PIONEERING COCOA IN AUSTRALIA
In 1999, a joint venture between Cadbury Schweppes and the state governments of Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory initiated a feasibility study into the establishment of a cocoa growing and processing in Australia. The Northern Australia Cocoa Development Alliance (NACDA) trialled cocoa plantations at several sites across Northern Australia.
The NACDA pilot revealed that only the cocoa plantation in Mossman, Queensland was commercially viable, but highlighted the enormous challenges for establishing a sustainable cocoa growing and post-harvest processing industry in Australia. Several attempts to commercialise cocoa growing and processing in Australia have failed, until finally in 2011 Australia's first commercially produced chocolate made from cocoa grown in Queensland was launched by Daintree Estates.
Today Australian origin chocolate is regarded as among the best in the world for quality and its unique flavour profile, and is sought after by leading retailers, restaurant chefs, chocolatiers and chocolate manufacturers across Australia, and overseas.
Chocolate is a $1.4 billion industry in Australia, and origin chocolate is the fastest growing trend within that industry. With concerns over global cocoa supply shortages, streamlining and expanding the Queensland cocoa industry has never been more relevant.
Why cocoa, and why Queensland?
John & Melanie Goodman run Australia's oldest commercial cocoa plantation near Mossman, Queensland. They planted their cocoa in 1999 as part of the NACDA cocoa pilot. Read their story here
Pioneering sounds like something our grandparents did, but Queensland's cocoa industry pioneers are definitely alive and well today. Establishing a new cocoa plantation is not for the faint-hearted. Cocoa seedlings need to be planted by hand, irrigated and regularly inspected for around 3 years before they begin bearing fruit. It's a long wait, but so satisfying to finally enjoy chocolate made from your own plantation, and even better to share it with friends and family!
But growing cocoa isn't of much benefit unless the fruit can be processed and turned into chocolate and related products. So the cocoa industry relies just as heavily on companies with the expertise and resources to do just that.
Daintree Estates was the first company to launch commercially produced chocolate made from Queensland grown cocoa, covering the full value-chain from harvested cocoa pods right through to packaged chocolate. That covers pod splitting and bean extraction, fermentation, drying, roasting, cracking and winnowing, conching, tempering and moulding, packaging, wholesale distribution and retailing. As there are only a handful of plantation-to-plate chocolate manufacturers in the world, this is an tremendous achievement, and a solid foundation for the future of Queensland cocoa.
Since then, a further 15+ commercial cocoa growers have established plantations along the Queensland far north coast from Mossman in the north down to Innisfail in the south.
QCIDA is committed to supporting our pioneering cocoa growers and processors, empowering them to commercial sustainability and world class innovation.
Pioneers of the Queensland cocoa industry
Presently there is approximately 40 hectares of cocoa planted in Queensland. QCIDA is working to triple this within 2-3 years. Planting cocoa seedlings depends on carefully managed cocoa nurseries.