Eastern Europe is becoming an interesting destination for cocoa exporters

Traditional markets in Western Europe are usually seen as obvious destinations for cocoa exporters. These are markets such as the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Eastern European markets are smaller and have fewer direct links to cocoa origin countries. This is changing slowly, as the cocoa and chocolate markets in Eastern Europe are growing and changing. Stay informed on developments in this region by following consumer trends, new players and other industry dynamics.  

Growing volumes of direct imports

The European market is the main destination for cocoa bean exports worldwide. Still, Eastern Europe only accounted for about 2% of total European cocoa bean imports in 2019. It is still a small market. But Eastern European countries show the highest European growth rates in direct cocoa bean imports from producing countries.

Bulgaria is Eastern Europe’s largest cocoa bean importer, with huge growth in recent years. Between 2015 and 2019, direct imports from Bulgaria increased from 8 tonnes to nearly 18,000 tonnes. Over 99% of total Bulgarian imports were directly sourced from cocoa-producing countries in 2019. These were mostly from the Ivory Coast. Another country registering high growth rates is Estonia. There, direct imports increased from 69 tonnes in 2015 to 3,462 tonnes in 2019.

Increasing focus on quality

The Ivory Coast supplies the largest share of cocoa bean imports into Eastern Europe at the moment. These supplies are largely used to make commercial chocolate brands. Commercial chocolate is a major segment in Eastern Europe. Large multinational Mondelēz is the chocolate market leader in the region. It offers well-known brands at accessible consumer prices.

There are also growing opportunities for exporters of speciality cocoa beans. Consumers in countries like Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Poland show a growing interest in high-quality bean-to-bar chocolates. There is also an increase in new craft chocolate makers and local chocolate events. These developments give more visibility and accessibility to speciality cocoa in Eastern Europe.

The Polish Chocolate Festival, displaying and promoting craft chocolate products, illustrates this trend. This event is held each year in different cities across Poland. It has now been held for 5 years in a row. Also, since 2015, the International Chocolate Awards have a regional competition for chocolate makers in Eastern Europe. This event is an international competition. It supports the growing interest in high-quality cocoa and fine chocolate making in the region. Examples of some of the winning craft chocolate makers in 2020 include:

Learn more about developments in the market

Read our study about exporting cocoa beans to Eastern Europe to learn more about the market potential for cocoa beans in this region. Visit CBI’s cocoa market intelligence page for studies about other promising European markets. There you can also find our latest studies on the Italian and French cocoa markets.

This news article was written for CBI by Gustavo Ferro and Lisanne Groothuis from Profound – Advisers In Development.

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