What is the demand for cocoa on the European market?
Europe is a very diverse and interesting market for cocoa. Its chocolate processing and manufacturing industries are strong, demanding large volumes of cocoa beans. These industries process large amounts of bulk cocoa, but specific demand for specialty cocoa is growing strongly. Sustainability has become so important and widespread in the European cocoa industry – and for chocolate consumers – that it is a mandatory requirement for entering the European market.
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1. What makes Europe an interesting market for cocoa?
Europe is the world’s largest chocolate manufacturer and export market. The European cocoa market is quite diverse, as European buyers source cocoa beans of different qualities and origins to meet the demand of the cocoa and chocolate industry. As such, Europe offers opportunities for suppliers of both bulk and specialty cocoa.
Europe is the main global destination for cocoa bean exporters
Europe is the largest importer of cocoa beans worldwide, with 56% of global imports. To compare, North America and Latin America together account for about 17% of global cocoa bean imports, and Asia for 26%.
Europe’s total imports of cocoa beans (HS code 1801) amounted to over 2.2 million tonnes in 2021. Between 2017 and 2021, the import volume decreased by an average ‑1.2% per year. Of the total European cocoa bean imports, about 79% were sourced directly from producing countries in 2021, amounting to almost 1.8 million tonnes. European imports directly sourced from cocoa-producing countries decreased slightly at a year-on-year rate of ‑0.6% between 2017 and 2021. This decrease can be attributed to the impact of the global pandemic slowing down the cocoa and chocolate market, causing a significant drop of direct imports in 2020.
Europe is the world’s largest chocolate producer and exporter
Europe has many chocolate manufacturers of all sizes, working with different cocoa qualities. Globally, seven multinational companies represent the bulk of the market for final chocolate products: Nestlé, Mondelez, Mars, Hershey, Lindt & Sprüngli and Ferrero. Except for Hershey (United States), all multinationals have production plants in Europe.
According to Prodcom data, the European Union (not including the United Kingdom) produced an estimated 3.6 million tonnes of final chocolate products in 2020, not including industrial chocolate. Note that the actual production volumes were higher in 2020, as for some products data at the country level are confidential. Germany is the leading producer of chocolate as a consumer product, followed by Italy and Belgium.
Regarding industrial chocolate, Europe is also the leading region when it comes to production, consumption and exports. Industrial chocolate, such as chocolate couverture, is sold as an intermediary product to food manufacturers of all sizes in the mainstream and gourmet food segments. The global industrial chocolate market is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 4.3% between 2002 and 2026, reaching an estimated market value of €61 billion in 2026. Barry Callebaut is the world’s largest player in the industrial chocolate market, with more than 60 factories worldwide and a product sales volume of 2.3 million tonnes’ in 2020/2021. Other large players in the industrial chocolate market are Cargill, Fuji Oil, Puratos and Cémoi.
Europe is also the world’s largest chocolate exporter. In 2021, Europe accounted for about 76% of global chocolate sales value. Germany is the world’s largest exporter of chocolate, with a global market share in value of 16%, followed by Belgium (11%), Italy (7.6%), Poland (7.2%) and the Netherlands (6.5%). According to our calculations based on ITC Trade Map data, Croatia, Austria and Italy were among the fastest-growing chocolate exporters between 2020 and 2021, with growth rates of 17%, 16% and 11%, respectively.
Europe has the world’s highest industrial demand for cocoa beans
Cocoa bean grindings serve as a good indication for market demand. Given Europe’s important role in chocolate manufacturing, exports and consumption, its demand for cocoa beans is high. Globally, cocoa bean grinding activities amounted to an estimated 4,973 thousand tonnes in cocoa year 2020/2021, registering an increase of 5.7% compared to 2019/2020. This shows how the chocolate industry is recovering from the impact of the global pandemic. Forecasts indicate a growth perspective of 1.5% between 2020/2021 and 2021/2022, amounting to 5,048 thousand tonnes of global cocoa grindings.
As a region, Europe accounts for the largest share of cocoa grinding activities in the world, with almost 36% of global grindings in 2020/2021. This share in global grinding has been stable for the last three years, but in volume European grinding activities increased by 4.4% in 2021 (to 1,782 thousand tonnes of cocoa beans).
