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What is the demand for cocoa on the European market?

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Europe is the largest importer of cocoa beans, paste, butter and powder in the world. Europe is also an important trade hub for many cocoa and chocolate products. Demand for certification and sustainability in cocoa is high. New EU regulations such as the EU Deforestation Regulation will have a major impact on cocoa imports. Rising costs of living and inflation could cause a shift to more price-conscious chocolate demand.

1. What makes Europe an interesting market for cocoa?

The market for cocoa and chocolate is growing. The global cocoa beans market was valued at USD 16 billion in 2023 and is expected to grow by almost 7% per year to over USD 22 billion by 2028. The global industrial chocolate market is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 4.4% in 2022-2030. The European chocolate market was valued at €42 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at an average annual rate of around 4.8% in 2022-2027.

More than 99% of the global production of cocoa comes from developing countries (as defined by the OECD-DAC list). Exceptions are Trinidad and Tobago and Australia. Cocoa production is dominated by Africa, where 75% of the cocoa for 2022-2023 is produced – more specifically by Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, which together are responsible for over 59% of global production. 

Most of the cocoa imports to Europe are cocoa beans (HS code 180100 Cocoa Beans: Cocoa Beans, Whole Or Broken, Raw Or Roasted). Europe is the world's largest importer of cocoa beans worldwide, with 58% of global imports. By comparison, North America and Latin America together account for about 25% of global cocoa bean imports, and Asia for 17%. Europe's total imports of cocoa beans from producer countries was 1,718,000 tonnes in 2022 (based on Eurostat data and Trade Map), with 99.9% of bean imports from outside Europe coming directly from producing countries. Out of the total cocoa beans imported, 436,000 tonnes (25%) were shipped onwards within Europe. 

Between 2018 and 2022, imports of cocoa beans decreased by an average of 2% per year. However, most of this decrease happened between 2019 and 2020, and cocoa bean imports have not yet recovered from this decrease. By comparison, global production rose by 1% during this time, with the biggest increase in the 2020-2021 season. The drop in bean imports could have been caused by several trends, which you can read about in the trends section of this study.

Source: Eurostat and Trade Map

Many of the largest global hubs for cocoa trade are in Europe

The Netherlands is the largest importer of cocoa in the world. In 2022 it imported 759,000 tonnes of cocoa beans from producing countries. The next largest importers were Belgium at 313,000 tonnes, Germany at 202,000 tonnes and France at 103,000 tonnes. In total, 44% of all the beans imported from producing countries into Europe were imported into the Netherlands. See section 2 for more details about specific markets. 

The two largest ports for cocoa imports are in the Netherlands and Belgium. In the Netherlands, the ports of Amsterdam and Zaanstad together form the largest cocoa cluster in the world. Cocoa beans can arrive in bulk shipments of over 22,000 tonnes. Antwerp, in Belgium, is the world's second-largest cocoa port

From these hubs, the cocoa is processed further or exported into Europe and to other continents. The Netherlands and Belgium were the largest exporters of beans within Europe, with Belgium exporting 198,000 tonnes and the Netherlands exporting 191,000 tonnes of their imported beans to other European countries. Belgium exported 63% of the beans they imported, the Netherlands exported 25%. France is also an important exporter at 35,000 tonnes (34% of their total imports), and Germany at 8,000 tonnes (4%).

Switzerland is also an important global hub for cocoa trading, although most of the trading out of that country is administrative rather than physical. Many of the largest cocoa and chocolate companies have trading offices in Switzerland, including Nestlé, Hershey and Barry Callebaut.

Source: Eurostat and Trade Map

Most of the cocoa beans imported into Europe stay in Europe, although a small share is exported to other regions. For example, in 2020 the Netherlands exported less than 0.2% of its total bean imports to countries outside Europe. 

Europe is an interesting outlet for bulk, bulk certified and premium cocoa

The 2021 Global Cocoa Market Study classifies cocoa beans into three segments, with the premium segment further split into three sub-categories:

  1. Commodity, bulk, or mainstream segment
  2. Bulk certified segment
  3. Premium segment
    1. Premium certified
    2. Specialty segment
    3. Ultra-premium segment

West Africa is the main global region supplying cocoa beans to Europe. The main supplying countries are Côte d'Ivoire with 866,000 tonnes in 2022, Ghana with 266,000 tonnes, Cameroon with 179,000 tonnes, and Nigeria with 144,000 tonnes. Cocoa supplies from these countries are essential to producing standard-quality chocolates and are used by most large companies worldwide. 

European sourcing from Central and West Africa is decreasing

Although volumes are decreasing, 85% of the cocoa imported to Europe is shipped from Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria. The total volume imported to Europe from these countries dropped by 319,000 tonnes in 2018-2022. This includes lower imports from Côte d'Ivoire by 4.1% per year, Ghana by 6.7% per year, and Nigeria by an average of 9.1%. Imports from Cameroon increased by 4.8% over this period. 

The drop is partly because the processing of cocoa beans in West Africa is increasing. This means that less beans are exported, and more beans are processed and exported as semi-finished product (paste, butter or powder). You can read more about this in the next section. This drop is not explained by lower production. The production in these four countries did not substantially change from the 2018-2019 to the 2022-2023 (forecast) season.

