New frontiers: Japan’s origin chocolate sector ripe for innovation, says Tachibana

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Japanese chocolate uses mainly Ghanian cocoa, but Tachibana spots demand for more origins. Photo: iStock - Irochka_T
Japanese chocolate uses mainly Ghanian cocoa, but Tachibana spots demand for more origins. Photo: iStock - Irochka_T

Related tags Ghana Chocolate Sierra leone

Tachibana & Co hopes to diversity Japan’s chocolate sector by offering cocoa origins beyond Ghana.

The Japanese cocoa ingredients supplier estimates around 80% of Japan’s cocoa imports come from the West African nation – the world’s number two cocoa producer.

But it says the US bean-to-bar chocolate movement has spread to Japan, with consumers nationwide seeking varied single-origin bars.

Creating a market

"We want to create a market," ​director of Tachibana​ Wataru Ikuta said at the recent Cocoa Revolution conference in Vietnam.

"So many countries are starting to produce cocoa beans, but the Japanese market is only buying almost all Ghana.

"As a trading company we want to cover more rising demand and emphasize our sustainability projects in producing countries,” he said.

Tachibana sells cocoa beans, cocoa ingredients and supplies chocolate. For the Japanese market, the company stocks 20 cocoa origins and 30 different varieties, including beans from Vietnam, Nicaragua, Tanzania Ecuador and Colombia.

One of Tachibana’s customers is Minimal, a premium bean-to-bar chocolate brand in Japan.

Controlled fermentation and higher cocoa price

"We want to pay a higher price to the farmers,"​ said Wataru. He said this came amid growing interest in sustainable products from Japanese consumers.

Tachibana is paying above the market price of bulk cocoa (around $2,500 per metric ton) for well-fermented cocoa. It will pay as much as $10,000 per MT for cocoa from a fermentation center and around $200 above the market price for cocoa that has been well-fermented by farmers.

The firm has one cocoa fermentation center in Ghana and hopes to expand to other districts in the country. It is also conducting cocoa fermentation center trials in Tanzania and Vietnam and a post-harvest project in Sierra Leone.

For Tanzania and Sierra Leone, Tachibana plans a ‘Chocolate Fund’ to reward farmers, whereby it will collect funds from customers and pay in dividends to farmers. This was a concept pioneered by Puratos Grand-Place.

Tachibana has 25 employees. It began to export in 2010 and a third of its revenues now come in international markets. The firm has offices in Osaka, Tokyo, Singapore, Amsterdam and Accra.

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