610 thousand tonnes or 13% of global grindings in 2020/21. Between 2018/19 and 2020/21, cocoa grindings by Ivory Coast registered a slight annual growth of 0.4%. Cocoa grindings in Ivory Coast are expected to increase in the coming years. Grinding capacity in early 2021 amounted to a maximum of 712 thousand tonnes, but Chinese investments in the country in 2020 will help boost the cocoa processing capacity with another 100 thousand tonnes.
Ivory Coast houses about 12 cocoa-grinding facilities, yet multinationals dominate the cocoa-grinding industry. Barry Callebaut, Cargill and Olam are the largest and define the substantial exports of semi-finished cocoa products from Ivory Coast into Europe. In 2019, Barry Callebaut announced that it would invest and expand its cocoa-processing facilities in Ivory Coast. In the same year, Cargill also made large investments in Ivory Coast, as well as in Ghana. In early 2021, Ivory Coast’s domestic cocoa traders association GNI asked the government to introduce reforms to end the dominance of these multinational companies.
Ghana is also a large producer and processor of cocoa beans. The country’s grinding industry consumed an estimated 300 thousand tonnes in 2020/21, accounting for 6.4% of global grindings. Between 2018/19 and 2020/21, cocoa grindings in Ghana decreased at an annual rate of -3.2%. Ghana also relies on a multinational cocoa-processing industry. Besides Cargill, another large multinational present in Ghana is the Touton Group (France). In general, Africa accounted for an estimated 22% of global cocoa grindings in 2020/21.
Asia accounted for 24% of global grindings in 2019/20. Indonesia is the continent’s largest and the world’s third-largest cocoa grinder, after Ivory Coast and the Netherlands. Cocoa grindings are forecast to amount to 485 thousand tonnes in 2020/21, or 10% of global grindings. Cocoa grindings between 2018/19 and 2020/21 decreased slightly with an average annual decline of -0.2%. The three multinational giants Olam, Cargill and Barry Callebaut are behind Indonesia’s strong position in cocoa grinding. Also, the Indonesian government has implemented an export tax for cocoa beans, aimed at stimulating the local cocoa-processing industry.
Fine flavour cocoa
With multinationals dominating the cocoa processing at origin, the intensity of competition on the market will be high for semi-finished products made of bulk cocoa with low added value. Therefore, for small to medium-sized exporters (SME), it is becoming increasingly important to offer value-added products, such as cocoa products made of specialty cocoa, backed up with sustainability claims.
In fact, governments and associations in countries that produce fine flavour cocoa have also been pushing for local value addition. An example is Peru, where the volume of semi-finished exports increased in 2019 while the export of cocoa beans decreased. Similar value-adding approaches to cocoa exports can be seen in other cocoa-producing countries, such as Costa Rica. Another example is the Meso-American Association of Fine Cacao and Chocolate (AMACACAO), which unites various companies in Central America and takes a regional approach to quality standards and value-addition strategies.
Growing importance of traceable chocolates in Europe
Single-origin cocoa chocolate is gaining popularity on the European market. Origin has become increasingly important in the food and ingredient sector, both for taste as well as for marketing ends. Traceability plays an important role in the production of single-origin chocolates. This implies that the origin of the cocoa beans is known and safeguarded along the chain. Traceability is one of the key trends driving the cocoa sector today and will continue to increase in importance in the future.
Single-origin cocoa derivatives are already widely for sale in Europe, often produced on the European continent. An example is the offer of single-origin cocoa powders from Barry Callebaut. However, this trend also contributes to growing investments in and demand for cocoa products processed at origin. For instance, in 2019, Cargill invested over US$12 million to boost sustainability and to introduce supply chain traceability programmes in both Ghana and Ivory Coast. These investments were on top of a US$113 million investment to boost the cocoa-processing industries in both countries.
There are several European chocolate makers, traders and distributors that buy their semi-finished products directly from origin, to sell to the European industry or directly to the consumer. Examples are the Estonian trader Panamir and Dutch distributor Vehgro, which both import semi-finished cocoa products directly from origin.
Fairtrade- and organic-certified chocolate gaining popularity on the European market
Sustainability is an important concept on the European cocoa market, both for consumers and for industry players. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for ethical and sustainable products has increased even further. This has boosted the sales of Fairtrade and organic-certified products across Europe.
Specifically, the demand for and sales of certified cocoa and chocolate products in Europe have gone up in recent years. For instance, sales of Fairtrade-certified chocolate products have grown all over Europe. An indication for this is the commitment of large retailers Aldi and Lidl, which are present in most European countries, to substantially increase the use of Fairtrade cocoa products in their private label confectionery products. The sales of Fairtrade-certified cocoa increased at an average annual growth rate of 26% between 2015 and 2019. The sales of both Fairtrade and organic-certified cocoa beans increased at a year-to-year rate of 6.9% over the same period.