Source: Eurostat and Trade Map

At the same time, European imports of cocoa beans from the rest of the world increased by a total of 29,000 tonnes in 2018-2022, driven mainly by higher exports from Ecuador by 13,000 tonnes (4.3% annually) and from Guinea by 12,000 tonnes (47% annually). However, these volumes are still much smaller than those imported from the key African sourcing countries. The large African producing countries are therefore still the most important countries for European bean imports.

Source: Eurostat and Trade Map

Premium cocoa is a small but growing segment

The Premium cocoa segment is used for cocoa with a superior quality and/or value. Premium cocoa is often sold with higher price premiums, above bulk market prices. The cocoa has specific qualities, such as low defect quantification, high quality and flavour profiles, a unique origin, or sustainability-related qualities. Certification is typically less important for the premium segment. 

Specialty cocoa is part of the premium segment. This speciality market takes up less than 10% of the market. Specialty cocoa is mainly sourced from Latin America and the Caribbean. Latin American suppliers only accounted for a small share of total imports, with 9.7% of total European imports in 2022. The overall imports from Latin American countries increased by 2.1% per year in 2018-2022. 

Within Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe imported most cocoa beans from Ecuador, with 89,000 tonnes in 2021, followed by 37,000 from the Dominican Republic and 30,000 tonnes from Peru. Ecuador is the world's main exporter of fine flavour cocoa. Although this number might be lower in reality, 70% of Ecuador's cocoa production is considered fine flavour cocoa. Peru and the Dominican Republic also sell fine flavour cocoa as a large part of their supply. 

Imports from Ecuador grew the most, at 4.3% per year in 2018-2022. Imports from the Dominican Republic increased by 1.7% per year during this period, and imports from Peru decreased by 1.6%. Read more about premium and specialty cocoa in the CBI study The European market potential for speciality cocoa.

Europe has the world's highest industrial demand for cocoa beans 

Cocoa bean grindings serve as a good indication for market demand. While demand for chocolate slowed slightly during the COVID-19 pandemic, global grinding is still increasing.

Global grindings were much lower than global production in 2020-2021, as cocoa grinding slowed during the pandemic. Grinding did go up in 2020-2021 compared to 2019-2020, but not as much as the increase in cocoa production during the same time. However, in the two years since then, global grinding volumes were larger than global production. This could be an indication that global demand has recovered from the pandemic and even recovered some of the losses in 2021-2022.

Source: ICCO

European grinding is constant

Europe is the world's largest grinder, with over 35% of the world's grinding. Africa and Asia & Oceania are next, at 23% each. 

Source: ICCO

While global grinding has increased every year in the last five years, European grinding has remained relatively constant. There was a small increase in 2020-2021, but remained steady in the following two years. European grinding is forecast to be 1,795,000 MT in 2022-2023, which is a 4% increase compared to 2018-2019. European grinding has been between 35% and 36% of global grinding every year for the past five years.

Source: ICCO

Some grinding has shifted from consuming countries to producing countries. While Global grinding increased by 4% in 2018-2023 (from 4,784,000 tonnes to 5,072,00 tonnes), grinding in producing countries increased by 10% during the same period (from 2,193,000 tonnes to 2,410,000 tonnes). In 2015, Côte d'Ivoire passed the Netherlands as the world's largest grinder. In 2023, around 35-40% of the cocoa production in Côte d'Ivoire was processed locally. The government has a goal of increasing it to at least 50%. A shift of grinding to origin countries would reduce the share of grindings in Europe. 

Côte d'Ivoire was the world's largest cocoa grinder in 2021-2022, with 710,000 tonnes, followed by the Netherlands, with a cocoa grinding volume of 610,000 tonnes. Côte d'Ivoire introduced financial incentives in 2017 to encourage multinationals to invest in local processing. The tax benefits have been extended until 2023. Côte d'Ivoire is planning to increase its grinding capacity further. The goal of these investments is to increase value addition at origin and protect the economy from fluctuations of the global market. 

As a result, many multinationals have increased their grinding in producing countries to lower production costs, e.g. in Côte d'Ivoire. Barry Callebaut is the biggest processing multinational in Côte d'Ivoire, at a capacity of almost 200,000 tonnes. In 2021, Cargill completed a USD 100 million expansion of its processing site in the country, raising its capacity to 170,000 tonnes. Ofi has two grinding facilities in Côte d'Ivoire and Guan Chong also opened a new grinding facility in 2022. 

The added value is mostly captured by the grinding facility. An increase in grinding in the producing country does not necessarily benefit the farmers. However, local grinding could be a way for an exporter to capture more value when exporting to Europe.

Europe is the world's largest importer of semi-finished cocoa products

Europe is the world's largest importer of cocoa paste, cocoa butter, cocoa powder and chocolate. Imports of cocoa paste showed a very small growth in 2018-2022, from 335,000 tonnes to 338,000 tonnes. Imports of cocoa butter increased much more, from 221,000 tonnes to 263,000 tonnes – this is almost 5% per year. Imports of powder from producing countries have not changed substantially and are around 55,000 tonnes per year.