Over the last years, the share of European grindings has decreased slightly as there has been a growth of cocoa grinding in producing countries. In 2020/2021, cocoa grinding at origin amounted to 2,258 thousand tonnes, accounting for around 45% of all grinding activities worldwide. For comparison’s sake, in 2015/2016 grinding of cocoa beans at origin amounted to 1,802 thousand tonnes and had a share of 43%.
Grinding at origin has been used as a strategy by large multinationals like Cargill, Olam and Barry Callebaut to lower production costs as well as to target regional markets. To reinforce this, these multinationals have invested in their production facilities at origin – see this example of Barry Callebaut.
Ivory Coast was the world’s largest cocoa grinder in 2020/2021, with 620 thousand tonnes, followed by the Netherlands, with a cocoa grinding volume of 610 thousand tonnes. Ivory Coast is expected to expand its position. The Ivorian government has introduced tax benefits for grinders, encouraging the industry to process cocoa locally. The growth in grinding activities aims to increase value addition at origin and protect the economy from fluctuations of the global market. Different multinationals like Barry Callebaut, Guan Chong and Cargill have benefitted from this scheme. By the end of 2021, Cargill completed a US$100 million expansion of its processing site in the country, which is now considered Africa’s single largest cocoa-grinding plant.
Figure 2: Estimated cocoa bean grinding by region and country in % of the world’s total, 2020/2021
Source: ProFound, based on data from International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), 2022
The countries with the highest per-capita chocolate consumption are in Europe
The world’s average chocolate consumption amounts to an estimated 0.9 kg per capita per year. European countries show significantly higher averages. The largest chocolate consumers in the world are the Germans, with a per capita consumption of 11 kg per year. Switzerland is ranked as the second-largest with 9.7 kg per capita, followed by Estonia with 8.8 kg. The average per capita chocolate consumption in Europe is estimated at 5.0 kg.
The European chocolate market was valued at €42 billion in 2022. It is expected to grow at an average annual rate of around 4.8% between 2022 and 2027. Although the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the cocoa value chain and global sales volumes as of early 2020, a gradual recovery from the pandemic is now being observed, driven by a stronger chocolate demand. For example, after a sharp decline since the pandemic started, the sales volumes from the world’s largest cocoa processor and industrial chocolate manufacturer, Barry Callebaut, registered an increase of 8.7% during the half-year 2021/22, with an outstanding growth of chocolate (9.9%).
Sales of specialty chocolates suffered the most during the pandemic; they were halted for months in Europe due to the closing of specialty stores and other sales channels. Although the pandemic brought a focus on sales of commercial chocolate qualities via supermarkets, European consumers keep seeking higher quality and higher cocoa content in their chocolate. As such, the long-term market prospects in Europe still offer good opportunities for exporters in producing countries.
Europe is an interesting outlet for both bulk and specialty cocoa
West Africa is the main global region supplying cocoa beans to Europe. Imports from this region mainly consist of bulk cocoa of the Forastero variety. The main supplying countries are Ivory Coast with 828 thousand tonnes in 2021, Ghana with 231 thousand tonnes, Nigeria with almost 201 thousand tonnes, and Cameroon with 179 thousand tonnes. Cocoa supplies from these countries are essential to producing standard-quality chocolates and are used by most large companies worldwide.
Between 2017 and 2021, supplies from Cameroon increased at an average annual rate of 6.2%. Over the same period, supplies from Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria decreased at an average annual rate of ‑2.9, ‑2.4% and ‑1.2%, respectively. Primarily due to the coronavirus crisis, the largest European cocoa bean importer, the Netherlands, imported smaller volumes of cocoa beans from West Africa in 2020 and 2021.
Specialty cocoa refers to cocoa of high-quality that is linked to a lack of defects and the presence of (unique) fine flavour and aroma. Typically, certification is less important for the specialty segment (to read more about organic and Fairtrade-certified cocoa, see Chapter 3 of this study). Specialty cocoa is mainly sourced from Latin America and the Caribbean. Latin American suppliers only accounted for a small share of total imports, with 7.7% of total European imports in 2021. The overall imports from Latin American countries decreased at an average annual rate of ‑2.9% between 2017 and 2021, as a result of the pandemic, which mainly affected the specialty cocoa and chocolate markets.
