When we think of chocolate we usually think of the household names such as Guylian, Toblerone and Lindt; the Belgian, French and Swiss chocolatiers with their premium smooth silky chocolates that we see on supermarket shelves. But we rarely think of the journey and the story of their production, which in most likelyhood originates on the West Coast of Africa.
Though cocoa beans are native to South America and steeped in history in that continent, where the Olmec civilisation in current day Mexico are believed to be the first creators of chocolate, most production occurs in Africa where it is a major industry for countries like Ghana.
Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are the 2 largest producers and exporters of cocoa beans. Combined they make up more than half of all global cocoa beans exports.
Cocoa bean production 2019-2020 in Ghana amounted to 850 thousand tons! This is 25% of global supply and makes up around 7% of their GDP annually. Côte d’Ivoire more than doubles this as the largest producer in the world.
On a recent state visit to Switzerland, President Nana Akufo-Addo stated that Ghana wanted to be less dependent on exports of raw materials and foreign aid, instead becoming a hub for industry in Africa and manufacturing their own chocolate, adding value to the cocoa beans of which their production is such a large contribution to the global market.
There is an emerging chocolate industry in Africa with a growing appetite for chocolate products within the country itself and a desire amongst entrepreneurs to produce premium chocolate bars and products as good as the Swiss (one of their biggest trading partners). There are many small factories and artisan producers springing up utilising the country’s vast supply of cocoa beans.
One of the first entrepreneurial businesses was ’57 chocolates (a note to the independence of Ghana in 1957 from the English). Sisters Kimberly and Priscilla had the idea whilst visiting a chocolate factory in Switzerland. Their idea resounds with Nana Akufo-Addo’s speech. Why import chocolate back from Switzerland when Ghana already has the cocoa beans.
What started out as a made-to-order chocolate business has grown, now having ”57s’ products stocked in 6 countries across 4 continents including the UK. The chocolates themselves are wholly natural often using local ingredients. They tell a story, giving homage to Ghanaian history, culture and art including Adrinka symbols engraved on the tops of their chocolates which historically come from cultural fabrics worn by royalty. Of course the packaging too accentuates the story of the bean-to-bar brand.
Other bean to bar producers also have emerged such as Moments Chocolates and Niche Cocoa. Where a handful entrepreneurs lead, others will follow and of course this chocolate revolution is supported by the government of Ghana as part of their strategy to evolve as a nation in the world economy.
Ghana continues to produce more chocolate for its local market, adding value to its raw materials. We may see a further expansion into the international chocolate market. We can also see now that small artisan businesses can have a big impact in leading the way in industry.
For those with their own baking business, some questions you should ask is how can I add value to/with my product and how do I communicate the story of my product to the consumer?