First Australian chocolate on horizon

Cocoa Australia, a subsidiary of biotechnology company Horizon Science, will harvest Australia’s first commercial cocoa crop early this year out of Mossman in the far north of Queensland, and aims to make cocoa growing and processing a viable new industry in Australia.

It is anticipated that the first 100% Australian chocolate bar will be available in Australia by mid-2008.

It is unknown at this stage which companies will use the Australian-grown cocoa.

“We are going to be growing both regular and organic cocoa and we will consider as many supply options as we need to provide the best returns to our shareholders,” Horizon Science’s founding partner and chief operating officer Barry Kitchen said.

That may involve supplying a sister company, Farm by Nature that owns the Cocoa Farm brand, with either bulk chocolate or cocoa liquor, for producing its brand of chocolate.

Alternatively, Cocoa Australia will develop its own brand and market the cocoa ingredients and finished products itself.

Until now, the Australian chocolate manufacturing industry has used only imported cocoa supplied mainly from parts of Africa and Central America.

Tackling overseas supply

Speaking as Farm by Nature’s director, Dr Kitchen attributed the absence of a cocoa farming industry in Australia to it being “too labour intensive” for the return on investment.

Also, the majority of chocolate and confectionery manufacturers are large multinational companies that can source cocoa cheaply and easily from overseas.

“As opposed to competing with suppliers of dried cocoa beans in Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Central America, which is virtually impossible because of high labour costs in Australia, we’ve developed a total supply chain model which involves everything from growing the seedlings to making the chocolate to sell directly to consumers.”

The development and growth of a cocoa manufacturing industry in Australia has the potential to provide many benefits to chocolate manufacturers.

Horizon Science anticipates local demand from smaller, niche manufacturers that want to produce premium-priced chocolate, and from overseas companies looking for varietal difference in their products.

Horizon Science also cites trends towards organic and healthier chocolate as driving demand for its cocoa products.

“Cocoa has never been grown commercially in Australia because, until now, noone has looked carefully at the best business model to make it viable for both growers and processors,” Kitchen said.

“We’re trying to move chocolate into the same category as wine and specialty products that are fermented in the dairy industry,” Kitchen said.

“By having intimate knowledge of fermentation conditions you can dial up different flavours that are unique and appealing to the consumer.”

Using patented fermentation technology that will be commercialised in 2008, Horizon Science will be able to deliver a range of consistent but unique chocolate flavours.

For further information contact Dr Barry Kitchen at Horizon Science or Cocoa Australia.

Send this to a friend