Within Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe imported most cocoa beans from Ecuador, with 71 thousand tonnes in 2021, followed by 33 thousand tonnes from the Dominican Republic and 23 thousand tonnes from Peru. Supplies from the Dominican Republic increased at an average annual rate of 1.0% between 2017 and 2021, while Ecuador and Peru saw their exports to Europe decrease at an average annual rate of ‑0.2% and ‑13%, respectively. Besides the effects of the global crisis, this decrease is also partly explained by a shift of these countries to exporting semi-finished cocoa products.
Europe also interesting to smaller cocoa bean suppliers
European cocoa bean imports show an interesting dynamic for smaller suppliers in producing countries. For instance, supplies from DR Congo, an emerging supplier of organic cocoa to the European market, increased by 14% between 2017 and 2021, amounting to 11 thousand tonnes in 2021.
Central American countries also registered growing export volumes to Europe. Nicaragua was the region’s second-largest cocoa supplier in 2021 after the Dominican Republic, with 2.1 thousand tonnes of cocoa beans. Between 2017 and 2021, supply volumes increased at an average annual rate of 21%. During the same period, Honduras, Costa Rica, Belize and Guatemala also registered growth rates of 21%, 30%, 93%, and 21%, respectively.
- Regularly check the website of the International Cocoa Organization and read its monthly review of the cocoa market, to find out about the latest developments in cocoa beans supply/demand and about the international cocoa futures markets.
- Access EU Access2Markets to analyse European trade dynamics yourself and to build your export strategy. By selecting a country as your reporting 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.
- Check the website of the European Cocoa Association to access the latest data on grinding activities in Europe.
- Refer to our study on trends in the European cocoa market to learn more about which trends offer opportunities in the market.
2. Which European markets offer most opportunities for cocoa?
Given its diverse market as well as its developed trade and industry, Europe offers many opportunities to cocoa bean exporters. The European countries offering the most opportunities show a mixture of large and/or growing import volumes, direct sourcing from producing countries, and a broad and diverse base of supplying countries. The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium stand out as the most interesting markets for cocoa exporters. Other markets, such as France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, are also very attractive.
The Netherlands is an important trade hub within Europe
The Netherlands is the largest importer of cocoa beans in the world. In 2021, Dutch total imports amounted to 804 thousand tonnes of cocoa beans. Over 98% of these imports were sourced directly from producing countries, mainly from Ivory Coast, followed by Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana. Between 2017 and 2021, direct imports from the Netherlands showed an average annual decrease of ‑2.1% in volume.
Cocoa beans enter the Netherlands via the port of Amsterdam, one of the largest cocoa industry clusters in the world. The large cocoa processing industry in the Netherlands is located near the port of Amsterdam, housing multinationals like Olam and Cargill, as well as Dutch companies like Dutch Cocoa, Daarnhouwer and Theobroma.
The Netherlands has the world’s second-largest cocoa grinding industry, after Ivory Coast. In cocoa year 2020/2021, the Netherlands had an estimated demand of 610 thousand tonnes of cocoa beans. Although origin grindings have been increasing steadily, the Dutch cocoa grinding industry will maintain its important position in cocoa processing thanks to its expertise, its focus on innovation and sustainability, and the concentration of facilities and important actors in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is Europe’s second-largest exporter of cocoa beans, with cocoa exports amounting to 162 thousand tonnes in 2021. Between 2017 and 2021, Dutch re-exports remained relatively stable, decreasing at an average annual rate of ‑0.8%. The subtle decline in re-exports is explained by a sharp drop in 2020 due to the pandemic, when re-exports only reached 74 thousand tonnes. Germany is the most important destination of Dutch re-exports, with a market share of 83% in 2021. Although re-exports to Germany saw a steep decrease in 2020 due to the global crisis, during 2021 levels recovered strongly. In fact, re-exports to Germany increased on average 4.9% per year in volume between 2017 and 2021.
