Some Nigerian artisan chocolatiers are eager for a share of the $100 billion global market as they strive to change an industry that has long left cocoa farmers poor.
Chocolate makers such as Loshes, Kalabari Gecko, Tiwa and Loom Chocolates are now turning crispy, sour beans into chocolates to change the industry narrative.
“Now there are a lot of chocolate makers in the country and most of them already export their chocolates,” said Dokun Thompson, the Oloni of Eti-Oni and organizer of the Eko Chocolate Show.
Thompson, whose company also exports its chocolate to England, said most European countries that are major chocolate makers do not grow cocoa and benefit more from the global industry.
He called for a change of narrative, saying major bean producers should start reaping more benefits from the global industry by tapping into other opportunities in the value chain.
“We want to start profiting from our cocoa production by exploiting the opportunities in chocolate production,” he said.
According to experts, more than 70% of the world’s cocoa beans are used for production by major chocolate producers in North America and Europe to bring their sweet products from West Africa.
However, millions of smallholder farmers who depend on cocoa production for their livelihoods often have little or nothing to show for growing the commodity because most of them are not involved in processing the sour beans that are transformed into chocolates.
Instead, they focus on growing, harvesting and selling raw cocoa beans, which excludes them from the financial benefits produced by the lucrative chocolate industry.
In 2019, the International Cocoa Association estimated the value of cocoa exports from Africa at $10 billion per year and the total value of chocolate production at over $100 billion.
It is on this basis that the Nigerian chocolate industry strives to have its fair share of the ever-growing global chocolate market.
“We have opened a distribution center in Budapest, Hungary, where we plan to distribute to other European countries,” said Lawrence Afere, founder and managing director of Springboard, maker of Tiwa Chocolate in Ondo state. .
“There is a huge global market for chocolate, and we are working to get our share,” Afere said.
Uzoamaka Igweike, Founder and CEO of Loom Craft Chocolate – a chocolate manufacturing company in Abuja, said the chocolate market in Nigeria is dominated by foreign players.
She said the country needs dozens of Nigerian chocolate makers making high quality chocolate to capture the market so that “we can enjoy the full value of our cocoa”.
According to Euromonitor International, the size of the Nigerian chocolate confectionery industry is estimated at $31.1 million in 2021. Igweike said this indicates Nigerians’ love for chocolate, and it represents a huge opportunity.
To develop the local chocolate industry, experts are urging the government to invest heavily in research and development, while allowing research and technology institutes to build equipment for the industry rather than import.
“With local production of key industry equipment, more people will be attracted to the industry and jobs will be created,” Thompson said.
Sayina Rima, former national chairperson of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria, said the local industry will grow when the government starts promoting local cocoa consumption in the country.
“If we started consuming a lot of the cocoa we produce, we would create a lot of jobs for our people,” Rima said.
Rima said that daily consumption of cocoa drinks is good for the body, adding that cocoa drinks are medicinal and help prevent certain diseases.