Belgian company to bring Davao chocolates to the world

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/30 April) – Boasting of unique quality and fruity notes, a multinational company will introduce to the global market the single-origin chocolates sourced from the dried fermented cacao beans in Davao City once the testing stage is completed in two months’ time.

Luisito Medina-Cue Jr., general manager of Puratos Philippines, told reporters during the one-day Taste Tomorrow at SMX Convention Center on Friday that the final bean-to-bar products will carry the “Single Origin Philippines” brand in the market.

“You will see that in the market soon. It is also available in the local market,” he said.

Cue said that the company believes in the potential of Davao chocolates to compete squarely with other chocolate-producing countries in the world as it has a unique fruity flavor.

He said they will initially require eight tons of dried beans a month which will be processed in their manufacturing plant in Vietnam but the volume requirement may go up depending on the global demand.

“We are already on the testing stage. We are giving samples to the manufacturers. If these are all approved, we will start importing and processing chocolates in Vietnam and supply these to exporters who in turn will distribute them worldwide,” he said.

Cue claimed that Puratos is the biggest Belgian chocolate-maker in Belgium that gets dried and fermented single-origin cacao beans from Peru, Venezuela, Ivory Coast in West Africa, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

In a briefer, Puratos is present in over 100 countries, including the Philippines which provides, among others, bread improvers, confectionery products, emulsifiers, enzymes, sourdoughs, and yeasts,

Juan Miguel M. Avanceña, chief-executive officer of Tri-Foods Bakery Supplies Inc., the Mindanao distributor of Puratos, said the company is coordinating with Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao Inc. (CIDAMI) to reach the local farmers here.

More than a hundred farmers will benefit if the multinational company starts shipping beans from the city to Vietnam, he said, adding this will also significantly improve the name of the Philippines in terms of chocolates in the world.

“The Puratos is working very hard to make us a part of the international community of cacao producers. There is a certain accreditation required, they are working closely with Cidami – how to do the process of fermentation, so that in the world stage when you talk about Philippines they can recognize us,” he said.

He added that Puratos’ chocolate experts from Belgium did three tests on the Davao beans in Vietnam last March 2016 in an effort to improve and bring out its fruity notes.

“What they are looking for are the fruity notes that come out of chocolate. It tastes like chocolate but somehow there are notes and flavors that come out. That was the result of the third trial. They were satisfied and they would want to continue,” he said.

Cue, however, stressed that farmers must work to improve husbandry and fermentation as he explained the science behind the quality beans which includes “temperature controls, proper storage, materials, water content, and fermentation.”

“It’s not just mere drying of the beans,” he said. Puratos has vowed to bring in  technology to help out the local farmers meet quality requirements, according to Cue.

Fermentation is often missed out by farmers, which is said to bring out one-third of the taste of the chocolates, according to Cue.

“The quality of the seeds is one but if you get the process wrong that’s another. You’re missing one third of the stage. We have to correct it . That’s why we sent Belgians over to educate them and we have people to monitor and do series of testings,” he added.

Although it is not being discussed as of yet, Cue said they may plan to put up a manufacturing center in Davao as he said that “40 of our products are locally manufactured. Maybe in the future, as we grow the volumes.”

Cue envisions to produce the best chocolates coming from the Philippines backed by the right science “to make it tasty and delicious.”

CIDAMI executive vice president Valente Turtur said around 70 percent of the country’s cacao supply comes from Davao Region with 21,000 hectares planted to cacao trees.

The biggest cacao producer is Davao City with 6,200 hectares followed by Davao del Norte with 5,900 hectares.

But Philippines has to import beans from Malaysia and Indonesia to fill in the shortage of 40,000 metric tons a year as the country’s production capacity only averages at 12,500 MT a year, Turtur said.

Efforts have been taken up to hush up the production capacity, for instance, the Mindanao Development Authority’s “Double Up” program, an agency’s initiative in cooperation with Department of Agriculture (DA) which was launched in July 2015. The program seeks to double the target production volume from 100,000 MT to 200,000 MT by year 2020.

At the rate that the cacao consumption is growing, Turtur said there’s a projected one million MT of global cacao shortage by 2020. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)