Sunday 23 October 2016

Africa produces cocoa but little value added chocolate

Edith Honan in Dares Salaam

Published 24/04/2015 | 02:30

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Jaki Kweka is that rare breed of gourmet chocolatier. She makes fine chocolate in Africa using local African ingredients.

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Other African companies such as Ghana's Golden Tree use local cocoa but import milk powder and sugar. Multinationals such as Nestle mass produce chocolate in South Africa for the continent's consumers and source ingredients globally.

But few firms match Kweka's ideal - she uses Tanzanian beans and local sugar to make organic chocolate that is 100pc African. She packages her bars in recycled maize husks for extra authenticity.

Ms Kweka's Chocolate Mamas is one of a handful of East African firms carving out a niche in the chocolate world dominated by big global players.

Africa produces more than 70pc of the world's cocoa but the €100bn chocolate industry is dominated by Western companies.

Top cocoa producers Ivory Coast and Ghana lack dairy and sugar industries to compete with the main manufacturers and cocoa is traded globally so African bean growers don't have a competitive advantage when it comes to making chocolate.

"You don't really find large-scale chocolate manufacturing (by African companies) in sub-Saharan Africa because it's not commercially viable. It's expensive to produce," said Victoria Crandall, an Ecobank analyst in Ivory Coast.

Chocolate Mamas' dark and milk chocolate bars sell at premium prices in high-end shops and hotels.

The company launched in 2012 and Ms Kweka began using cocoa from small-scale farmers in southwestern Tanzania after seeing the price of importing baking chocolate from Europe.

It took nine months of trial and error to perfect the recipes.

"There is so much unexhausted potential for making things that are not on the market here," she said.

Chocolate consumption in sub-Saharan Africa is on the rise. Sales in South Africa, the continent's largest market, rose to SA Rand 6.4bn (€485m) in 2014 from SA Rand 5.8bn (€441m) in 2013, according to market research firm Nielsen.

South Africa does not produce cocoa on a large scale but is the contin ent's biggest chocolate producer. Nestle, Mondelez and Lindt also have factories.

In West Africa, Ghana's Cocoa Processing Company makes around 1,000 tonnes of chocolate per year under its Golden Tree label to serve a domestic market.

It is yet to export successfully. On that score, Africa's most successful wholly-local chocolate brand may be Madecasse, a company founded in Madagascar in 2006 to help farmers make money from the island nation's coveted cocoa and vanilla.

Its bars, which cost $6 (€5.50), sell at Whole Foods and other gourmet food outlets in the United States, though they are not on sale yet in their country of origin where the price could limit their appeal.

Irish Independent

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