By Vina Medenilla
Cacao is a high-value crop that can be made into various products, with chocolates, chocolate powder, and tablea being the most common ones.
In the Philippines, the major producer of cacao is the Davao Region, producing 80.6 percent share of the country’s total cacao production in 2021.
“There is really a need for us to develop the value-addition in our cocoa-based products such as chocolates since there [have] been many producers in other countries that produce the same kind of products,” said the Department of Trade and Industry’s Export Marketing Bureau (EMB) Dr. Jhino B. Ilano in a webinar titled “Exploring cacao opportunities in Domestic and Global Market,” by Philippine Cacao Industry Council (PCIC) and Philippine Cacao Industry Association, Inc. (PCIA INC.)
Ilano added, “So if we can try to innovate and put more value-addition, then we can have an edge in terms of selling these chocolates that we have.”
Among the cacao farmers in Davao is Harleen Moya U. Jao, CEO of NutraRich Nutraceutical Innovations, who has also shared her experience and expertise in value-adding cacao in the webinar.
“…If your product is sustainable, it is more profitable for farmers [and can likely to] demand higher prices that would be equivalent to premium quality beans that they can produce,” said Ilano.
Cacao usage in the Philippines
Cacao, according to Jao, is widely used for chocolate confectionery, which includes different categories: chocolate tablets (dark and white chocolate bars), chocolate box assortments (assorted chocolates in packs as pasalubong), countlines such as energy bars and chocolate-coated snacks, and chocolates with toys.
Other than that, cacao is often incorporated in cakes, pieces of bread, champorado, sauces, and spreads, among others.
When it comes to cacao processing, Jao said, “It is very important for us to do our research on what flavors and raw materials are more saleable than the plain ones.”
Based on the figures from Euromonitor International, which Jao presented during the webinar, sales and consumption of value-added chocolate products in the Philippines have increased from 2016 to 2021 and are expected to rise further over the next five years.
She explained that this reflects how local chocolate production is still not enough to meet the current market demand for value-added cacao products.
“We don’t need to worry about oversupply or [the market]. Selling our products would really depend on the creativity and the marketing we do in order to generate more sales.”
Data also revealed that, among chocolate variants, filled chocolates and plain milk chocolates have had the highest sales growth in the Philippines over the last six years, which is something that agripreneurs can consider.
Changes in consumer preferences are also something that chocolate producers must also take into account.
Jao says that dark chocolate flavor is also gaining popularity among health-conscious folks, especially with the existence of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Everyone [is adjusting] their diet, [and cutting down] sugar, so these are the changes we should also adapt to,” adds Jao.
Jao stated that many product innovations are being pushed by the current market situation, such as sugar-free and vegan chocolates. These are some things that agripreneurs can consider if they want to establish or grow their chocolate product line.
Distribution of chocolate confectionery
In terms of sales, modern grocery stores sell most chocolates. “E-commerce has gained ground in terms of selling. But it is still far away from the retail stores.”
When it comes to consumer behavior, she said that chocolates are often seen as an impulse purchase. For instance, when shoppers walk down the grocery aisles, they buy chocolates on the spur of the moment. This is also a factor why chocolate sales are higher in retail stores than in other distribution channels.
Rising demand for tablea based on search trends
According to Google Trends, from 2021 to 2022, tablea was most frequently searched in December. A majority of the search is coming from Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Region 12 (Soccsksargen), Metro Manila, and Davao Region.
This could indicate that individuals are more interested in tablea during the holiday season.
Jao has also noticed another tablea recipe that is popular among chefs and restaurants: tablea cakes. Cacao is also used to make a sauce for churros, donuts, and suman.
Other value-added chocolate products
Of course, tablea champorado is also on the top list, with many of its customers coming from Luzon, according to Jao.
Another market prospect for chocolate producers or manufacturers is single-origin chocolates.
“We are very lucky that this generation gives a focus on single-origin chocolates.” Jao explained, “Our consumers are more appreciative of what we do on the farm, who are the farmers, how sustainably we source our beans, and how special is the flavor that we produce.”
With the rising demand for single-origin chocolates, she said that this can be a marketing strategy that chocolate producers can use to promote their products.
Working with local cafes and restaurants, as well as collaborating with international brands (Krispy Kreme, Bubble Tea, etc.), can also be a major boost in brand awareness.
For the year 2022 and beyond, it is critical for agripreneurs to be versatile and not lose touch with the market’s preferences.
The chocolate-based products must be tailored to the needs of the ever-growing and evolving consumers.
By creating products out of cacao, cacao growers and processors do not just support the domestic cacao industry, but most importantly, we are directly supporting Filipino cacao farmers.
Clearly, there is money to be made in value-added cacao products when they are properly marketed and processed.
The information provided above is from a webinar titled “Exploring cacao opportunities in Domestic and Global Market,” by Philippine Cacao Industry Council (PCIC) and Philippine Cacao Industry Association, Inc. (PCIA INC.)