Source: Eurostat and Trade Map. Paste combining 180310: Cocoa Paste, Not Defatted and 180320: Cocoa Paste, Wholly Or Partly Defatted. Butter: 180400: Cocoa Butter, Fat And Oil

Europe is not a major importer of chocolate. Most of the chocolate consumed in Europe is manufactured there. While 220,000 tonnes of chocolate was imported by EU member states from non-EU countries, most of it was imported from within Europe: 100,000 tonnes came from the UK and 70,000 tonnes from Switzerland. 

Europe is the world's largest chocolate producer and exporter

The European Union 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.

Many global cocoa and chocolate companies are based in Europe. Barry Callebaut is the world's largest manufacturer of chocolate and cocoa products. In 2021-2022, Barry Callebaut had 66 factories worldwide and a product sales volume of 2.3 million tonnes. Other large players in the industrial chocolate market are CargillCémoiFuji OilNatra and Puratos.

Europe has many chocolate manufacturers of all sizes, working with different cocoa qualities. Globally, six multinational companies represent the bulk of the market for final chocolate products: NestléMondelezMarsHersheyLindt & Sprüngli and Ferrero. Except for Hershey, all six multinationals have production plants in Europe. According to the 2022 Cocoa Barometer, these six companies accounted for over 1.7 million tons of cocoa in 2020-2021, which was 40% of global cocoa production in that period. 

Europe is also the world's largest exporter of chocolate. In 2022, EU members exported over 1.9 million tonnes of chocolate. Germany was the EU's largest exporter of chocolate at 28% of the total volume in 2022, followed by the Netherlands (12%) and Poland (12%). Most of this chocolate was exported to other EU member states and the UK.

The value of chocolate exports from Europe to the United States has greatly increased the last few years. The total value was USD 853 million in 2022, compared to around USD 710 million in 2021 and USD 560 million in 2020. This is partly explained by rising inflation but could also be a signal of increasing exports from Europe to the USA. 

The countries with the highest per-capita chocolate consumption are in Europe

Chocolate confectionery is the most common way cocoa is consumed. According to the Global Cocoa Market Study report, 43% of global cocoa consumption in 2017 was chocolate confectionery. A lot of cocoa is also consumed in beverages (such as chocolate milk), but most of the largest cocoa beverage markets are outside Europe. The main consuming countries of chocolate milk are Brazil, Indonesia, the USA, Mexico and Spain. 

The world's average chocolate consumption amounts to an estimated 0.9 kg per capita per year. European countries show significantly higher averages. In 2021, the Swiss consumed the most chocolate per capita at 11.6 kg. The USA totalled 9.0 kg per capita and Germany 5.7 kg per capita. 

Several developments and events have impacted demand

Demand recovered after pandemic decline

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the cocoa value chain and global sales volumes in 2020. A gradual recovery from the pandemic is now being observed, driven by a stronger chocolate demand. The four largest public chocolate corporations have together made nearly USD 15 billion in profits from confectionery since the start of the pandemic. For example, Barry Callebaut saw a sharp decline in sales volume when the pandemic started, but has seen progressive volume recovery since then. This growth was however slowed down by lower demand due to rising inflation rates. 

Sales of specialty chocolates suffered the most during the pandemic. Sales were interrupted for months due to the closing of specialty stores and other sales channels. Although the pandemic increased sales of commercial chocolate in supermarkets, European consumers are still seeking high-quality and high cocoa content in their chocolate. Europe remains an attractive market for exporters of quality cocoa beans and cocoa products.

Possible supply shortage

While demand is increasing, there might not be enough cocoa supply to meet this demand. Cocoa yields may be lower in 2023-2024. Bad weather conditions and El Niño could negatively impact cocoa yields in the 2023-2024 season. In June 2023, ICCO increased the shortage forecast to 142,000 tonnes. In July 2023, Côte d'Ivoire stopped selling contracts for cocoa exports for the 2023-2024 season, as they are not certain they will have enough volume to cover the sales. Climate change will continue to impact cocoa production. 

The new EU deforestation regulation will also put more pressure on supply. It could limit the possibilities for expansion of cocoa production and prevent some cocoa from being shipped to the EU. This may also lead to a short-term rush on imports before the regulation becomes active. 

Chocolate prices increasing, consumers becoming more cost-conscious

Rising costs for consumers have negatively impacted demand in 2022-2023. The main causes for these rising costs are rising inflation, rising prices of cocoa, and rising supply chain costs. 

The price of cocoa rose significantly from late 2022 to mid-2023, reaching a 46-year high in June 2023. This has been linked to the rising cost of chocolate. However, it should be noted that chocolate contains many other ingredients that have also increased in price, so the cost of cocoa is only one of many contributors. It also usually takes one year or more for the cocoa to end up in the final chocolate product. 

