Puratos is a Belgian family-owned business, founded in 1919. Puratos is an international company with a full range of innovative products and solutions for the bakery, confectionery and chocolate sector.
Puratos is always looking for quality improvement and continues to innovate, Puratos does this through the taste tomorrow program, among other things, in which extensive desk research but also customer and foodie interviews are discussed in order to be able to feel where the needs and wishes are.
Belgian chocolate enjoys an excellent reputation all around the world. Since Puratos has always had a passion for chocolate, it was a logical step for them to invest in the rich Belgian traditional way of making chocolate. In the 1980s, Puratos decided to safeguard one of Belgium’s most cherished gastronomic legacies: real Belgian chocolate.
A better world for everyone therefore requires a solution that requires the involvement of everyone who loves chocolate.
In September 1988, Puratos launched a new brand exclusively produced in Erembodegem, near Aalst in Belgium: Belcolade. Not just any new brand, but the result of the shared passion of their people and the great taste of real Belgian chocolate.
Cocoa trees only occur around the equator, because of the ideal weather conditions regarding temperature and humidity. The cocoa trees make high demands on temperature, precipitation, but also on the soil. Cocoa mostly comes from most West-Africa (Ivory Coast and Ghana) as well as from Central and South America, but also from Indonesia and Vietnam.
On average, a cocoa tree can live up to 50 years. The trees grow on average up to 10 meters in height. The trees have a relatively ”thin” trunk in relation to their height. When the tree is 4 years old it will flower, once it has flowered, the cocoa tree will flower continuously almost all year round. The tree therefore always bears fruit.
Despite the long flowering period, the cocoa tree only produces thirty to forty fruits per year. These fruits resemble elongated “melons”. They are picked and then broken open. Each fruit or also called a “pod” contains 40 to 50 “beans”, each weighing about one gram. An average cocoa tree therefore produces (only)1 to 2 kilograms of beans per year.
The cocoa beans, with the pulp still attached, are fermented with the help of natural fungi and bacteria. The fermentation process takes about 5-7 days. This crucial step in the process is extremely important for the final quality of the cocoa. After fermentation, the drying process follows, which also takes about 5 – 7 days. Afterwards, the beans that are not processed locally are exported to e.g. Europe, where it is eventually transformed into cocoa mass, the base for chocolate.
So an accelerated version of the process is as following:
1. Growing Cocoa is extracted from the fruit of the cocoa tree also called Theobroma (meaning “drink of the gods”). Each tree produces an average of 20-40 cocoa fruits per year, these fruits contain the cocoa beans. These vary in quality, color and taste.
2. Harvesting Usually the cocoa beans are harvested between September and March. It takes about 5 months before the fruits are ripe and can be harvested. Each cocoa fruit contains between 30 and 50 cocoa beans with white flesh surrounding it.
3. Processing After harvesting, the beans are removed from the husks and undergo a 2-part process. The beans are stored with pulp in baskets or pits in the ground and covered with leaves. They are stored for 5 days so that bacteria and fungi can ferment the beans. After fermentation, the beans have changed color and acquired the characteristic chocolate flavour. After that, they are placed in the sun for a few days to dry.
4. Sorting Before the beans go to the factory, they are sorted according to size and quality. In the factory, the beans are extensively tested for the presence of insects and fungi.
5. Roasting The beans are roasted at a temperature of between 120 and 150 degrees Celsius for half an hour. Roasting is very important for the quality and taste of the cocoa. Therefore, all beans are roasted evenly so that they do not burn. After roasting, the beans are compressed, releasing the husk from the nib. The shells are blown away leaving only the cocoa nibs.
6. Compression The nibs are ground into a thick brown liquid mass, which consists of 55% to 60% cocoa butter. The mass is compressed until the cocoa butter passes through a sieve, leaving a powdery mixture. This powder is ground into cocoa powder.
Belcolade also offers milk and dark chocolate with less sugar, this sugar-reduced chocolate has a score D on the nutria score. There is absolutely no compromise in taste and structure. We notice that there is increasing demand from consumers to consume less sugar. This is certainly worth a try for those who would like to enjoy a bit more “sensibly” once in a while.
In order to continue to meet the increasing demand for chocolate and thereby improve both the living conditions of the cocoa farmers and the value they receive for their products, Puratos looked for a solution that benefits everyone and which contributes to a better world, for everyone, a new program named: Cocoa-Trace.
What makes Cocoa-Trace so special?
The cocoa farmers hand in all their cocoa beans to a Puratos post-harvest center and are paid immediately. Puratos pays a premium quality bonus, which ensures a price that is above the standard price (farmgate price). The quality premium usually means an extra income for the cocoa farmers of 2 to 3 monthly salaries.
In the post-harvest center, the fermentation of the cocoa beans takes place under controlled conditions, which ensures our unique and distinctive taste. For every kilo Puratos sells to their customers, €0.10 goes back to the communities of the cocoa farmers. Puratos calls this the chocolate bonus.
What happens to the chocolate bonus?
Several great projects have already been completed with this chocolate bonus. For example, new schools have been built, water reservoirs have been installed, school supplies have been arranged, sanitary facilities have been built and a maternity hospital has been built. This always happens in consultation with the local population to see what they need. In 2021 the program has been able to realize € 1,000,000 in chocolate bonus and it is assumed that this will only grow further in the coming years.
Cacao-Trace responds directly to the need for a more sustainable and transparent cocoa supply chain, providing cocoa farmers with both technical and expertise support. This improves quality and guarantees continuity. In this way, the cocoa farmers can diversify their income, maximize yields and optimize the quality of the cocoa beans.
With the Cacao-Trace program, Puratos gives cocoa farmers all the tools to allow them to look more closely at plantation management but also at environmental protection techniques. In this way the plantations can be managed in a more autonomous way and the most maximum result can be obtained from each plantation.