Initiative background

The initiative is coordinated by The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT in close collaboration with the members of the Working Group and below is the background.

To respond to increasing demand of cocoa products, buyers, traders and chocolate makers seek a variety of quality and flavour profiles. However, internationally agreed procedures and terminology does not exist for cocoa as is the case for coffee and other crops.  This impedes clear communication among producers, buyers and consumers. It creates difficulties in understanding how buyers define and assess quality and flavour, affecting cocoa producers’ ability to effectively address issues related to quality improvement.

There is an urgent need for accepted, credible and verifiable protocols for the assessment of quality and flavour of cocoa beans to facilitate comparison, provide feedback to improve post-harvest processes and enable farmers to present the best value proposition to buyers. 

An informal Working Group was set up in September 2015 during the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) Annual Seminar on Cocoa in the Americas. The Cocoa of Excellence Programme was asked to coordinate this effort with the aim to explore the development of international standards for assessing cocoa quality and flavour, review practices in cocoa but also in coffee, wine, olive oil and other crops and make recommendations for further development. 

Between February and May 2016, Dr Darin Sukha of the Cocoa Research Centre of the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago, carried out a review of existing standards in cocoa and other crops and developed a first proposal titled ‘Elements of a harmonized international standard for cocoa quality and flavour assessment’ (Sukha, D., 2016). This work was supported by LWR under Cacao Movil, the United States Department of State, Swiss Development Cooperation and the Cocoa of Excellence Programme.  The proposal was reviewed in 2 broad consultations in Managua (September 2017) and Paris (October 2017) organized by Bioversity International and the Cocoa of Excellence Programme with support from LWR, AMACACAO, Christian Aid and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and all participating institutes. 

In June 2018, a one-year project funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) coordinated by Penn State University (PSU) supported the finalization of the first draft of the standards.  In June 2019, the USDA-funded project titled “Maximizing Opportunities for the Coffee and Cocoa Sector of the Americas” (MOCCA) with the cocoa component coordinated by LWR also included support to finalize the standards, translate into Spanish and implementation in the 6 target countries: Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru. 

The work presented here is the result of all these collective efforts.

Documents and meeting reports are accessible HERE

Initiative background