The rising prices do not necessarily benefit individual producers. The supply shortage is partly caused by lower yields. Prices are going up, but farmers also have less cocoa to sell. They might therefore not earn more money overall for their cocoa sales. In addition to that, global market price increases may not mean an increase in the price that producers receive. In Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, regulators set the farm-gate price for each harvest. The farm-gate price for the 2022-2023 mid-crop did not change. However, Ghana increased the farm-gate price for the 2023-2024 harvest by 63%. Côte d'Ivoire will announce the farm-gate price for the 2023-2024 harvest in October 2023. 

In 2020-2022, the COVID-19 pandemic caused many global supply chain issues. Cocoa supply chains were also affected, according to Cargill. There are reports in June 2023 that global supply chains are normalising again

The rising price of cocoa and supply shortages contribute to a shift in sourcing. European importers may start looking at other origins for their cocoa. For example, some companies have adjusted their chocolate recipes to allow them to source from less expensive origins such as Cameroon. This allows companies to source more beans from Cameroon than before. 

The rising cost of living and inflation could cause a shift in European consumers' demand for less expensive chocolate products: it may lessen demand for organic or specialty cocoa and boost demand for commercial, bulk cocoa. 

Cost of cocoa impacted by Ukraine war

The war in Ukraine has also impacted cocoa production and cocoa prices. The price of fertiliser rose because of the war, which may have caused lower cocoa production as farmers used less fertiliser. Some large chocolate companies like Lindt & Sprüngli and Nestlé stopped selling part or all of their chocolate products in Russia. Exports of cocoa paste from Ukraine to other European countries dropped from over 3,000 tonnes in 2021 to less than 600 tonnes in 2022.

Recent developments give multinationals some advantages over SME exporters

Bean shortages in Côte d'Ivoire are impacting local exporters. Cocoa bean shortages in Côte d'Ivoire cause some local exporters to default on their contracts. These bean shortages are reported to affect local exporters more than they affect international exporters

There has also been wide consolidation of the trade market in the cocoa sector over the past years. For example, in 2019 Blommer and Fuji Holdings combined to build the third largest global chocolate business. In 2021, the Baronie Group took over Cémoi. This could make it more difficult for SME exporters to gain entry to the market. 

Price fluctuations make long-term contracts risky. To protect themselves from losses, traders can buy 'options' on the futures exchange. As described in the Global Cocoa Market Study, 'before the contract ends, the trader will sell this option again and will have made a profit (if the price has gone up) or loss (if the price went down), which will offset any profit or loss the trader was exposed to with his own physical trade of cocoa beans'. This is more difficult for SME exporters because they work with smaller volumes (a minimum contract size is 10 tonnes). Some exporters can mitigate risk and hedge through their buyers. 


  • Regularly check the website of the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) 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, 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.
  • Build a relationship with your buyers. Ask them about the possibilities for using their operations for hedging or risk mitigation.

2. Which European markets offer most opportunities for cocoa?

Europe offers many opportunities to cocoa bean exporters. The European countries that offer the most opportunities have large and growing import volumes, source directly from producing countries, and import cocoa from multiple producing countries. 

The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium stand out as the most interesting markets for cocoa bean exporters. Other markets, such as France, Italy, Spain, the UK and Switzerland are also attractive. These countries are also among the largest importers of cocoa paste, butter and powder. Poland likewise imports large volumes of paste (5th largest in Europe) and powder (9th) from producing countries. 

Source: Eurostat and Trade Map

The Netherlands is an important trade hub within Europe

The Netherlands is the largest importer of cocoa beans in the world. In 2022, total Dutch imports from producing countries totalled 759,000 tonnes of cocoa beans. Bean imports decreased by 8.4% in 2018-2022. This is partly offset by an increase in imports of cocoa paste and cocoa butter. Cocoa paste imports increased by 2.5% over the same period, cocoa butter imports by 6.1%. However, these volumes are much smaller than the total bean imports.

Source: Eurostat and Trade Map

Cocoa beans enter the Netherlands via the port of Amsterdam, the largest cocoa cluster in the world. The large cocoa processing industry in the Netherlands is located near the port of Amsterdam, where multinationals like Olam and Cargill are based, as well as Dutch companies like Dutch CocoaDaarnhouwer and Theobroma

The Netherlands has the world's second-largest cocoa grinding industry, after Côte d'Ivoire. Cocoa grindings in the Netherlands increased at a rate of 1.9% per year over 2003-2020 (Global Cocoa Market Report). In 2022-2023, the Netherlands had a forecasted demand of 620,000 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, at 143,000 tonnes in 2022. After a large drop from 2018 to 2019, Dutch re-exports slowly started to increase again in 2019-2022. Germany is the most important destination of Dutch re-exports, with a market share of 61% in 2022. 

The Netherlands is Europe's largest importer of cocoa paste, cocoa butter and cocoa powder from producing countries. This is especially the case for powder. In 2022, the Netherlands was responsible for 86% of all European imports from producing countries. 

The Netherlands is the world's market leader for cocoa powder exports, with an export share of about 35%, mainly to the USA, Germany, Spain, Russia, Belgium and France. The Netherlands is also one of the most important exporters and buyers of cocoa butter. This makes it an interesting market for cocoa paste, butter and powder. It is also a key competitor if you are exporting these products to other countries.