Germany has a massive cocoa and chocolate industry
In 2021, German imports amounted to 445 thousand tonnes. An estimated 73% of its imports were directly sourced from producing countries, equivalent to 324 thousand tonnes. Between 2017 and 2021, the total volume of cocoa beans imported directly from producing countries decreased at an average annual rate of ‑1.9%. In 2021, the largest cocoa bean suppliers to Germany were Ivory Coast and Nigeria. Germany has a limited role in trading cocoa beans, with only 2.9% of its cocoa bean imports in 2021 being re-exported.
Most cocoa beans enter Germany via the port of Hamburg, mainly to meet the needs of the production industry for chocolates and other cocoa products. Germany houses Europe’s second-largest cocoa processing industry, with the presence of companies like August Storck, Schokinag Schokolade Industrie, Cargill and Barry Callebaut.
Germany is Europe’s second-largest cocoa grinder, at 460 thousand tonnes in 2020/2021. The German Confectionery Industry reported that cocoa grindings increased by 16% in the second quarter of 2021 compared to 2020, when there was a sharp decrease in the German cocoa and chocolate industry as a result of the pandemic. In 2021, cocoa grinding levels in Germany were almost back to pre-pandemic levels. However, the German confectionery industry is now struggling with cost increases as well as supply chain and energy issues caused by the Ukraine war.
Germany houses Europe’s largest chocolate manufacturing industry. In 2021, an estimated 1.2 million tonnes of chocolate confectionery products were produced in Germany, corresponding to a value over €5.8 billion. A large share of the chocolate produced in Germany is re-exported, making Germany the world’s largest exporter of chocolate. Main destination markets for German chocolate products are other European countries, mainly France, Poland and the UK. In 2021, German chocolate exports reached an estimated volume of 950 thousand tonnes and a value of €4.5 billion, equivalent to over 16% of global chocolate exports.
Belgium interesting for European cocoa bean distribution and chocolate production
With an 8.4% share of European cocoa bean imports in 2021, Belgium is the third-largest cocoa bean importer in Europe. In 2021, Belgium imported over 96% of its cocoa beans directly from producing countries, mainly from Ivory Coast, followed by Ghana and Nigeria, with total imports amounting to 335 thousand tonnes and direct imports reaching 322 thousand tonnes.
Cocoa beans enter Belgium via the second-largest cocoa port in Europe, the port of Antwerp. A large share of these imports is then re-exported to other European countries. The main destinations are Germany (62%), France (17%) and the Netherlands (6.8%). This trade role makes Belgium an important entry point for suppliers in producing countries, just like the Netherlands.
Belgium is also a large manufacturer and exporter of chocolate products. Belgian chocolate is famous around the world. According to PRODCOM data, Belgium produced over 220 thousand tonnes of chocolate products in 2020, positioning itself as the third-largest manufacturer in Europe. In 2021, Belgium accounted for 11% of global chocolate exports, valued at €3 billion, making it the second-largest chocolate exporter in the world.
France, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and Switzerland also interesting markets
France, Spain and Italy each accounted for around 5% of direct European imports from producing countries in 2021. Ivory Coast was the largest supplier of cocoa beans to each of these markets, followed by Ghana. These countries share similar characteristics in terms of market development, with considerable domestic consumption and a significant chocolate industry that pays growing attention to specialty chocolates.
Large cocoa and chocolate value chain actors from these countries include chocolate processors and manufacturers Ibercacao, Indcresa and Nederland SA (Spain); chocolate manufacturers ICAM and Ferrero (Italy); importer Touton; and chocolate producers Cémoi and Valrhona (France).
The United Kingdom is among the largest chocolate-consuming countries in Europe, with a per-capita consumption of 8.1 kg per year. The UK is the seventh-largest importer of cocoa beans directly from producing countries, with direct imports amounting to over 59 thousand tonnes in 2021. The British chocolate market is also becoming more specialised; the increase in artisanal chocolate makers and high-end shops serves more demanding and educated consumers. The UK also has one the largest market for fair trade chocolate.
