Puratos, a World Cocoa Foundation member, is a global bakery and patisserie ingredients and chocolate group based in Belgium. Our group is well known for its work on taste and Belgian chocolate authenticity under the Belcolade brand, but is also a sustainability leader with our Cacao-Trace program. Our aim is to secure the future of chocolate and everyone involved. And we travel the world to discover cocoa beans packed with distinctive natural flavors.
Here’s the story of the work we have been conducting since 2018 with farmers in Papua New Guinea to reveal the pure and natural fruity taste of Papuan cocoa, and support livelihoods.
Implementing the purest possible way of drying: using the sun
Papua New Guinea is the birthplace of some of the most flavorful cocoa beans around the world. But the beans’ natural flavor has consistently been influenced by the local traditional method for drying: wood fire. Farmers dried their beans like this because of the very high humidity. The smoke however had a huge impact on the natural flavor. To solve this issue, we began working hand-in-hand with farmers in 2018 through the Cacao-Trace program.
We implemented the purest possible method of drying, using the sun. Gently, carefully, slowly, farmers dry the cocoa beans. Today, Cacao-Trace is working with 131 fermentation and drying experts in Papua New Guinea and each one is equipped with a solar dryer. A solar dryer is a raised structure made out of wood with an open bed. There is a tarp which can cover the bed in case it rains. If it is sunny it is left open to receive direct sunlight. The traditional system looks like a small cabin with a raised mesh metal bed, below there is a kiln pipe which is fed with wood to create heat in order to dry the beans resting on the bed above.
All farmers in the Cacao-Trace community are trained by Cacao-Trace local trainers. The trainings include all Cacao-Trace standards in which optimized sun drying techniques are reviewed.
Jeffery Malio is one of the local drying and fermentation experts in Papua New Guinea. As a father of four, he lives in Angoram district and has been growing cocoa for more than 25 years. He grew up with cocoa and learned this craftsmanship from his parents. Before June 2018 he was using a wood burning dryer, but now he is using a solar dryer and he says that he is saving time and costs. “I used to spend around 150 kina ($44 US) per ton to dry cocoa but now there is no cost. On top of this, collecting wood took me around two to three hours a day! Thanks to this natural drying I’m able to spend more time with my family.”
Fermentation is key to reveal the natural flavors of the Papua New Guinean beans
But we knew changing the drying process would not be enough. Fermentation of cocoa beans is key: the better your cocoa is fermented, the better your final chocolate will taste!
Fermentation is a natural process in which micro-organisms transform a food component, changing its structure and taste. Most people regularly eat fermented food such as bread, yogurt and beer. Thanks to our leadership in the bakery space, we have a strong knowledge in various fermented food processes like enzymes and sourdough bread products. In this fermented food process, fermentation is strictly controlled. We believe this should be the same for cocoa.
In the case of chocolate, fermentation unleashes the flavor potential of the cocoa beans. That is why Cacao-Trace cocoa is fermented in local post-harvest centers by fermentation experts. We have launched our local post-harvest centers in six different cocoa producing countries: Côte d’Ivoire, Vietnam, Philippines, Mexico, Uganda, and Papua New Guinea. Cacao-Trace sets new standards and guidelines for the fermentation process. We create optimal conditions for fermentation by carefully selecting fresh cocoa beans and by controlling the temperature and aeration of the fermenting cocoa. This way, every Cacao-Trace farmer’s beans meet the highest quality standards, ensuring a consistent superior taste.
Thanks to our work with farmers on improving the drying and fermenting process, the long-lasting bitter and fruity taste of the Papua New Guinean bean is the proud centerpiece of our Belcolade Origins Papua New Guinea 73 chocolate.
But, most importantly, how do farmers benefit from this improved quality? Directly upon receiving the beans, Cacao-Trace rewards farmers with a quality premium on top of the farm gate price. The Cacao-Trace program, together with our customers, also grants an additional and unique Chocolate Bonus of €0.10 per kg sold, 100% paid back to farmers. In Papua New Guinea this can be life-changing for a farmer.
We believe this focus on quality safeguards a sustainable future. Because in general, prices paid for cocoa are very low. On top of this, business as usual with a focus on productivity can lower the price even more. Focusing on value creation through superior taste pays off for everyone involved: from local cocoa farmers to chocolate lovers.
Supporting Cacao-Trace farmers through the COVID-19 crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic has become an extra challenge across the globe, including in Papua New Guinea. During these difficult times, Belcolade & Puratos are committed to secure the future of chocolate, especially for farmers. Despite the difficult market conditions, we support this global community of more than 8,000 farmers by guaranteeing their income, raising awareness about the virus, and ensuring hygiene measures. When needed we will provide medication, food, and financial support to help farmers fight the disease. No matter how challenging these times may be, we are standing by Cacao-Trace farmers!