Source: Eurostat and Trade Map

Germany's massive cocoa and chocolate industry

In 2022, Germany imported 202,000 tonnes of cocoa beans from producing countries. In 2018-2022, the total volume of cocoa beans imported directly from producing countries decreased by 0.5% per year. In 2022, the largest cocoa bean suppliers to Germany were Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria. Germany has a limited role in trading cocoa beans, with only 4% of its cocoa bean imports in 2022 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 StorckStollwerck (part of Baronie group), Schokinag Schokolade IndustrieCargill and Barry Callebaut

Germany is Europe's second-largest cocoa grinder, at a forecasted 460,000 tonnes for 2022-2023. 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 2022, Germany saw another drop in grinding due to high energy costs and the ongoing war in Ukraine. Germany is also one of Europe's largest buyers of cocoa butter and cocoa powder

Germany has Europe's largest chocolate manufacturing industry. In 2022, almost 4.2 million tonnes of confectionery products were produced in Germany, with a value exceeding €14 billion (including non-chocolate confectionery). For comparison's sake, this is around ten times the value of all cocoa exports from Ghana (USD 1.5 billion).

A large share of the chocolate produced in Germany is exported, making Germany the world's largest exporter of chocolate. The 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 950,000 tonnes and a value of €4.5 billion, equivalent to over 16% of global chocolate exports.

Germany is an interesting market for certified cocoa. The proportion of certified cocoa in confectionery sold in Germany has increased steadily since 2011. While only 3% of chocolate confectionery contained certified cocoa in 2011, this figure increased to 81% in 2022. Also, 81% of all cocoa sold in Germany in 2022 was certified under a sustainability standard.

Source: BDSI

There is wide interest in Germany for the sustainability of cocoa production. In 2023, all members of the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa (GISCO) committed to enabling a living income for 90% of all households that supply to GISCO members by 2030. Germany also has social due diligence laws

German retailers are currently in a price war, and costs are a bigger factor than ever. If you are a supplier of cocoa beans or products, keep in mind that there may be a strong focus on the cost of the cocoa that you sell. 

Belgium: an interesting market for cocoa bean distribution and chocolate production

Belgium imported 313,000 tonnes of cocoa beans from producing countries in 2022, making it the second-largest cocoa bean importer in Europe. In 2022, Belgium imported mainly from Côte d'Ivoire, followed by Ghana and Nigeria. The largest Latin American suppliers for Belgium were Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. 

Cocoa beans enter Belgium via the second-largest cocoa port in Europe, 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 (7%). This trade role makes Belgium an important entry point for suppliers in producing countries, just like the Netherlands.

Belgium is also a major manufacturer and exporter of chocolate products. The largest chocolate factory in the world is in Belgium. The Barry Callebaut factory processes over 260,000 MT of chocolate each year. Other key processors in Belgium are Cargill and Puratos

Belgium is world-famous for its high-quality chocolate. It produced over 220,000 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, making it the second-largest chocolate exporter in the world.

Belgium is one of Europe's largest buyers of cocoa butter and cocoa powder. However, 98% of the cocoa butter imports in 2023 came from within Europe, mainly from the Netherlands, France and Germany. An even larger share of cocoa powder imports came from within Europe, at 99.8%. This makes it difficult for exporters from producing countries to compete on butter and powder. 

Switzerland: an important procurement hub

Many multinational chocolate companies have trade offices and factories in Switzerland, including Barry Callebaut, Hershey, Lindt & Sprüngli, Nestlé and Ofi. However, a lot of the cocoa that is traded by these offices is not physically shipped to Switzerland.

Switzerland is home to a strong chocolate manufacturing industry that produces many renowned international brands. Swiss imports come almost entirely from producing countries, and in 2022 direct imports accounted for 99% of total cocoa bean imports. Switzerland imports cocoa beans mainly from Ghana and Ecuador. 

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 118,000 tonnes of chocolate products exported and a value of €722 million in 2021. 

The opportunities for premium products have been growing significantly. The market for fair cocoa is large in Switzerland, as is the market for organic products. Swiss Fair Trade stands for long-term and fair trading relationships, stable and transparent prices, fair working conditions and sustainable farming methods. This can be through Fairtrade or through other ethical programmes. 

In Switzerland there is a large focus on the brand, combined with an origin story. There could be opportunities to sell your cocoa with a sustainability story. See section 3 for more information.

United Kingdom: an interesting market for specialty or certified cocoa

The bean import and export market in the UK has changed significantly since Brexit. Total bean imports averaged 111,000 tonnes per year in 2018-2020, dropping to an average of 74,000 tonnes per year in 2021-2022. 

This is partly due to a decrease in imports from producing countries by 10% per year in 2018-2022. However, this is mostly because bean imports from European countries went down from 39,000 tonnes in 2018 to only 1,000 tonnes in 2022. Bean re-exports also dropped significantly, from 15,000 tonnes in 2020 to only 155 tonnes in 2022. Despite these decreases, the UK was still the seventh-largest importer of cocoa beans from producing countries in 2022.

Source: Eurostat and Trade Map. 

