Since ancient times, humanity has held cocoa in high esteem. Even to give it its scientific name, the mystical association surrounding theobroma cacao or “food of the Gods” has been valued: the seed that gives rise to chocolate contains a powerful gift for seducing palates that goes unnoticed by almost no one.
Century after century, appreciation for cocoa and, consequently, for chocolate, has only grown. The proof is in the fact that for the 2018-2019 season, world cocoa production already amounted to more than 4 million 800 thousand tons. It is currently estimated that around 100 billion dollars a year are spent worldwide to buy chocolates, in a global industry from which more than 50 million people derive their sustenance, from agricultural cultivation to the final processing in refined confectionery.
This is why, in the near future, the chocolate industry faces very important challenges derived from the growing world demand and the values that govern today’s consumer societies, which are technified, globalized and ethically supportive of the environment and human development. The following is a brief overview of the future that is already looming in the world of chocolate.
Refined consumers, growing demand for superior quality
Bean-to-bar chocolates have gained great popularity around the world because they are often associated with very fine quality products. Their production requires manufacturers to be involved in the bean fermentation and drying processes, as chocolates made from single origin cocoa use beans grown in the same place and under similar conditions.
This is related to the attention paid to the different production areas, as well as to the history of the producers and their communities. Consumers focus on taste, quality and diversity of origin.
However, the chocolate industry will have to find a balance between the cultivation of fine beans and aroma beans – which account for an estimated 5% of all cocoa production worldwide – and this growing taste for premium chocolate.
This is one of the reasons why there has been talk of a chocolate shortage, comparing production with demand. This is because encouraging cocoa cultivation is already difficult on a global scale, due to its complex processes. Ultimately demand is expected to continue to increase, so it is a natural progression that people will be much more interested in high quality chocolates in the future: if it is expected that supply could be limited, then the consumer will want to buy the best chocolate possible.
Origin and traceability: where the cocoa comes from and how it was sourced
There is a lot of concern about where the cocoa from which a chocolate is made comes from and what its cultivation and processing methods are. Some manufacturers even put the coordinates of the places where the beans are grown on their packaging, so in these times of geolocation, it is very important for consumers to know this information.
Customers need to know more and more about the chocolate they are tasting and why they have to pay a little more for a premium chocolate, so that they can understand everything involved in the production of cocoa for this type of product.
Today it is essential that manufacturers are governed by production models attached to fair trade, a system of solidarity and alternative to the conventional one that pursues the development of peoples and the fight against poverty. For this reason, companies must ensure traceability, so that all the elements and resources involved in the chocolate production process can be known.
In this way, those who buy fine chocolate can be assured that the money they pay for this product is reinvested and returns to the production chain, so that the people who work in it can make a profit and receive the final product.
Sustainability of production
Global consumption of chocolate, made from cocoa powder obtained from cocoa beans, has already been observed to be on the rise. However, the crop is threatened by pests, fungal infections, climate change and farmers’ lack of access to fertilizers and other yield-enhancing products.
In response, scientific research is working to strengthen this fragile tree through genetic selection, farmer training and new planting, irrigation and pest management techniques.
But these are not the only threats. It is essential to combine cocoa tree cultivation with environmental care, reforestation and the employment of adequate and well-paid labor. That is why the main consuming and importing countries, with the European Union at the forefront, are issuing guidelines for supply chains to maintain environmental preservation and guarantee labor and fair trade.
Thus, the cocoa and chocolate industry faces important challenges in terms of ethical and economic sustainability, implementing methods that increasingly adhere to fair trade criteria and also have organic certificates. The trend that should be growing is to seek raw materials grown by cocoa farmers integrated in fair trade cooperatives, following a small-scale, organic and 100% natural cultivation method.
The whole picture suggests that chocolate consumers are not only demanding in terms of quality and taste: the pleasure generated by tasting good chocolate must take into account that cocoa farming must also bring happiness to the workers in the industry, and that it must be sustainable without harming the environment. Preserving chocolate production for future generations means taking up all these challenges today