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People all over the world carry some form of responsibility


2017-08-07

People all over the world carry some form of responsibility: some towards the American nation and others, towards making the planet great again. For us, it's the duty to “make Asian cocoa great again,” says Barry Callebaut.

Even if the slogan appears to be just a tongue-in-cheek statement for an international cocoa conference this October, this call to “make Asian cocoa great again” is getting some excited, says the company. Is this a premonition of a return to an age when cocoa crops and grinding were at an all-time high?

The entire cocoa supply chain is long, from sourcing cocoa beans from farmers all the way to selling cocoa ingredients to customers. When you scan through the entire supply chain and its processes, you will naturally find a number of areas with the possible mileage for problems. 

Cocoa bean production in Asia has experienced some quick increases and declines over the past decades. In the 1980s, Asian annual cocoa production hovered around 400k metric tonnes (MT), went up to over 600k MT in the mid-2000s, but today is less than 400k MT.

The industry has witnessed the almost complete disappearance of the Malaysian crop and now, the trends in Indonesia are worrying. The steady and deep decline in cocoa supplies from Indonesia in the last few years is a big issue. The country has been the main supplier of cocoa beans in Asia and to the Asian factories. Needless to say, there is a high level concern in the industry regarding this and many are trying to take action to reverse it. 

Regarding cocoa products, there is the question of whether cocoa and chocolate growth has hit a wall. Looking towards North America and Western Europe, one can see changes in consumer behavior driven by the undercurrent of evolving snacking habits and concerns surrounding health and sugar consumption. 

Although cocoa and chocolate are still on an upward trend in Asia - with regional growth estimated at 5% - there is still the nagging question of whether the changing consumer patterns in North America and Western Europe will influence or have already influenced the growth opportunities in Asia. Perhaps the double digit growth forecasts were overly enthusiastic?  To put it in context, a 5% growth would be lauded as fantastic for the European market. 

Recently there has been a lot of interest on cocoa beans in other countries too, like Vietnam and Philippines, for example. The opportunities for raw material there is still very exciting.  

Looking at the health of the market from a products perspective, it is probably still the most robust in terms of growth and new things happening in the market. So on the demand side, yes, there has been a change in perhaps the speed of growth, but the industry is still growing at very high levels in an extremely dynamic market. 

Take Japan for example. Japan was perceived as one of the quickest declining markets in Asia. In the past year however, there were some really interesting developments in cocoa and chocolate in the market. A huge emphasis on the health benefits of dark chocolate and the positive benefits of flavanols in cocoa drove market growth of over 5% - something unprecedented in previous years. This turn of events established the confectioneries segment as the biggest snacking category in the country. 

On top of that, there are many other markets in Asia spotting interesting developments, each evolving in accordance to its distinct consumer trends. The well-being of the consumption and manufacturing sector is very dynamic, so there are many positive things on that front.

If there are such dynamic developments happening in an old market like Japan, one only needs to look at the newer markets such as India and China to consider how many opportunities there really are in Asia. Of course, the title of the conference was tongue-in-cheek on some levels but people should focus on the golden opportunities in Asia. 

These are the questions and issues Barry Callebaut wants everyone to huddle around at the next international cocoa conference in Asia. It is prime time to discern together the opportunities available and the true growth potential of the Asian markets. Is it really as dynamic as people think they are? 

There are many positive things and that’s why Bas Smit, Global Marketing Director of Barry Callebaut, will be a speaker at the conference, the company announced.