The UK has a significant grinding capacity. It was forecasted to maintain its cocoa grindings at 80,000 tonnes in 2020-2021, the same quantity as the previous period. The UK may be an interesting market for bean exports from producing countries. Imports from European countries have decreased, but grinding capacity is constant. 

The UK is among the largest chocolate-consuming countries in Europe, with a per capita consumption of 8.1 kg per year. 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 of the largest markets for Fairtrade chocolate. The focus is more on the social side of sustainability in cocoa, in comparison to other countries. 

France, Spain and Italy: also interesting markets

FranceSpain and Italy each accounted for around 5-6% of European bean imports from producing countries in 2022. Côte d'Ivoire was the largest supplier of cocoa beans to each of these markets, followed by Ghana.

France, Spain and Italy have similar characteristics in terms of market development, with considerable domestic consumption and a significant chocolate industry that pays growing attention to specialty chocolates.

France has a growing interest in sustainability 

France imported 104,000 tonnes of beans from producing countries in 2022. Bean imports grew by 2% per year in 2018-2022. While annual bean import volumes have not changed that much, France started processing a lot more beans during this period. In 2018, France re-exported 72% of the beans it imported from producing countries. In 2022, only 33% was re-exported. France is one of Europe's largest buyers of cocoa butter and cocoa powder and one of Europe's largest exporters of cocoa butter

The interest in sustainability in France has increased significantly in recent years. Retailers are making more commitments and taking more action on sustainability. In 2019, French lawmakers banned palm oil from the country's biofuel scheme. The French Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa (FRISCO) was started in 2021. 

Spain: a key market for cocoa powder

Spain is also an interesting market for chocolate drinks, and one of the five largest countries for cocoa beverages in the world. However, it is not a large importer of cocoa powder (which is used in beverages). Only 12,000 tonnes of powder was imported in 2022, of which only 4% came from producing countries.

Instead, Spain imports beans or paste to produce the powder. Spain is Europe's sixth largest importer of cocoa beans from producer countries, at 85,000 tonnes in 2022. Côte d'Ivoire was the main source of imported beans at 57%. Spain also imported 81,000 tonnes of paste in 2022, second largest in Europe. The paste mainly came from Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. Spain's grinding capacity was 95,000 tonnes in 2020-2021

Spain also exports significant volumes of powder: it exported 26,000 tonnes of cocoa to other European countries in 2022. 

Spain could be an interesting market for exporters of higher-quality cocoa beans or paste suitable for making cocoa powder. 

Italy: an interesting market for beans intended for local chocolate production

Italy is Europe's fifth largest importer of cocoa beans from producing countries, at 87,000 tonnes in 2022. Imports were relatively steady in 2018-2022. Italy also imports significant volumes of paste, butter and powder, but most of these volumes come from other European countries. Italy only imported 2% of its paste, 13% of its butter and 5% of its powder volumes from producing countries. 

Italy has a strong chocolate manufacturing industry, with 99% of the beans imported in 2022 staying in Italy for further processing. Its total grinding in 2020-2021 was 85,000 tonnes.

Large cocoa and chocolate value chain actors from these countries include chocolate processors and manufacturers IbercacaoIndcresa and Nederland SA (Spain); chocolate manufacturers ICAM and Ferrero (Italy); importer Touton; and chocolate producers Cémoi and Valrhona (France).


  • Understand the qualities of your cocoa. Determine whether the quality is suitable for bulk bean exports, specialty cocoa, or for producing specific qualities of cocoa butter and powder. Quality demands may be different between European countries. This can help you identify how to position yourself in the market. Knowing your position in the overall market should be the starting point of any export strategy.
  • Refer to our country studies for more specific information about a certain market. Access our fact sheets on BelgiumFranceGermanyItalythe NetherlandsSpainSwitzerland and the United Kingdom.
  • Visit the websites of the national chocolate confectionery associations for more information on the chocolate industry in these specific countries: have a look at the sector association of Germanythe 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. For example, 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 are 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 are ISM (Germany), Anuga (Germany), PLMA (the Netherlands, for private label manufacturing) and Biofach (Germany, only for organic produce). Attending such events can provide you with additional insight into the preferences of European buyers about origin, flavour and sustainability certification. By understanding the market better, you can ensure that your specific product corresponds to the demand and requirements.
  • The main things buyers look for is compliance with importing requirements and regulations (e.g. with the new EU deforestation regulation), traceability (related to compliance), and whether the supplier can sell at a good price. Ask your buyers what they need for compliance. Buyers will most likely at a minimum ask for GPS data (polygons) and farmer lists. Provide reliable cocoa supply, which can help increase demand for your cocoa. 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 large 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 join certification schemes.

This section discusses the following market segments: 

  • Bulk cocoa
  • Organic cocoa
  • Craft/specialty/fine flavour
  • Certification programs
  • Company programme and verification programmes

Bulk cocoa in the European market is interesting for beans, paste, butter and powder

The bulk market for commodity and commercial-quality cocoa beans makes up more than 90% of the total chocolate market. It is highly price-oriented, following the international commodities 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) is increasingly being used in this market as an entry requirement. This is due to stricter sustainability protocols of manufacturers and retailers in Europe.

