Ceremonial Drink to Industrial Powerhouse: The Evolution of Chocolate

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Chocolate has come a long way in form and flavour from its origins in Mesoamerica, where it was traditionally served as a bitter, spiced drink during Mayan ceremonies. Upon their arrival in the Americas, the Spanish coveted the drink, but eventually lost their monopoly over the European chocolate market. By the 16th and 17th century, Europeans had added sugar and by the 1800’s it began to resemble what we now recognize as chocolate.

The 20th and 21st century saw chocolate marketed as everything from a stable, to a symbol of luxury, sophistication, and even sensuality.

But the reality behind chocolate production is a long ways from sexy. Think fewer women dressed as Greek goddesses fawning over Ferrero Rocher, and more farms, factories and industrial chocolate.

Now, industrial chocolate might be a confusing yet titillating term for any chocolate lover. What this actually refers to is a combo of cocoa liquor and butter, which are mixed with other ingredients like sugar and powdered milk to become the product that chefs, artisans, and other food manufacturers use to create consumer goods like chocolate confectionary, bakery products, ice-cream, and beverages.

Evolution of the industrial chocolate market

The varieties, grades, formulations, processing techniques, equipment, and functionalities of industrial chocolate have evolved and diversified over the years. Manufacturers are constantly experimenting with combinations to improve on the color, flavor, nutritive value, and texture of signature chocolates.

These constant experimentations are forcing the industrial chocolate market to evolve structurally through concentration and vertical integration. Cocoa trading and processing has merged over the years, and cocoa processors have moved into the industrial chocolate production market.

Bean-to-bar manufacturing vs outsourcing

Industrial chocolate is roughly divided into bean-to-bar manufacturers and consumer brands.

Bean-to-bar manufacturers like Barry Callebaut, Cargill, Blommer, and ADM make chocolate, not chocolates (a very important distinction in this market). They procure and process cocoa beans in-house, rather than outsourcing this part of the operation.

On the other hand, there are companies like Kraft Foods, Mars, Hershey’s, and Nestlé that outsource the ingredients and manufacture industrial chocolate in-house.

The market is actually seeing more partnerships between major brands and chocolate suppliers and traders, with key market vendors becoming involved in the whole process—from sourcing through processing and manufacturing of cocoa-based products.


Global taste for chocolate will keep driving market growth

We said before that the industrial chocolate market is massive. But in case that didn’t fully sink in, consider this: The global industrial chocolate market shipped 6,432.1 thousand metric tons in 2014, and this number is going to grow through 2019.

Growth in the market makes sense, since people tend to really like chocolate and this isn’t going to change anytime soon. And while it can sometimes be difficult for really well-established markets like this one to post any growth at all, Technavio expects market growth will be led by changing consumer tastes.

Premium chocolates, dark chocolate and unconventional flavours are all expected to gain more traction through the forecast period, which will ultimately result in steady (if modest) growth in the industrial chocolate market.

Want more? Check out Technavio’s report on the global industrial chocolate market.