Technology-led solutions may hold the key to reshaping the chocolate confectionery sector
Traditional cocoa growing may change significantly in coming years, if technology solutions prevail
So much for August being the traditional quiet period when the vast majority of the confectionery sector appears to wind down for holiday season – these continue to feel like unprecedented times on a number of fronts.
This month alone has seen some surprising and intriguing developments and news including breakthrough cocoa science being brought forward by Cargill, major investment from the likes of Nestle into key research facilities in Singapore, through to the quirkier end of the spectrum as Ferrero launches Tic Tacs into space for its latest campaign that certainly offered something a little different.
Following on in terms of potential major technical developments to influence the market, Confectionery Production has read with significant interest in a German start-up business, QOA, which has set out its mission statement to be at the forefront of industry through its scientifically developed alternative to cocoa, which it hopes will be the norm within industry by 2035.
Only time will tell if its bold science-based sustainability claims will come to fruition, but in the wake of Cargill’s move towards investigating vertical indoor farming to deliver more resilient cocoa crops, it seems technology may be pointing the way forward to deliver solutions in the ongoing fight against key issues of child labour and environmental damage caused by deforestation linked to the industry.
As sector analysts have noted, the potential impact that such a company could potentially have on the industry is massive – it is actively engaged in becoming a major rival to farming operations in West Africa and South America, which form the core of the sector, and their output could be dramatically affected should such tech-based businesses gain a foothold.
With government level backing, the German business is clearly serious in its intent, but the proof, as so often is the case, will be in the eating – will consumers buy into the concept of a lab-designed chocolate that mimics the flavour of the core ingredient of cocoa? It hugely depends on the flavour profiles that it is able to generate, but it is already confident of its approach in inviting people to test its creations out. Should it succeed on a global scale, then the sector could look radically different within the next 10-15 years. “The future of chocolate is 100% cocoa free” proclaims its website, which would certainly prove a key sector revolution should it make major commercial strides.
The company’s environmental claims alone are compelling – but with so many agricultural communities largely dependent on such crops, these are concerning times for those if an industry should radically change in coming years. We shall just have to wait and see, but it seems the dawn of an advanced digital age has many significant potential implications.
Neill Barston, editor, Confectionery Production