Key Chocoa cocoa trade fair set for digital return next month

The organisers of the annual Chocoa cocoa and chocolate trade fair have unveiled a return for the industry showcase in virtual format next month, writes Neill Barston.

Having been one of the few sector shows to be successfully staged last year before the pandemic struck, the team behind the international conference were keen to maintain its momentum.

The 2020 edition of the event in Amsterdam, which returned for its eighth year and included its sustainability conference, drew cocoa sector professionals, confectionery sector experts and more than 8,000 consumers for its public finished product fair element.

As Jack Steijn, show co-founder, and director of organising group Equipoise, a specialist in cocoa consulting, explained, replicating the same experience may not be possible this year – but an impactful alternative is being drawn together, creating a dynamic online conference for the sector.

For its 2021 edition, sustainability will once again be at the heart of the three-day online experience, which is set to be staged between 24-26 February. See our exclusive extended video interview with Jack Steijn here.

According to Steijn (pictured below), it will offer a valuable showcase on the priorities of the industry, as it grapples with coronavirus conditions, and how it will continue to push for making vital improvements to those working within core producing nations around the world, including West Africa, as well as in Asia and Latin America.

He said: “The Amsterdam Sustainable Conference topics include digitisation and supply chain traceability, as well as another, ‘data is King,’ which are two one-hour sessions.

“We thought that in the coming years, data will be key for progress in sustainability, so this will examine exchange of data, the willingness to investigate impact of what has been done, and how you can exchange information regarding that.

“As for digitisation, this is helping a lot, with some farmer projects that have barcodes that can be scanned to show how much cocoa has been delivered. It is archived instantly, and farmers are paid right away, so there are all kinds of things like that which wouldn’t have been possible five years ago. So, innovation, digitisation and data are key themes.”

As Steijn notes, the second day of the event will be focusing on changes in approach with regard to sustainability initiatives, including rethinking diversification, and how new trading laws in Africa can help farmers grow an expanded range of crops that can be traded more freely with near neighbours.

Reflecting back on last year’s conference, he revealed that one of its key strengths had been the number of attending cocoa producers from around the world, who mixed with other sector professionals and farmers from as far afield as the Philippines, Ecuador, Ivory Coast and Ghana.

“We will also be looking at trends of sustainability in private label supermarket chocolate – you see a lot of chains now investing in sustainability projects at the origin of their supply chain, whereas up until now, everyone has been calling out for retailers to join such schemes.

“The chocolate makers’ forum will be all about teaching consumers about the fine aspects of fine flavour, single origin cocoa. It will also take a look at what is happening in organic markets, and how producers and chocolate makers can benefit from that,” noted the organiser, who said it has been immensely rewarding seeing the event grow, engaging with traders, experts and farmers from around the world.

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