The main exporters of cocoa beans are also the largest cocoa-producing countries in Central and West Africa. The same is the case for cocoa paste, although Asia also has a share in the market with Indonesia in the top-5. The main exporters of butter and powder are Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, but Brazil and the largest Asian grinders (Malaysia and Indonesia) are also important suppliers. See Figure 14 for details. 

The small shift in European imports from cocoa beans to semi-finished cocoa products could be a prospect for exporters. If this works out, processing in the producing country could add value to a product and lead to new opportunities. 

Source: Eurostat and Trade Map. 

Codes used: Cocoa beans (180100), Cocoa paste (180310 and 180320), Cocoa butter (180400) and Cocoa powder (180500)

Certified cocoa is important in the European market

According to the Cocoa Barometer 2020, between one-third and half of all global cocoa production is grown under a certification label or a company's own sustainability label. The 2022 Cocoa Barometer did not report certified volumes, but Rainforest Alliance reported that this share increased significantly that year. According to the report, 46% of the world's supply of cocoa was Rainforest Alliance-certified. Fairtrade-certified cocoa production also increased to 699,000 tonnes in 2021, which was 13% of the 2020-2021 global cocoa production

It is important to note that not all certified cocoa production is bought as certified. Therefore, as a producer it is important to certify your cocoa according to market demand and buyer requirements. Make sure that certification is economically viable and that it ensures long-term relationships with buyers.

Rainforest Alliance

Rainforest Alliance is the main certification scheme for the bulk market for commodity cocoa beans. Certification is used as an entry requirement, which can make it more difficult for non-certified suppliers to access the European market. In 2022, the estimated production of Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa (either marketed as Rainforest Alliance or UTZ cocoa) was 2.12 million tonnes. That year, certified cocoa farmers sold about 60% of their cocoa beans production as Rainforest Alliance-certified. See the 2022 Certification Data Report for details on how much is produced and sold per country. 

Rainforest Alliance certification is most interesting for producers if you are selling to one of the main chocolate brands or leading retailers. It is less in demand if you are selling to smaller brands without sustainability commitments or to private-label manufacturers.


Production of Fairtrade cocoa has grown in the past five years, from over 400,000 tonnes to almost 700,000 tonnes. At the same time, Fairtrade cocoa sales remained relatively stable in that period, averaging around 230,000 tonnes per year. Côte d'Ivoire is the main producing country at 73%. Ghana produced 13% of Fairtrade cocoa, and Peru 5%. Colombia and Nicaragua were the fastest-growing countries in 2020-2021. The percentage of Fairtrade cocoa that was also sold as certified has decreased from 52% to 35%.

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 was revised in 2019. Fairtrade developed a new version of its main standard for small-scale farmers to ensure that farmers can respond to market prices and climate change. The Fairtrade minimum price for conventional cocoa was raised per October 2019, reaching USD 2,400 per tonne. The price of Fairtrade-certified organic cocoa was set at USD 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. 

In June 2020, Fairtrade introduced new conditions for certification that require cocoa cooperatives and traders to have commitments in place for new Fairtrade sales volumes. This is to make sure that Fairtrade-produced cocoa is also bought as Fairtrade and not as conventional cocoa. In 2022, Fairtrade joined a five-year partnership with the Cocoa Excellence Programme aiming to boost the production of superior-quality cocoa, which gives access to new market opportunities and offers greater income potential for Fairtrade-certified producers.

Fairtrade and organic

Organic and Fairtrade-certified cocoa beans have seen a growing demand in the European market. There has been a steep increase in sales of beans that are both organic and Fairtrade-certified. Between 2016 and 2020, cocoa beans that were certified by both standards went up by 13.5% per year, reaching almost 39,000 tonnes in 2020.

Demand for organic cocoa is growing, particularly in high-quality markets. According to The World of Organic Agriculture 2023, the global cultivation area of organic cocoa reached 4% in 2021, up from 3.1% in 2020. The demand for organic cocoa is expected to grow by 6.8% per year between 2021 and 2028. European chocolate makers are already seeing this trend. 

Western Europe: where the largest markets for certified cocoa and chocolate can be found

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:

Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana: the largest suppliers of certified cocoa 

The largest supplier of certified cocoa beans to Europe is Côte d'Ivoire. Next are Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Ecuador. 

Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa production in Côte d'Ivoire grew significantly from 2021 to 2022. Total production increased from 967,000 tonnes in 2021 (combined data Rainforest Alliance and UTZ) to 1,399,000 tonnes in 2022. Certified sales increased by 44%, from 556,000 tonnes to 800,000 tonnes. These increases followed a slight decrease from 2019 to 2021. 

After Côte d'Ivoire, the next largest countries producing Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa are Ghana (203,500 tonnes), Nigeria (129,100 tonnes), Ecuador (129,000 tonnes) and Cameroon (117,100 tonnes). Sales from Ghana remained stable in 2021-2022, but sales from Nigeria (+46%), Cameroon (+126%) and Ecuador (+14%) increased considerably. The most popular countries for sustainability initiatives and projects are still Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. There are now more projects that want to improve the living income of farmers. 

