Instantly transform your chocolate business: Why Trinidad is your best source of fine or flavour beans
Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) is one of just fifteen countries worldwide that produce the highest quality cocoa bean strains. Or what’s called “fine/flavour" cocoa.
Savour the finest gourmet chocolate anywhere and you’ve likely tasted one of 11 varieties of the “trinitario” beans native to this small country.
Duane Dove, owner of Tobago Cocoa Estate, holds cocoa pods from his 25-acre estate.
The twin-island republic lies in the area near the equator where cocoa thrives — a hot, moist climate with average annual rainfall between 1,150mm and 2,500mm, and a temperature range of 18 to 32 degrees Celsius.
Business owners, let me paint you a picture.
For years, Trinidad’s fine/flavour cocoa has won prestigious awards.
There’s no argument here — trinitario beans are among the best in the world.
But with shifts in what consumers want in this increasingly robust, global cocoa market, and with some unease brewing, the accolades have brought renewed attention to Trinidad’s cocoa production potential.
And they’ve also jogged memories of the 1920s when T&T ranked as one of the top producers in the world with more than 35,000 metric tons of cocoa per year.
Today, total production has dwindled to under 1,000 tons annually.
We agree — that’s not the kind of numbers you expect from a country with the finest beans.
But it’s precisely why investors and chocolate manufacturers should be paying attention.
You see, the global chocolate confectionery market has become a US$86-billion-a-year industry, with about 3.5 million tons of cocoa produced each year.
That’s US$86 billion a year and rising.
But most of the chocolate on the market is made with “bulk” or lower-grade cocoa.
So where’s the real business opportunity?
You know as well as I do, it’s in upmarket, premium chocolate products made with fine/flavour cocoa.
That is what your customers want.
That is where the demand is.
In products like this sublime treat from French chocolate maker Valrhona using beans from the 700-acre San Juan Estate in South Trinidad.
Why? Because the price of fine/flavour cocoa has been steadily rising amid increased demand.
High-quality cocoa like what’s grown in Trinidad can fetch upwards of US$5,000 per ton, compared to US$2,000 per ton for lower-grade cocoa.
With fine/flavour cocoa now at 5 to 7 percent of total global production, there is potential for an excellent return on investment as niche markets continue to expand.
Let me spell this out:
From a collection of more than 100 hybrids, T&T currently grows 11 select varieties of trinitario cocoa — the highest quality beans in the world
Trinitario fine/flavour cocoa sells at significantly higher prices than bulk or low-grade cocoa
Like good wine, there’s now a carefully cultivated interest in the market in gourmet or “artisan” chocolate
There is a shift in consumer interest from commodity chocolates to high-quality cocoa products
There’s a growing market for organic cocoa
And there’s increased demand in India and China that might one day match the always-interesting love affair the West has with chocolate
Do you see the value proposition?
Industry forecasts project more than 4.5 million tons of cocoa will be produced in 2020.
That kind of demand can be met in part by savvy business owners and investors operating cocoa estates in Trinidad and Tobago.
Cocoa and chocolate confection producers are already moving to source T&T’s fine/flavour beans.
With extensive acreage available for lease, this is ideal for businesses that want to grow their own beans.
The country recently struck a deal to provide semi-processed cocoa liquor for making premium chocolate bars to London-based Artisan du Chocolat which supplies distributors like Green & Black’s and Harrods
Artisan du Chocolat and Valrhona are just two examples.
Other producers from the US and India have visited the island recently and there is more good news: the projected increase in demand has prompted the government to look for ways to boost cocoa production. The ROI for foreign investors will be significant if these plans succeed.
In evaluating the country’s potential, business executives need only consider the major incentives:
Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Food Production is supplying planting material for 11 new and improved cocoa bean varieties that guarantee higher yields and greater pest and disease resistance — at less than US$0.45 per plant
Extensive government and industry support and an enabling environment for production via organisations like the Cocoa and Coffee Industry Board of Trinidad & Tobago (CCIB) and the Cocoa Research Division of the Ministry of Food Production
A mature R&D unit known as the Cocoa Research Centre at the University of the West Indies
Extensive arable land available for lease
Training for small-production cocoa farmers in more effective planting and harvesting techniques
Guaranteed sales (buy-back) for small-scale producers
Larger estates are licensed to export their beans and trade on the open market with no restrictions
Financial incentives (rebates) for establishing or rehabilitating plantations — higher rebates for larger estates
Subsidies for the purchase of harvesting or transport vehicles
Subsidies for establishing or improving post-harvesting facilities and creating agricultural ponds
Right now, the International Cocoa Organisation is engaged in numerous projects to improve structural conditions of cocoa markets and to enhance their long-term competitiveness and prospects.
Now is as good a time as any to set up in Trinidad.
The country has started cultivating links with international manufacturers to help generate more business and, at the same time, some well-established local cocoa producers are leading and creating visibility for new approaches to high-yield production.
Though relatively small, these local players include La Providence Estate Ltd., Rancho Quemado Estate Ltd., the Montserrat Estate (a cooperative of cocoa growers) and the Tobago Cocoa Farmers Association.
Another local operator, Tobago Cocoa Estate, partners with French artisan chocolatier Francois Pralus to make its products.
In examining the global supply chain for fine/flavour cocoa, Trinidad and Tobago provides proximity to Latin America’s expanding middle class.
Its strategic location in the Southern Caribbean makes it a gateway to existing markets in the U.S. with whom it shares a time zone.
Between the U.S. and Latin America, that’s access to 33 percent of the global chocolate market.
Politically-stable, with an English-speaking workforce, relatively low business costs, and 11 of the finest bean varieties anywhere on the planet, and Trinidad and Tobago looks to be the best chance for chocolate makers to transform their businesses.
If you’d like more information, you should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Or maybe you’d like to tour some cocoa estates like our UK friends.
Remember, there is a reason why chocolate is said to be recession-proof.
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1/15/2016 4:46 PM
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