Switzerland is also home to a strong chocolate manufacturing industry that produces many famous international brands. Swiss imports come almost entirely from producing countries, and in 2021 direct imports accounted for 99% of total cocoa imports to the country. Swiss chocolate has a worldwide reputation for high quality, and global demand for it keeps growing. Between 2017 and 2021, Swiss chocolate exports increased in volume at an average year-to-year rate of 1%, reaching 118 thousand tonnes of chocolate products exported and a value of €722 million in 2021. Swiss consumers have the second-highest per-capita rate of chocolate consumption worldwide, at 9.7 kg. In addition, the opportunities in premium products have been growing significantly. The market for fair trade cocoa is large in Switzerland, as is the market for organic products.
- Refer to our country studies for more specific information about a certain market: access our fact sheets on Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
- See the websites of the national chocolate confectionery associations for more information about the chocolate industry in these specific countries: have a look at the sector association of Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium.
- In your target market, check out the websites of big and small chocolate makers, importers and cocoa processors. Their company websites will provide some initial information on where they buy their cocoa and what kind of cocoa they use: check the website of the Dutch trading company Daarnhouwer to read more about their cocoa suppliers’ profiles.
- Visit European trade fairs to find potential business partners. Important cocoa trade fairs in Europe include Salon du Chocolat (the main event is in Paris, but there are related events in Belgium, Italy and the UK) and Chocoa (Amsterdam). Other important trade fairs include ISM (Germany), Anuga (Germany), PLMA (the Netherlands, for private label manufacturing) and Biofach (Germany, only for organic produce).
- Have a look at our study with Tips for Finding Buyers for more practical recommendations on how to increase your chances of finding buyers on the European cocoa market.
3. Which market segments in the European market have the most potential for suppliers in developing countries?
The European cocoa market is vast and diverse, offering opportunities for suppliers of different sizes and profiles. The most interesting market segments for each supplier will depend highly on your product quality, whether you provide bulk or specialty cocoa, your volume capacities, and your willingness or ability to subscribe to certification schemes.
Bulk and specialty cocoa in the European market
In general, the bulk market for commodity and commercial quality cocoa beans – which makes up more than 90% of the total chocolate market – is highly price-oriented, following the international commodity market and offering limited possibilities for value addition. The bulk market suits exporters that can supply large volumes at standard product qualities. Certification (mostly Rainforest Alliance/UTZ) is increasingly being used in this market as an entry requirement because of stricter sustainability protocols of manufacturers and retailers in Europe.
The specialty market, which is less than 10% of the total chocolate market, offers price differentials for exporters handling higher-quality cocoa beans, such as the fine flavour Trinitario and Criollo varieties. The European specialty market is growing strongly. This market is also associated with niche segments for organic and fair trade cocoa beans, because of the smaller scale, price premiums, and social and environmental impact goals. Read more about the specialty segment in our study on Exporting specialty cocoa to Europe.
Certification is increasing in both bulk and specialty markets
According to the Cocoa Barometer 2020, between a third and half of all global cocoa production is grown under a certification label or a company’s own sustainability label. However, it is important to note that not all certified cocoa is purchased as certified. Therefore, as an exporter it is important to certify your cocoa according to market demand and buyer requirements, making sure that certification is economically viable and that it ensures long-term relationships with buyers.
Rainforest Alliance is the main certification scheme for the bulk market for commodity cocoa beans. In this market, certification is mainly used as an entry requirement, making it increasingly difficult for non-certified suppliers to access the European market. In 2021, the estimated production of Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa beans (either marketed as Rainforest Alliance or UTZ-cocoa) amounted to 1.4 million tonnes. That year, cocoa farmers sold about 72% of their cocoa beans production as Rainforest Alliance-certified.
Organic and Fairtrade-certified cocoa beans in particular have seen growing demand in the European cocoa market. There has been a steep increase in sales of cocoa beans that are both organic and Fairtrade-certified. Between 2016 and 2020, cocoa beans that were certified by both standards increased at an average annual rate of 13.5% globally, amounting to nearly 39 thousand tonnes in 2020.
