Episode 3: Ensuring Safe and Consistent Quality of Cocoa Products on a Global Scale

By 28 March 2023July 26th, 2023Quality Leaders Podcast

From a cocoa farm in a tropical country all the way to your local supermarket, a lot can happen to a cocoa product. How do companies ensure that the end product is safe to consume? And is it possible to make a piece of chocolate taste exactly the same in every part of the world when there are so many variables? In this podcast episode host Maxime gets answers to those questions from Gern Huijberts, global director at Cargill. 


Cocoa beans naturally contain a lot of contaminants, which makes it hard to ensure quality

Most cocoa beans come from the Ivory Coast and Ghana. 70 percent of the total volume, to be precise. The rest come from other tropical countries, like Indonesia, Ecuador and Nigeria. Cocoa beans are a natural product in those areas and the so-called ‘cocoa farms’ are actually forests. “I visited a cocoa farm in Ivory Coast once. It didn’t look like a traditional farm, it was just a forest. There were other trees as well, like coffee and banana trees”, Gern Huijberts describes. The problem is that the soil in those environments can contain contaminants. Cadmium, for example, is something you find in the soil of areas with volcanic activity. 

The more the technology develops, the stricter the rules become

Recently, there has been a big development in the chemical analysis of cocoa products. What was impossible 10 years ago, in pesticide analysis for example, is now very easy. But that is some sort of self-propelling system, according to Gern Huijberts. “When analytical techniques get better and more contaminants can be detected, customers are imposing their limits. Simply because it’s possible”, he says. And so the cocoa industry needs to test the beans and end result very precisely, to meet the stricter standards.

One of the biggest improvement within the cocoa industry, is a global platform

To analyse cocoa beans, a lot of technical instruments can be used. “Neo infrared, for example. To measure the moisture or the fat in a cocoa bean”, says Huijberts. But recently they have implemented a global network that connects all that equipment. “Whether we do a moisture analysis in Brazil or in the Netherlands, it’s all the same platform. That enables us to do a lot of things quicker, more accurately and more standardised”, Huijberts explains. Nonetheless, he stays humble. “It’s a mundane system, not as fancy as ChatGBT.”