You could be forgiven for thinking that all chocolate marketed as Australian chocolate is made with cocoa grown in Australia. In fact, until 2011, all Australian chocolate was made with cocoa beans grown overseas.
The Australian cocoa industry is minuscule, particularly when compared to the global cocoa industry built around West Africa, Indonesia and Central and Southern America, where over 70 per cent of the world’s cocoa is grown by more than 4 million cocoa farmers.
Global state of the cocoa industry It is forecast that global cocoa bean production will soon reach around 4 million metric tons annually with a value of US$10 billion, while the annual value of chocolate produced will be around US$130 billion. The Australian chocolate industry is approaching AUD$6 billion in sales revenue annually.
Growth in chocolate sales globally is expected to be driven by increasing demand from emerging markets, with greater growth in organic, dark, and premium product segments that address the interest in unique flavours, and functional and healthy products.
There is a global concern that demand for cocoa beans and chocolate may outstrip supply in the near future, due to pests, diseases, climate change, old and poor performing cocoa trees and lack of fertilisers, herbicides and fungicides, particularly in the principal cocoa growing countries. A number of collaborative research efforts are being instigated to address these emerging threats.
Considering the high cost of labour and logistics in Australia, the commercial sustainability of the local cocoa industry relies heavily on efficiency, product and processing innovation, delivering high pod yields per hectare, excellence in plantation horticultural practices, as well as developing and improving the genetic make-up of our planting material.
Furthermore, with only 10 per cent of the pod weight being converted into fermented dry beans for chocolate making, every part of the cocoa tree, including the pods, seeds and beans, must be utilised to maximise returns to stakeholders. Innovative ways of value adding at every step of the supply chain is essential.
This approach is now occurring in many agricultural and food processing industries, both in Australia and globally, with many by-products being converted into functional ingredients and bioactive nutraceuticals, with values far beyond that of the primary product that a crop was grown for. Examples of this trend include grapes, olives, sugarcane, cereals, rice and many fruits.
Northern Australia Cocoa Industry 15 years ago, the Northern Australia Cocoa Development Alliance (NACDA) was established to assess the feasibility of growing cocoa commercially in Australia for the first time. Studies revealed conditions in Tropical Far North Queensland along the coast were ideal for growing cocoa, even though they highlighted likely commercial challenges.
Compelled by the NACDA trials and results, Daintree Cocoa Pty Ltd was formed in 2009 by a consortium of entrepreneurs experienced in cocoa growing, cocoa processing, chocolate making, as well as the marketing and selling of confectionery and food products. A key strategic alliance involved a partnership with a group of Far North Queensland cocoa growers.
Two years later in November 2011, the company launched their first Australian Origin chocolate products under the Daintree Estates brand. These signature products were a 70 per cent Dark and a 45 per cent Milk Chocolate, which were the world’s first commercially produced chocolate made from cocoa grown in Australia. Daintree Cocoa Pty Ltd is one of an elite few ‘Plantation-to-Plate’ chocolate businesses in the world.
The successful launch of an Australian Single Origin chocolate was the culmination of over 10 years’ preliminary research into both the horticultural and post-harvest processing aspects of the total cocoa and chocolate supply chain.
The company’s business model encompasses the entire supply chain, from seedling nursery, cocoa plantations and post-harvest pod processing through to the marketing, distribution and selling of the final products to consumers. Contracted cocoa growers not only supply freshly harvested cocoa pods to Daintree Cocoa Pty Ltd’s central processing operation, but are also shareholders in the company and share in the profits from the full value chain and other innovative value-adding activities. The company’s philosophy is to ensure that the world’s best practices are employed in all stages of the supply chain to address sustainability and environmental issues in this new Australian industry.
Daintree Cocoa Pty Ltd is a founding member of the Queensland Cocoa Industry Development Association Inc(QCIDA), which was formed to:
Represent the interests of Queensland based cocoa growers and processors to government, media and industry organisations.
Attract funding and support for cocoa industry research and development initiatives that improve the efficiency and viability of pre and post-harvest production of Queensland grown cocoa.
Share insights and research findings with the Queensland Cocoa Industry that empowers growers and processors to maximise returns by implementing optimal plantation husbandry practices to improve cocoa pod yields per hectare while addressing the high labour costs of local production.
Collaborate and engage with similar cocoa industry bodies and experts locally and globally for the betterment of the Queensland Cocoa Industry.
Encourage and support eco-friendly and leading edge environmental practices to ensure that the Queensland Cocoa Industry is a leader in agricultural sustainability.
Although the Australian cocoa industry is in its early stages, we are fortunate that our industry has been built on a solid scientific platform. Daintree Cocoa Pty Ltd is building on this by sponsoring research on pollination vectors,developing automatic cocoa pod splitters, undertaking controlled fermentation trials by adding a range of microorganisms to improve flavour, as well as examining a number of pre- and post-harvest byproducts for valuable bioactive nutraceuticals.
Tim Davies is Director of Daintree Cocoa Pty Ltd and Barry Kitchen is the Chairman of Daintree Cocoa Pty Ltd.
Cocoa & Chocolate Market, Global Trends and Forecasts to 2019
IBIS World Report, 2015
A taste of the future, Trends that could transform the chocolate industry, KPMG Report, 2014
The Race to Save Chocolate by Schmitz, H., and Shapiro, H-Y., Scientific American, May 2015
Cocoa in Northern Australia, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), Australian Government, 2010, www.rirdc.gov.au