The fourth Cacao & Chocolate Summit was held virtually in May 2022. Participants had the opportunity to connect and hear from experts in the chocolate industry, producers, chocolate makers, pastry chefs, NGOs, and representatives of the government.
The goal: Come together with the goal of creating a better future for everyone in the fine chocolate industry and a product the world can enjoy. The conversations that begin here will help to ensure a sustainable industry that will not only survive the challenges we face but thrive for many generations to come.
The event was founded by Conexión Chocolate in 2019 and organized in partnership with the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA), Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate, Rikolto and MOCCA. The event reached 791 attendance from more than 70 countries.
The event lasted two days, during which six relevant topics to the industry were discussed:
- Panel 1: This Moment in Fine Cocoa and Chocolate
- Panel 2: The Market Perspective on Building Resilience
- Panel 3: Talking Traceability and Transparency
- Panel 4: Cocoa and the Climate Crisis
- Panel 5: The Producer’s Perspective on Building Resilience
- Panel 6: Highlighting the Heirloom Cacao Project
Realities of the entire cacao and chocolate value chain from different countries were shared, and the farmer was a central topic of discussion. Below are the main conclusions of each panel on these very important (and global) chocolate topics.
Panel 1: This Moment in Fine Cocoa and Chocolate
- Ephi Maglaris (FCIA)
- Jack Steijn (Equipoise)
- Christian Marlin (MAG)
- Selassie Atadika (Midunu Chocolates)
Ecuador has increased its production and export of cocoa, positioning cocoa as the leading agricultural crop in the country and the third largest exporter of cocoa worldwide. This is due to the expansion of the crop and the adoption of the new CCN51 variety, which is resistant to two major diseases.
In Ghana, Selassie, a chocolate producer, shared her experience during the creation of her company, in addition to the challenges she confronts such as climate, lack of access to a good milk industry, scarcity of policies, cocoa procurement processes and also mentioned the joint work that producers are doing to advance on issues of direct sale of cocoa, higher prices, increased domestic consumption of chocolate, among others.
In the European Union, there are differences in chocolate consumption between countries, and a period was mentioned in which cocoa volume growth had not increased, but the volume of chocolate consumption had increased. New consumption trends, such as organic and vegan chocolate, sugar replacement, higher cocoa concentration and the importance of traceability, were also discussed.
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Panel 2: The Market Perspective on Building Resilience
- Lauren Adler (Chocolopolis)
- Jenny Samaniego (Conexión Chocolate / Cacao & Chocolate Summit)
- Jody Hayden (Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate)
- Spencer Hayman (Cocoa Runners)
- Arcelia Gallardo (Mission Chocolate)
During this session, chocolate producers shared the adaptations and challenges they faced during the pandemic. They mentioned difficulties from raw material sourcing to product distribution, including the issue of human resources, which has not gone unnoticed. Linked to this, much is said about the increase in costs throughout the production chain. The support and work being done with the farmer were also mentioned, and the low price they receive for their product was also a topic of discussion.
The pandemic has brought a number of difficulties but also opportunities. Today, in an environment where the pandemic has been brought under control, consumers are interested in returning to face-to-face activities. The idea of educating the consumer about the quality of the chocolate they are consuming still stands because, as with other products, if the quality increases, the price also increases; in this case, the quality has a whole history that begins with the farmer and his production system.
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Panel 3: Tracking Traceability & Transparency
- Kate Cavallin (Cacao Latitudes)
- Fausto Rodriguez (Rikolto LATAM)
- Simran Bindra (Kokoa Kamili)
- Monica Rogan (Goodnow Farms)
- Emily Stone (Uncommon Cacao)
The concept of traceability and transparency are closely linked. Traceability, as the knowledge of the cocoa or chocolate pathway, contributes to transparency, which refers to the interest and ability to share information to all actors in the cocoa production chain.
These two issues are very important due to the number of actors involved in the chocolate industry. Traceability is constantly being worked on through projects that have their challenges, as the work is pervasive and technology is a key tool.
Through this work, it is possible to know the origin, location, name of the farmer, destination of the cocoa and more. In this way, chocolate producers guarantee the quality of their products by knowing the origin of their ingredients.
