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set 28, 2017

Quality and diversity see Brazil’s chocolate exports get a boost

One of the world’s most prolific cocoa producers, Brazil has long been a fundamental part of the worldwide chocolate supply chain. But developments in recent years mean that Brazil has branched out from its role as a provider of the basic materials. Of late, small-scale producers and artisans have played a key role in developing Brazil as a true player in the world of chocolate, creating high-quality chocolate products to meet global demand.

Across the world, there is a growing taste for chocolate. Demand is so high that back in 2014, two of the world’s biggest global chocolate producers, Mars Inc and Barry Callebaut, warned that we could be approaching a chocolate deficit. Brazil has played no small role in mitigating this looming crisis, stepping up to the plate and amping up its production. According to data from Abicab, the Brazilian Association for Industry of Chocolates, Cocoa, Peanuts, Sweets and Derivatives, Brazilian production grew by 13 percent last year alone.

“Brazil is the 5th largest chocolate producer in the world,” says Ubiracy Fonseca, president of Abicab. Fonseca believes there’s further room for growth, especially looking at patterns over recent years: in 2016 alone, Brazil’s chocolate exports grew by 5 percent in comparison to the previous year.

Today, the biggest chocolate-producing regions are São Paulo, Paraná, Espírito Santo and Rio Grande do Sul, thanks to their rail, road and sea transport infrastructure. According to Fonseca, these regions alone ship chocolate to more than 100 countries, with clients in South America, Asia and the Middle-East among the primary consumers.

But Brazilian chocolatiers, not just cocoa producers, are also helping to mitigate this demand. “Brazil is arguably the only country in the world that produces all the main ingredients for chocolate - cacao beans, milk, and sugar,” Fonseca continues.

“Brazil can supply the right chocolate for all kinds of audiences, from the luxury market to the more popular kinds. But what sets us apart is the fact that Brazilian producers have state-of-the-art technology.” Increasingly, specialist and artisanal chocolate has been Brazil’s chosen target, allowing for high-quality production from cocoa farming to squares, slabs and bars of finished chocolate. This niche slice of the market also allows for producers to experiment, making use of other ingredients only found in Brazil.

Brazilian cocoa beans, especially those from South Bahia, are produced in the shade of the Atlantic Forest. They're part of a system known in the region as cabruca, which uses certain crops to help conserve rare tree species. Cabrucar is a local term meaning “to open holes,” as the cocoa is planted in small pockets surrounded by the forest. A few years ago, scientists from the New York Botanical Garden found more than 476 different vegetal species in the South Bahia region that had been preserved by this responsible planting method.

And Brazilian producers, known for resourcefulness, creativity and adaptability in the face of any challenge, have had ample success. Last year, artisanal Bahian chocolatier Fazenda Saragana began exporting a 100 percent Brazilian chocolate to the world’s capital quality chocolate, Belgium.

Nor is Fazenda Saragana the only firm expanding its worldwide reach: Amma Chocolates, Mendoá and Chor are all Brazilian chocolate producers that have seen significant growth over the last few years. Meanwhile Nugali, a chocolate company in Brazil’s southern Santa Catarina state, began introducing açaí, Brazil nuts and other unique ingredients and has increasingly piqued foreign interest in its products as a result.

Nugali’s products are a success among consumers and experts alike. In 2016, Nugali’s chocolates won the Silver Medal in the prestigious International Chocolate Awards, which recognizes excellence in the business. The medal was given to the company’s dark chocolate bars. “This category values the ‘pure’ chocolate, which means a lot to us,” said Ivan Blumenschein, Nugali’s founder, told the press.