Finland’s Fazer group explores cellular agriculture for cocoa growing

Finnish-based group Fazer has reported development of a key scientific project exploring the potential of cellular agriculture as a means for growing cocoa, reports Neill Barston.

The business explained that it remains notably focused on sustainable production methods for its product ranges, with its latest initiative forming a strong new strand for its potential environmentally mindful business opportunities.

As the company noted, one of the core ingredients in Fazer’s confectionery production and the heart of the company’s beloved chocolate is cocoa. Its foremost priority is ensuring the sustainable management of cocoa sourcing, securing profitable farming and improving cocoa community well-being.

However, as climate change threatens the traditional cocoa growing areas near the Equator, there is a need to explore alternative sources for cocoa. Now Fazer is researching the potential of cellular agriculture for future sustainable cocoa raw material production. Even though the use of cell-cultured cocoa is still far in the future, for Fazer, the time to fearlessly explore its possibilities is now. Its latest project on cell-cultured cocoa presently receives funding from Business Finland, which is furthering its development.

All the company’s cocoa comes from sustainably managed sources in Ecuador and West Africa, and it stressed that sustainable cocoa means securing profitable farming, improving cocoa community well-being, and respecting the planet and natural resources.

However, the business acknowledges that the traditional cocoa growing areas near the Equator are threatened by climate change and that it might, in the future, become increasingly challenging to grow cocoa. Although the company, in accordance with its sustainability ambitions, is committed to combating climate change, there is also a need to explore alternative sources for sustainable cocoa.

“We are inspired to innovate new means for continuing to fulfil consumers’ expectations and wishes. Although we are exploring new means for raw material production, the taste experience of chocolate will remain unchanged. Fazer has already, in partnership with VTT, received the first successful results of cell-cultured cocoa. Now we are continuing the research as part of the larger CERAFIM-consortium, which joins several Finnish companies and research institutions around the theme of cellular agriculture to fearlessly explore future solutions”, Heli Anttila, VP of New Product Development at Fazer Confectionery explains.

“Cellular agriculture means biotechnological production instead of farming, with minimal land and other natural resources required for the production. The production takes instead place in bioreactors under controlled conditions. Cell-cultured cocoa is a novel food in EU, and it needs to be approved according to the EFSA process (European Food Safety Authority),” says Research Team Leader, Dr. Heiko Rischer from VTT.

“It will take years before cell-cultured cocoa is launched on the market. . This is a long-term project, aiming at the future. Managing traditional cocoa sustainably is Fazer’s first and foremost priority, but we want to explore and innovate for the future too. Cell-cultured cocoa is still far from our plates, but it offers us a novel approach to managing the challenges of sustainable cocoa sourcing in a fair and transparent value chain. I think our innovation mindset is very inspiring,” says Annika Porr, Senior Manager at the firm’s Confectionery’s Forward Lab.

Caring for the well-being of people and environment is part of  heritage and future. The company’s ambition is to be an innovative leader in whatever it does and therefore the Group invests in research and development in line with its strategic priority of accelerating growth through innovations, on-trend categories and foodtech.

The business added that it wants to promote research as well as knowledge and competence development in its home markets and in its research networks. Sustainability is an important driver for innovation as the company develops food as a solution for a more sustainable planet and business.


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