Cocoa remains one of Ghana’s most important commodities, with the West African country ranking the second largest global Cocoa producer after neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire.
The country’s Cocoa economy focuses on the export of Cocoa beans for global use in chocolate products. Koa, a Swiss-Ghanaian food upcycling start-up, has just received approximately US$10 million in funding to boost its processing capabilities in its Ghana operations. The company takes the previously underutilised by-product of the chocolate-making process, the Cocoa pulp, and repurposes it, adding value to what would otherwise be considered waste.
The investment was led by Halta Group, a family investment company based in Luxembourg. The Group helped to raise US$4.7 million, with a further US$3.5 million coming from The Landscape Resilience Fund and IDH Farmfit Fund, and US$2 million from shareholder loans.
Koa intends to use the funding to invest in a new processing plant in Akim Achiase, in Ghana’s Eastern Region. “With these investments, we will be setting up Africa’s largest cocoa pulp processing plant in West Africa,” said Koa Co-Founder and Group Finance Director Benjamin Kuschnik. The new facility is expected to increase production capacity by a factor of ten by 2024.
The company currently produces three types of products from the cocoa pulp. Speaking with FoodIngredientsFirst, production and operation
We currently offer three products to cover a wide range of applications. Koa Pure (cocoa fruit juice) is ideal for beverages or ice cream. Koa Concentrate (concentrated juice) is used for various pastry products, jellies or bakery goods. And for chocolate products or applications such as cereals, Koa Powder (dried cocoa fruit) is the matching ingredient.Daniel Otu, Director at Koa
These products are made entirely from parts of the Cocoa fruit, which farmers would normally consider to be waste and come at no additional expense to them. On the contrary, farmers are reportedly paid US$344 per tonne for Cocoa pulp, compared to the US$240 per tonne paid for Cocoa by the Fairtrade system, for example.
In this sense, Koa is contributing to the solution for two of the major issues in the industry by generating additional income for up to 10,000 farmers and reducing wastage at the same time.
Finance Director of Koa Impact Ghana, Francis Appiagyei-Poku, said, “This investment in a new factory will create additional income for up to 10,000 cocoa farmers. Furthermore, the new production plant will create 250 jobs and new vocational opportunities for communities in rural Ghana.” According to statistics on the company’s website, they have also reduced 437,789 kgs of food waste to date.
The method is not without its challenges, however, as Otu highlights that “there’s only a short time window to preserve the fresh pulp.” Adding that “the lack of infrastructure and the climatic conditions in cocoa-growing regions of Ghana requires a new approach with innovative processes and local investments.”
Koa originated in the solar industry sector; therefore, it makes sense that with the help of solar power technology, they have come up with a solution to this challenge. “Thanks to solar power, we can process the Cocoa fruits next to the farms, even in remote areas. For this, we use a mobile processing unit, which is 100% solar-powered. The extracted pulp is then brought to our factory for final processing and packaging,” explains Otu.
In addition to diversifying farmers’ incomes and reducing food waste, Koa is also addressing gender employment disparities by choosing the farmers they work with, ensuring at least 40% are women. COO of the IDH Farmfit Fund, Barbara Visser, said, “We are very pleased that today’s investment will support Koa in responsible value creation in the cocoa supply chain. These kinds of disruptive and innovative solutions are key to catalyse the system change that is needed to improve the lives of these Cocoa farmers.”
Koa’s Benjamin Kuschnik expresses optimism for the company’s future: “We are excited that we won strong and reputable partners for the further growth of our business. It shows that our way of responsibly doing business and our value proposition are meeting the pulse of time.”