Earlier this month, I was invited to participate in Peru’s “Salon de Cacao y Chocolate”, a five-day trade and consumer show dedicated to Peruvian chocolate makers and cacao producers.
As a delegate, I was able to attend conferences, demonstrations and round tables bringing together international chocolatiers and Peruvian cacao producers.
At the round table helping with the translations between Gerard Coleman and the cacao producers.
I was delighted that two leading British chocolatiers who I invited on behalf of the organising committee were able to come and discover the great cacao that Peru has to offer. Both Damian Allsop and Gerard Coleman from Artisan du Chocolat attended the show and shared their chocolate expertise with the Peruvian public.
What I loved about this show was that the cacao producers received as much appreciation and recognition as the chocolatiers, something that you rarely see at a European chocolate consumer show.
As I visit each stand, I am amazed to see so many Peruvian producers of high-quality chocolate.
There were more than 30 Peruvian chocolatiers and 20 cacao cooperatives and associations.
Wandering around the show, I can sense Peru’s determination to be both a producer of quality cacao beans and a maker of its own chocolate. This is a rare combination among cacao producing countries, which mostly export their beans and have little opportunity to produce or taste their own chocolate as a finished product.
The Peruvian cacao market is growing steadily. In 2011, Peru exported 56,000 tonnes of cacao in comparison to 47,000 tonnes in 2010. However, Peruvian chocolate consumption remains relatively low. While the Swiss, Germans and English consume over 10 kg of chocolate per capita per year, Peruvians only consume 0.5 kg. Hopefully, thanks to the efforts of the “Salon de Cacao y Chocolate” and the increasing number of local fine chocolatiers, we will see more and more Peruvians consume quality chocolate.
The highlight of the show was the prize-giving for Peru’s ‘Cacao de Oro”, or golden cacao, an initiative launched by various NGOs and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Peruvian cacao farmers were invited to send a sample of the most unusual and special cacao that they could spot in their plantations. The campaign was a huge success: 809 cacao pods were sent in from different cacao-producing regions.
The winning cacaos were selected for the physical characteristics of the pod, the raw beans and their aroma. The beans were also fermented and dried in order to see how they taste once they have gone through their post-harvest process. Eleven producers were selected for the distinction of winning the ‘Cacao de Oro’. The winning cacaos came from a cooperative north of Peru, which has special white criollo beans and a cooperative in in the central area of Peru.
Astrid, the wife of Peru’s most popular chef, Gaston Acurio, and the Director of the USAID Peruvian Cacao Program, Loren Stoddard, gave the trophies to the winners during the prize ceremony. It was great to see the producers given recognition for producing the best cacao.
It was in this occasion that I had the honour of meeting Juan de la Cruz Rivera Olemar, winner of the “cacao de oro”. I was keen to spend time with local producers and to discover the white special cacao bean of the Northern part of Peru, and Juan kindly invited me to his farming village.
In addition to the “Cacao de Oro” competition, there was a national selection for Peru’s best cacao beans. Each organisation was requested to send samples of their best beans. The beans were assessed according to their physical characteristics as well and taste. Once the beans were transformed into liquor, a panel of international experts in chocolate-tasting assessed and evaluated each of the samples.
As part of the conference, I was asked to make a presentation on the European chocolate market. Cadbury’s 2007 ads were a great hit; the gorilla ad and the moving eyebrows definitely struck home with the Peruvian public. It was great to seeing the cacao producers looking so intrigued at the kind of marketing that we do here in the UK to promote chocolate!
On the last day, the show was honoured by the presence of the Minister of Agriculture, Luis Ginocchio.
Lunch brought together the international group of chocolatiers and the organising committee of the event.
The international group of invitees consisted of chocolatiers, professional chocolate tasters, scientific cacao experts and representatives of various NGOs involved in the strengthening of the cacao supply chain.