The market for organic-certified chocolate products has also grown over the last years. The popularity of organic certification for chocolate products follows the general market for organic products in Europe. Sales of organic products in Europe reached €45 billion in 2019, marking an increase of 8.0% compared with the year before. The organic market in Europe is forecast to continue to grow at an average annual rate of 8.3% till 2025. In 2019, the largest national markets for organic foods were found in Germany (at a value of €12 billion), France (€11 billion) and Italy (€3.6 billion).
The growing importance of Fairtrade and organic-certified chocolates brings opportunities for the export of certified cocoa products. Naranjillo, Norandino, Organic Crops, all from Peru, are examples of organic-certified exporters of semi-finished cocoa products. Examples of European importers dealing with organic-certified cocoa products are Covitor (Czech Republic) and Tradin Organic (the Netherlands).
Growing interest in specialty chocolates brings opportunities for craft couverture
European demand for specialty chocolates is growing. A strong indication for this is the steep increase of bean-to-bar makers in Europe in recent years. The demand for premium chocolate products in Europe is not expected to slow down soon. In fact, the market is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 8.7% between 2021 and 2026.
A large share of the couvertures that are used for the manufacturing of chocolate in Europe are produced in Europe itself. Barry Callebaut and Valrhona (France) dominate the couverture market in Europe. There are also numerous European artisanal chocolate makers that produce couverture; examples are Chocolaterie de l’Opéra and Chocolaterie du Pecq (France), Zotter (Austria), Original Beans (the Netherlands) and Chocolate Tree (United Kingdom). An example of a European distributor selling couvertures is The High Five Company (the Netherlands).
The rising interest in higher-quality chocolates in combination with a growing demand for ethical and authentic products also opens up interesting opportunities for exporters of unique high-quality couvertures in cocoa-producing countries. In fact, there is a small but growing interest from craft chocolate makers in traveling to places of origin to develop special and unique couvertures together with cocoa farmers and smaller local processors.
There is also a small but upcoming interest from chocolate makers and pastry chefs who are interested in single-variety and single-estate couvertures. These couvertures are gaining popularity because they allow for traceability and unique flavour profiles, which are increasingly important elements on the (high-end segments in the) European market. The earlier mentioned Chocolaterie de l’Opéra from France has a specific product line of single-variety couvertures.
Examples of companies in cocoa producing countries that are tapping into the trend of offering craft couverture include Cocoa Runners (Colombia), Cafiesa (Ecuador), Orquídea (Peru), To’ak (Ecuador), Ingemann (Nicaragua) and Xoco Gourmet (Honduras).
Given this trend, it is becoming increasingly important to develop and express your unique selling points as a supplier of cocoa products. To explore this, it is relevant to think about factors which distinguish you from your competitors and then base your marketing story on them. For example, these factors could relate to your cocoa characteristics (origin, agroclimatic characteristics of producing region, quality and flavour profile) and value addition (your processing techniques, the culture of the producing communities, certifications and accompanying documentation). The companies mentioned above are good examples of companies which manage to successfully promote their cocoa products.
Note that European providers of couvertures are also tapping into the trend of a growing demand for unique couvertures. For instance, early 2021, Cargill added two Signature Origins dark couverture chocolates with cocoa from El Salvador and DR Congo to its Veliche gourmet brand assortment.
- See our study on trends for cocoa to learn more about current trends on the European market.
- Promote sustainable and ethical aspects of your production process. Support these claims with certification. See our study on doing business with European buyers of cocoa for more tips on marketing and promotional aspects of your cocoa.
- Before engaging in a certification programme, make sure to check (in consultation with your potential buyer) that this label has sufficient demand in your target market and whether it will be cost beneficial for your product.
- Find potential business partners in Europe by checking the lists of Fairtrade-certified operators, Rainforest Alliance/UTZ-certified cocoa supply chain actors and organic-certified companies.
- Focus on the specialty and fine flavour cocoa products market in Europe. Competition in the mainstream market is very strong. You can only access this premium cocoa products market if you offer high-quality cocoa products. See the chapter about quality requirements below to learn more.
- Develop and articulate your unique selling points as a supplier of cocoa products. Consider which factors set you apart from your competitors, as mentioned in the text above, and create your marketing story around these factors.
This study has been carried out on behalf of CBI by ProFound – Advisers In Development.
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