On the other hand, the importance of educating consumers on this topic is emphasized, as well as disseminating the information available at events such as these.
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Panel 4: Cocoa and the Climate Crisis
- Luis Orozco (LWR – MOCCA Project)
- Monica Mena (Agroarriba S.A.)
- Summer Allen (FCCI)
- Marco Fernando Guilcapi (Proamazonia)
- Ethan Budiansky (World Cocoa Foundation)
The climate crisis we are confronting is evident, and several projects between public and private institutions, universities, producers and others are being discussed in this regard. In this way, it is clear the interest and the need to generate mitigation measures against possible natural disasters. It is essential to disseminate the results of the research to the producers since there is talk of renewing cocoa production systems, as well as implementing new production techniques to address the problems of climate change. Among them is the work involved in introducing an agroforestry design on the farmer’s farm, including the incentive the farmer would need to adopt these changes.
It also highlights the role of other actors, such as consumers, especially in the issue of knowing the origin of the chocolate they are buying. The market is another important factor because it can pay more for cocoa whose production is environmentally friendly.
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Panel 5: The Producer’s Perspective on Building Resilience
- Jerónimo Pruijn (SPP Global)
- George Fletcher Lazo (UOPROCAE ECOCACAO)
- Sarah Bharath (SarahBharath.com)
- Aaron Sylvester (Tri-Island Chocolate / Grenada Chocolate Company)
- Charita Puentespina (Malagos Chocolate Company)
Producers and technical advisors from Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Ecuador and the Philippines shared some of the challenges they have witnessed, from cocoa production in the field to the marketing of the final product.
These include production costs, the presence of cadmium, export problems, export costs and emphasize the problems caused by poor communication, especially with the producer.
Maintaining a connection between the different steel is necessary; the panellists pointed to seminars, field visits to the farmer, and tasting programs for the final product, among others, as ways of making this connection possible. The role of the farmer is vital in the chocolate industry; however, many cases have been presented that show how little support, interest and importance is given to producers, thus making them a vulnerable group. The creation of alliances between farmers could solidify this group and allow their voices to be heard.
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Panel 6: Highlighting the Heirloom Cacao Project
- John Kehoe (Guittard Chocolate Company)
- Anne Zaczek (HCP)
- Lambert Motilal (The University of the West Indies)
The panellists presented some projects under development, one of them being “Highlighting heirlooms”, a program that receives and evaluates cocoa beans to nominate them as heirloom cocoa. Currently, 16 farmers have been designated as heirloom cocoa producers in Central America, South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. In addition, it details the joint work being done with producers to establish nurseries, and in situ cloning sites and provide technical assistance throughout the production process in order to maintain heirloom cocoa for generations to come.
TSIRO Alliance, a public-private organization dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity and the well-being of Madagascar’s communities through the production of fine aroma cocoa and spices, was there through it all. Partnerships with organizations like TSIRO (especially TSIRO!) have made it possible to develop projects with farmers such as diversity and increased revenues, encouraging the adoption of agroforestry systems, and more.
Mention was made of the pending publication between HCP and Dr Lambert A. Motilal on cocoa explorations and the movement of germplasm throughout history to understand the origin of cocoa. The publication will be available in Spanish, English and French.
Dr Lambert explained a little about the contents of the document that is being prepared. He commented on cocoa varieties, genetic information, the origin of cocoa, climate change, deforestation, future prospects. He also invited representatives from different countries to share information on the quality and characteristics of their cocoa.
The panellists presented the forthcoming publication: Cocoa Explorations and germplasm movement throughout history to understand the origin of cocoa,” in which, among other things, they talk about native seeds from different regions of the world, special varieties with a unique flavor.
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Go See For Yourself: Conexión Chocolate is spreading the fine chocolate word in September 2022 with their latest Cacao Expedition, A Journey to Origins in Ecuador (Sept. 2-9). Join Conexión founder Jenny Samaniego on a tour through Ecuador’s most magical cacao regions and learn about cacao from those who know it best: the farmers. Plus, experience the rich culture of Ecuador through its cuisine, arts, music, nature, and chocolate!