Demand for organic cocoa is growing, particularly in high-quality markets. According to FiBL & IFOAM’s The World of Organic Agriculture 2022, the global cultivation area of organic cocoa reached 3.1% in 2020. The demand for organic cocoa is expected to increase, as the organic chocolate market is expected to grow at an average annual rate of almost 6.8% between 2021 and 2028. European chocolate makers already see this trend, as Lindt & Sprüngli have indicated that their organic sales in Europe are growing much faster than overall chocolate sales; the company’s organic sales have even endured the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The market for Fairtrade cocoa also continues to grow. One development that drives this expansion is the larger offering of private-label chocolates. European retailers have entered into agreements with Fairtrade and have increased the use of Fairtrade cocoa in their confectionery category. Retailers like Aldi and Lidl currently have a wide range of Fairtrade-certified cocoa products among their brands. Other retailers also use Fairtrade certification for their own private-label chocolate brands, like Coop (Switzerland), REWE (Germany) and Waitrose (UK).
The Fairtrade standard saw major revisions coming into effect in 2019. First, Fairtrade developed a new version of its main standard for small-scale farmers to ensure that farmers are able to respond to market prices and climate change. Second, the Fairtrade minimum price for conventional cocoa increased as of October 2019, reaching US$2,400 per metric tonne. The price of Fairtrade-certified organic cocoa will be US$300 above the market price or the Fairtrade minimum price, depending on which price is higher at the time of sale. These changes are expected to provide an extra incentive for producers and cooperatives to certify their products under the Fairtrade standard. As of June 2020, Fairtrade introduced new conditions for certification, which require cocoa cooperatives and traders to have commitments in place for new Fairtrade sales volumes. This is to ensure that Fairtrade-produced cocoa is also bought as such, and not as conventional cocoa. In 2022, Fairtrade joined a five-year partnership with the Cocoa Excellence Programme with the aim of boosting the production of superior-quality cocoa, accessing new market opportunities and offering greater income potential for Fairtrade-certified cocoa producers.
Read more about certified cocoa and interesting European markets in our study on certified cocoa.
Largest markets for certified cocoa and chocolate can be found in Western Europe
Europe is the most important market for certified cocoa in the world. Certification schemes play a very important role as they mirror the growing consumer awareness and changing industry profile regarding sustainability. Read the study on trends in the European cocoa market to learn more about this. The importance of each certification scheme in Europe varies significantly by country and by segment:
- Rainforest Alliance/UTZ-certified cocoa has its largest market in Europe. Most Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa actors are found in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium and the United Kingdom. France is also a relatively large market for Rainforest Alliance. Most certified operators located in these countries are chocolate confectionery manufacturers like Barry Callebaut and Nestlé, and traders like Daarnhouwer and Dutch Cocoa. Here you can consult the guide on how to get Rainforest Alliance-certified as a farmer and learn about certification costs.
- Fairtrade cocoa finds its largest markets in Germany and the United Kingdom. Other important markets for Fairtrade cocoa are the Netherlands, Ireland and Switzerland. The market for Fairtrade cocoa is expected to remain large, driven by long-term commitments of retailers and chocolate brands to label their products under the Fairtrade standard. Refer to this full guidance to learn more on how to become a Fairtrade producer.
- Organic: overall retail sales in Europe reached about €52 billion in 2020, making it the world’s second-largest region when it comes to organic retail sales (after North America). The popularity of organic certification for cocoa in specific countries follows the general market for organic products in Europe, which grew at a record rate of 15%. The largest national markets for organic foods are Germany (over 29% of the European market in 2020 with organic retail sales of almost €15 billion), France (at €12.7 billion) and Italy (at €3.8 billion). According to data from the European Commission, the Netherlands is Europe’s largest organic cocoa importer with 52 thousand tonnes in 2020, followed by Italy with 8.7 thousand tonnes and France with 7.4 thousand tonnes.