Exports of Rainforest Alliance cocoa to Europe went up by 45% from 2021 to 2022. Total European imports were 981,500 tonnes in 2022, compared to 676,100 tonnes in 2021. The largest importer was the Netherlands, followed by the UK, France and Switzerland. The UK grew the most, at 81%. 

Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana also produce and sell the most Fairtrade-certified cocoa in the world. About 80% of global Fairtrade cocoa sales come from Côte d'Ivoire. Ghana and Peru are the second- and third-largest suppliers of Fairtrade-certified cocoa.

Table 1: Overview of the main European markets and producing countries for certified cocoa

SegmentMain European marketsMain producing countries


Read about the requirements for organic-certified cocoa here:

Organic-certified cocoa

Largest organic markets: Germany, France, Italy

Largest organic cocoa importers: Netherlands, Italy, France

Sierra Leone, Peru, Dominican Republic, Democratic Republic of Congohttps://www.cbi.eu/market-information/cocoa-cocoa-products/organic-cocoa/market-entry
Fairtrade-certified cocoaGermany, UK, Netherlands, Ireland, SwitzerlandCôte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Peru, Dominican Republichttps://www.cbi.eu/market-information/cocoa-cocoa-products/certified-cocoa/market-entry 
Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoaGermany, Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, UK, FranceCôte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Ecuadorhttps://www.cbi.eu/market-information/cocoa-cocoa-products/certified-cocoa/market-entry 

Source: ProFound 2022, Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade

Organic cocoa is popular but under pressure in the European market

When it comes to organic cocoa production, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana play a much smaller role. Sierra Leone has the largest organic cocoa area, with about 34% of the total organic area in the world in 2021. The next largest organic producers are Peru (17%), the Dominican Republic (14%) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (13%). Read more about organic cocoa in our study on the demand for cocoa on the European market.

The organic market is under a lot of pressure. Processors report struggling to find buyers for their fully organic supply. Chocolate is still a luxury product, and the rising prices are causing consumers to shift from organic or craft chocolate to bulk chocolate. However, this could be cyclical, meaning that demand could revive if consumer purchasing power increases again. 

Specialty, craft and fine flavour cocoa in the European market

The specialty market is less than 10% of the total chocolate market. The European specialty market is expected to keep growing. Specialty cocoa offers price differentials for exporters handling higher-quality cocoa beans, such as the fine flavour Trinitario and Criollo varieties. This market is also associated with niche segments for organic and Fairtrade 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.

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. Despite its small size, it is the fastest-growing segment in the chocolate market. This could be an opportunity for suppliers of high-quality cocoa.

There is a growing demand for specialty chocolate in traditional European consuming countries like BelgiumFranceGermanyItalySwitzerland and the UK. 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 specialty 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. However, please note that these lists have not been updated recently. 


  • As a producer, joining Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance could give you more opportunities in the market. Also consider organic certification and whether this is possible for your cocoa production. Talk to your buyers to make sure there is demand for certified cocoa.
  • As an exporter, consider getting Fairtrade- and Rainforest Alliance-certified as a supply chain actor. This is usually an easier certification process than certification for producers. Having these certifications set-up makes it easier to buy and sell certified cocoa in the future. Do speak first with the farmer groups and buyers you work with. Read our studies on certified cocoa and specialty cocoa to learn more about specific market dynamics and opportunities in these segments in Europe.
  • If you offer high-quality cocoa, focus on the premium, specialty, and fine flavour cocoa market in Europe. Try to establish direct trade relationships with smaller traders and chocolate makers. Read our study on buyer requirements and How to do business on the European cocoa market to learn more.
  • To find out more about organic, read this guide on the principles of organic cocoa production. Read the Manual for Pesticide Use in Cocoa for information on using pesticides, policy changes, the EU Green Deal, bio-alternatives and an analysis of pest threats. 
  • Think about how you can make cocoa more attractive to European buyers with extra sustainability offerings. Many European buyers want to make extra sustainability claims around the cocoa they buy. For example, add a living income project or a carbon component to certified cocoa. 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. 
  • Many cocoa buyers will also require compliance with new EU legislations. This could mean that you need to give extra information on traceability and GPS mapping. Read the study Tips to go green in cocoa and Tips to become more socially responsible in cocoa for more details.

Long Run Sustainability carried out this study in partnership with Molgo Research and Ethos Agriculture on behalf of CBI.

Please review our market information disclaimer.

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Europe is the world’s largest destination for cocoa beans, both for bulk and specialty cocoa. To enter the speciality cocoa segment, it is key to identify the aspects that differentiate your cocoa from conventional cocoa. Think about characteristics like the certifications, origin, quality and genetics of your cocoa beans.

Lisanne Groothuis

Lisanne Groothuis (researcher)

The sustainability commitments of European retailers are driving up sales of chocolate products made from certified cocoa beans. There are increasing opportunities for suppliers of good-quality and certified cocoa beans, such as organic and fair trade, targeting this market segment.

Gustavo Ferro

Gustavo Ferro: Lead market researcher