Established since the 1980s, Tradin Organic has entered a totally new chapter with the opening of its new Crown of Holland, boutique organic cocoa processing plant in Amsterdam that has raised its profile globally as a new, independent cocoa products supplier.
The Netherlands has a long history as a world leader in cocoa processing. By the 16th century, one could find windmills built along the banks of the Zaan River, dedicated to cocoa beans grinding. Today, the port of Amsterdam is known as the largest cocoa port in the world.
While the organic cocoa beans represent a very small share of the total cocoa market, estimated at less than 0.5% of total production, it is growing strongly, according to International Cocoa Organisation estimates.
Tradin Organic ships certified cocoa beans from various countries of origin to the Crown of Holland facility where it uses cutting-edge technology and processing methods such as whole-bean roasting to produce semi-finished cocoa products or cocoa derivatives such as powder, butter and liquor with high quality and flavour used in chocolate and confectionery production by specialized manufacturers.
Part of the SunOpta group since 2008, Tradin Organic is headquartered in The Netherlands and had for many years outsourced processing of the beans into derivatives and acted in principle as a trader.
While it sourced cocoa beans from specific origins, depending on demand from the market, it was not able to offer the same flexibility in serving specific customer needs and wishes as it can now do with the Crown of Holland facility says Rafal Taciak, commercial director Cocoa, Tradin Organic.
The company now offers certain ‘fine flavour’ or specialty cocoa derivatives, such as cocoa liquor or cocoa butter made from cocoa beans from a specific origin to deliver cocoa derivatives exactly the way customers require them.
“We are now offering shorter lead times, through providing more products’ origins to becoming real partners in new project developments by decreasing the size of the minimum production batches, which is a vital factor in the organic cocoa world,” Mr Taciak says.
“In addition, bigger customers are now showing increased interest in the new cocoa factory, as an independent alternative to existing ones, or even a back-up plant in the more and more concentrated cocoa industry.”
The region of Amsterdam remains the place of the biggest concentration of cocoa processing in the world with over 500 K MT of cocoa beans ground annually,” Mr Taciak explains.
“Our niche organic cocoa factory is completing this offer of the Dutch cocoa industry to the chocolate world, by adding organic, fully traceable products,” he said.
An average sized cocoa plant can process about 70-100 K MT (kilo per metric tonne) of cocoa beans per year, while the biggest ones exceed 200 K MT, Mr Taciak explains.
“Our plant can currently grind around 9 K MT, though once this capacity is filled, we have technical possibilities to double it,” he says. “The organic market represents just slightly over 1% of the world’s cocoa supply, which is also why our factory, Crown of Holland is not as big.
“However sales growth projections are more positive than for conventional products, as organic goods consumption is growing very fast – over 5% per annum.”
The opening of Tradin Organic’s new facility, located in the sustainable business park of Agriport A7, has provided new opportunities in export markets. It has allowed the company to reach new customers in the Far East and Eastern Europe, while Western Europe and the USA remain its main markets.
Many factors are helping to drive demand and sales growth for sustainable and organic cocoa and chocolate, including many new projects over the last few years with a focus on creating “real chocolate” in contrast to the more and more standardized chocolate taste offered by mainstream producers, says Mr Taciak.
“These chocolatiers try to offer new taste profiles, often emphasizing cocoa beans origins, and make a big effort to provide chocolate connoisseurs with a product capitalizing upon the best the chocolate industry has to offer,” he says.
“That is also why these producers value our old-fashioned, artisanal way of whole-bean roasting, retaining more flavour in cocoa liquor, which influences the chocolate bar’s taste.
“Other demand growth factors include the rising awareness concerning organic food in general, therefore also chocolate, as well as more and more publications indicating a positive impact of chocolate/cocoa on cardiovascular health – especially dark chocolate.”
Tradin Organic is generally not seeing any price or supply pressures impacting on the market due to issues in West Africa.
“Considering the niche character of Tradin Organic’s business and the fact that our major sourcing origin is Latin America, the influence of West African origins has not been very impactful. On the other hand, the situation in West Africa does influence the whole cocoa market, which is why we follow it carefully”, Mr Taciak says.
Due to character of their business, Tradin finds the majority of cocoa supply in Latin America, especially in Peru, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador.
“However we keep adding new origins to this list, like countries of Central America, and Far East. For example the Philippines, where we established our own cocoa sourcing project.”
Mr Taciak points out that In terms of the supply chain, by being part of the organic world, Tradin Organic is able to ensure full traceability of the cocoa beans they later use in their production, that requires them to take all necessary measures to ensure traceability throughout the whole supply chain, i.e. from coops producing the beans all the way to the Crown of Holland plant that processes cocoa products.
Multiple major organic certifications are used for Crown of Holland products, such as EU, NOP, JAS, BioSuisse. On top of this the company offers products with sustainable programs like Rainforest Alliance Certified, Fairtrade (FLO), Fair Trade USA, and UTZ.
With The Netherlands being the Country of the Year at BIOFACH 2015, this is seen as another opportunity to raise the profile of Tradin Organic and Crown of Holland among customers.
“We want to grow with our customers and help them develop their new projects, sourcing from new, exotic origins, and we also plan to present our latest product, which is organic drinking chocolate,” Mr Taciak says.
Nielsen research recently pointed to the growth of mid-tier to premium-tier supermarket own brand or house brand chocolate. More supermarket brands are moving into the premium category with high quality presentation of products. Crown of Holland said that it has seen some interesting developments in this area, which sees mainstream supermarkets offering high-end chocolate products and thus positively influencing taste profiles and expectations of the end consumer group.