Australia’s ‘better’ carob given boost by demand for healthy chocolate

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags Australia

Global demand for healthy, natural foods is helping to drive a resurgence in carob production in Australia, which currently supplies just 1% of the world’s market.

South Australian businesses Australian Carob Company and The Carob Kitchen are the two largest producers in Australia and have found export success with their nutritious carob bars, powders and syrups. 

Carob rose to popularity in the 1980s as a chocolate substitute because of its natural sweetness. It is again experiencing a spike in demand as a result of its nutritional value, which includes its high fibre, calcium and protein levels. 

Carob powder is now used in milkshakes, as a natural chocolate sweetener and in baking. Carob syrup is used as a spread and can be enjoyed on pancakes, ice cream and breakfast cereals. 

It is believed that there are around 400 hectares of carob orchards around Australia, while potential annual production is estimated to be about 1,000 tonnes, with each tree producing around 100-200kg of carob pods. 

The Australian Carob Co has developed what it claims to be the world’s purest carob product, which is also nut and gluten free. 

South Australia is the nation’s largest carob-producing state and exports to many countries including Singapore, Japan, America and Britain. 

Australian Carob Company founder Michael Jolley said although the Australian carob was still finding its place within the global food industry, its quality was unparalleled. 

There are a lot of health benefits with carob and the benefit of using it without adding sugars​,” he said. 

It is very good for your digestive system and high in fibre. It’s got vitamins, protein, calcium and iron—it’s 100% organic​. 

We are totally nut free and gluten free because we are the only non-contaminated carob in the world with full traceability​.” 

Jolley’s orchard near Burra is about 150km north of Adelaide and spans more than 30 hectares. It is home to more than 6,000 carob trees. 

Australian Carob Company products are shipped in six-metre containers, which weigh almost 10 tonnes each. 

Jolley said his products were processed without any contamination and without any waste, which made them highly regarded in Spain. 

In other places they use machines for almonds, walnuts, pistachios and other things. We grow, harvest, process and package all of our products on the farm​,” he said. 

Even in the home country of carobs (Spain), the quality of our South Australian carob is better​.” 

Jolley said South Australia’s long dry summers and wet winters played a key role in being able to grow a range of different species, including Casuda, Clifford, Sfax, Santa-Fa, Tyleria and Waite. 

Carob Kitchen has about 3,500 carob trees on a farm at Port Elliot, on the Fleurieu Peninsula south of Adelaide. 

Director Sophie Richards said the international carob industry was experiencing strong growth and had been backed by a number of celebrities. 

Our original trees are about 20 years old. We launched at the right place and the right time​,” she said. 

The health food industry has played a major part in the growth of our brand with our most successful product being our healthy alternative confectionary with no added sugar. Even Jamie Oliver is on the band wagon​.” 

The Carob Kitchen export to the United Kingdom and New Zealand, with plans to expand into Japan and America soon.

Although Australia represents less than 1% of global production, Carobs Australia secretary treasurer Henry Esbenshade said the “clean-and-green​” image of foods from Down Under has helped drive demand for Aussie carob. 

The high-quality processing and packaging of products sold by the Australian Carob Co and the Carob Kitchen is another important element in improving their competitiveness and appeal to international buyers​,” he added. 

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