Ivory Coast and Ghana are the largest suppliers of certified bulk cocoa beans
The largest suppliers of certified cocoa beans to Europe are Ivory Coast and Ghana. These two countries produce mainly bulk cocoa. They are the leading countries in Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade certifications in the world. Sales of Rainforest Alliance/UTZ-certified cocoa beans from Ivory Coast decreased on average by -5.4% per year between 2019 and 2021. Ghana’s sales of Rainforest Alliance/UTZ cocoa decreased on average by ‑2.5% per year over the same period. The decrease in sales of Ivory Coast and Ghana is explained by the increase in sales of Asia Pacific and Latin America, as well as a drop in certified cocoa production in Africa. The latter is a direct consequence of stricter requirements after the implementation of the Cocoa Assurance Plan.
Ivory Coast and Ghana also account for the largest amounts of Fairtrade-certified cocoa in the world. About 80% of cocoa sold globally under the Fairtrade label was supplied by Ivory Coast. Ivory Coast is followed by Ghana and Peru as second- and third-largest suppliers of Fairtrade-certified cocoa respectively.
When it comes to organic cocoa production, however, Ivory Coast and Ghana play a much smaller role. DR Congo has the largest organic cocoa area, with about 25% of the total organic area in the world in 2020. Peru and the Dominican Republic have the second- and third-largest cocoa organic areas in the world. According to data from the European Commission, the Dominican Republic was the largest supplier of organic cocoa to the European Union in 2020, with 28 thousand tonnes. Sierra Leone was the second-largest supplier, with over 18 thousand tonnes in 2020. Other well-established organic cocoa suppliers to the EU are Peru, DR Congo and Ecuador. Peru supplied 9.5 thousand tonnes of organic cocoa to the EU in 2020, followed by DR Congo with 8.5 thousand tonnes and Ecuador with 3 thousand tonnes.
Table 1: Overview of main European markets and producing countries for certified cocoa
Main European markets
Main producing countries
Largest organic markets: Germany, France, Italy
Largest organic cocoa importers: Netherlands, Italy, France
DR Congo, Peru, Dominican Republic, Sierra Leone
Germany, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland
Ivory Coast, Ghana, Peru
Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa
Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, United Kingdom, France
Ivory Coast, Ghana, Ecuador
Source: ProFound, 2022
Fine flavour flourishes in the European specialty market
There is an increasing demand for specialty and premium chocolate products worldwide. These products are made with high-quality cocoas, often defined as fine flavour cocoa. Fine flavour cocoa accounts for roughly 6% of the world’s cocoa production. Despite its small size, it is the fastest-growing segment in the chocolate market, hence it offers opportunities for suppliers offering high-quality cocoa.
There is a growing demand for specialty chocolate in traditional European consuming countries like Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Consumption in this segment is associated with high incomes, but also with consumer awareness and market exposure. Mainstream chocolate companies like Ferrero, Mars and Mondelez have increasingly been investing in premium lines, while retailers have also been developing high-end private label products. This makes speciality chocolates accessible to all types of consumers, at different price levels.
No specific European import data are available for fine flavour cocoa beans, but the International Cocoa Organization publishes a list of the producing countries and the share of their exports which can be classified as fine flavour cocoa.
Note that the specialty cocoa and chocolate markets suffered the most immediate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, since speciality shops, restaurants and other service channels using high-quality chocolate had to close for most of 2020. Chocolate makers and specialty shops found distribution alternatives in e-commerce, online tastings and other promotional tools. As of 2021, the market has been recovering gradually and is expected to keep on growing in the long term.
- Read our studies on certified cocoa and specialty cocoa to learn more about specific market dynamics and opportunities in these segments in Europe.
- Promote sustainable and ethical aspects of your production process. Support these claims with a certification that has sufficient demand in your target market and is cost-beneficial for your product. Consult your potential buyer on this decision.
- If you offer high-quality cocoa, focus on the premium, specialty, and fine flavour cocoa market in Europe. Read our study on buyer requirements to learn more about market requirements for these segments.
- Want to put specialty cocoa on the European market? Try to establish direct trade relationships with smaller traders and chocolate makers. Read our study on our How to do business on the European cocoa market to learn more.
- Access this guide to learn more about the principles of organic cocoa production.
This study was conducted on behalf of CBI by Profound – Advisers In Development.
Please review our market information disclaimer.