World Cocoa Foundation member Puratos is an international group based in Belgium offering a full range of products for artisans, industry, retailers, and food service customers in the bakery, patisserie, and chocolate sectors. Ten years ago, Puratos purchased 140 hectares of cultivable land in Tikul, in the state of Yucatan, Mexico, and has already planted 50,000 criollo cocoa trees there. WCF asked Youri Dumont, chocolate business unit director at Puratos, why the B2B company decided to invest in the Tikul plantation, and how their sustainability program, Cocoa-Trace, improves the lives of farmers, from Central America to Asia.
Why did you invest in a cocoa plantation in Mexico as part of your sustainability strategy?
The Tikul cocoa plantation was established to safeguard cocoa diversity by growing Criollo trees, one of the oldest, rarest, and finest cocoa varieties on the planet. Criollo is particularly difficult to grow and extremely vulnerable to a variety of environmental threats. By planting more than 100,000 trees there (including shade and fruit trees) we aim not just to produce chocolate with unique taste properties, but also to preserve the ecology and biodiversity of the area by providing a haven for a wide range of wildlife. The project also provides a safe and stable working environment for local communities with workers offered the chance to train in post-harvest methods that will allow them to prepare a good fermented cocoa.
On top of this work in Mexico, can you describe your other cocoa sustainability initiative Cocoa-Trace? How does it benefit farmers?
In Vietnam, Côte d’Ivoire, and the Philippines, Puratos invests in post-harvest centers close to cocoa farming communities, where our experts supervise and improve the fermentation process. Farmers are trained to deliver higher quality cocoa beans. When they achieve this, they receive a ‘quality’ premium on top of their already fair standard price. Our Cacao-Trace program is the first sustainable cocoa program to certify the quality of the post-harvest process. It involves a close long-term partnership with carefully selected cocoa farming communities.
In addition, Cacao-Trace has introduced the Chocolate Bonus which involves Puratos customers and end consumers in the program. The bonus allows customers to connect with the farming communities and share the benefits by giving them an extra €0.10 per kilo of chocolate that is sold. This adds up to the equivalent of about one or two extra months’ salary for the farmers. Only by creating value and sharing it with the farming communities can we guarantee a sustainable future for our industry.
Do you plan on expanding this program to other cocoa-growing countries?
Yes, we launched Cocoa-Trace in Papua New Guinea in June 2018, and Mexico will be the fifth region carrying the program’s certification by the end of this year.