The Dark Future Of Chocolate

Fotg cocoa d055 cacao podsMaryam Henein, co-director of the colony collapse documentary The Vanishing of the Bees, now investigates some worrying developments that–gasp–threaten chocolate as we know and love it, at  Honey Colony:

Back in the Mayan age, around 1100 BCE, around the Upper Amazon River Basin, cacao was recognized as a “super” food, traded as a precious currency with a value on par with gold and jewels. By the 17th century, the Spanish added sugar (cane) to sweeten it, and the rest is history. As other European countries clamored to get in on the action and started exporting cacao trees to their colonies, Africa soon became the world’s most prominent grower of cacao, even though it’s not native to that continent.

The Cacao Genome
Today, cacao has devolved into a byproduct of itself. Instead of being viewed as the sacred fruit that it is, with all its nutritional benefits, cacao is largely seen as a candy bar, a mid-day fix, loaded with sugar, milk, and other substandard ingredients.

“Most people think of chocolate as a commodity and not a food,” says Jim Eber, co-author of Raising The Bar: The Future Of Fine Chocolate. “And the reason goes beyond process and back to a lack of connectivity between consumer and farmer and the work that goes into producing a great bean before a manufacturer can even produce great chocolate.”

Yet, demand continues to soar, in part because more and more unconventional markets (think China and India) are joining the chocolate craze. Currently, the global chocolate confectionery market is worth an astounding $102.3 billion, according to Euromonitor International. In 2012, the head of the U.K. Food and Drink Federation estimated that in about seven years, we’ll need another million tons of cacao beans in order fulfill consumer desire. That’s the equivalent of another Ivory Coast, the world’s largest cacao producer.

Supply just can’t keep up with demand for long. Companies like Mars, Hershey, and Nestlé — and even the International Cocoa Organization, which “constantly follows and analyzes” the world of cacao — have also expressed concern about the sustainability of the cacao supply. Big Agriculture, climate change, crop rotation, deforestation, cacao’s susceptibility to disease, child labor, and dollar signs are just some of the plagues attacking cacao. Still, there is hope for this orphan crop. (The term “orphan” is usually used to describe harvests that are neglected or underutilized.)

Chocophiles, scientists, and “Big Chocolate” believe that the chocolate center to this Tootsie Pop of impending economic disaster is the sequencing of the cacao genome…

[continues at Honey Colony, a health-oriented social network and marketplace featuring investigative stories, tales of transformation, and exceptional health and eco-friendly products.]

, , ,

  • echar

    “You can grow it as a house plant and it’s lovely, but it just won’t bear fruit ever unless it’s in that region,”

    Maybe someone will come up with a substrate and the right kind of warehouse to grow it? Like the vertical greenhouses I have been seeing plans for the last several years.

  • echar

    it’s those focused on candy and cash against those who care more about flavor and the environment.

    This seems to be the same story that’s been told for a very long time. Essentially, consumerism sucks young blood.

    • http://www.facebook.com/moushiepuss Maryam Henein

      But we can vote with our dollars and support companies that actually give a shit about taste health and the environment.

      • echar

        That is true :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/moushiepuss Maryam Henein

      But we can vote with our dollars and support companies that actually give a shit about taste health and the environment.

  • f.danese1410@gmail.com

    What may help is people realizing that cacao by itself (unprocessed, unheated to make the “chocolate” taste) is delicious and if added to things can bring a chocolately, nutty flavor… Perhaps with processing time cut in half more can be exported to meet demand? I hate milk chocolate but LOVE some raw cacao added into fruit shakes :D
    …but then again, that would be asking people to eat healthy. and I’m not sure we could stand for that!

    • echar

      South american hot chocolate is the best hot drink I know of. That is one way we can change how it’s ingested. I await for someone to make a mocha this way.

      • f.danese1410@gmail.com

        I love to make my own with just water, stevia, and powdered cacao. There’s also something else those south americans (or, at least, used to….) put into their cacao drinks that make it so tasty! or..not really..taasstty…. kinda… fungi-ey….. hhehehehe

        • echar

          Earthy sounds more appealing… lol

    • Jin The Ninja

      i also love raw cacao. although i much more unhealthily mix a 1/2 tsp into coffee in the morning. extra jolt with its caffeine like effect.

      • f.danese1410@gmail.com

        you know, coffee can actually be good for you, in moderation. it does have the caffeine, and it does have a lot of tannins, but I mean, in actuality, the creamer and sugar that typically goes in is worse than the coffee itself.. coffee has tons of antioxidants!

        • Jin The Ninja

          totally agree.i’ve been off cane/refined sugar for 4 years, only honey, maple or coconut sugar. and only maple and coconut sugar in coffee. and i use local goat’s milk as creamer (no additives, no preservatives, just cream).
          when i moved back to canada after years and years of living in the US and Asia, i was appalled by the seemingly national addiction to tim horton’s snake and palm oil. i mean if i had to drink that swill i’d never drink coffee.

          • kowalityjesus

            Its all about the cowboy coffee, hot water over a heaping tablespoon in the bottom of a mug.

      • http://www.facebook.com/moushiepuss Maryam Henein
      • http://www.facebook.com/moushiepuss Maryam Henein
    • http://www.facebook.com/moushiepuss Maryam Henein

      Hi. This is the author of the article. Sorry for my shameful but earnest plug. We’re running a sweet deal on cacao with superfoods for all you chocophiles. http://www.honeycolony.com/shop/chocolatl-gift-pack-2/

    • http://www.facebook.com/moushiepuss Maryam Henein

      Hi. This is the author of the article. Sorry for my shameful but earnest plug. We’re running a sweet deal on cacao with superfoods for all you chocophiles. http://www.honeycolony.com/shop/chocolatl-gift-pack-2/

  • Jin The Ninja

    i always have found it difficult to divorce cacao from child labour, cocoa from colonialism and, chocolate from corporate agriculture/food production.

    it should be rare, a delicacy, not mass produced and combined with other crops equally criminal to people and the environment – sugar and soy.

  • jnana

    threats of nuclear war and now, this! I’m not sure if I can take much more.
    not to mention my personal favorite addition to cocoa-Kratom leaf- is now being threatened. Exports of kratom from Indonesia are presently banned and deforestation caused by careless harvesters as well as increasing demand are destroying the remaining supply.

  • http://www.zoboprepublic.wordpress.com/ zobop republic

    Everbody coo coo for cocoa! I can see nations going to war over access to water, but for chocolate?
    *Like water for chocolate.* [ I had to get that out.]

21