Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Bean-to-bar companies require specialized equipment that Wisconsin makers may be able to provide.
According to Agricultural Agri-Foods Canada’s last report on the chocolate confectionery market completed in 2012, the industry had shrunk in terms of employees in the sector, but the volume of sales, exports and imports were steadily increasing. The closure of the Hershey factory in Smith Falls, Ontario, in 2009 was a key contributor to that employment decline.
While large operators such as Mars and Cadbury continue to manufacture in Canada, the real growth is in the bean-to-bar industry. Bean-to-bar means the chocolate is made from scratch and all naturally with no fillers. The imported cacao beans are superior beans—typically fair trade, organic or direct trade—and the products are made on site in small batches, utilizing processes such as roasting, cracking, winnowing, grinding, conching and tempering. Some of the key bean-to-bar manufacturers in the Canadian market source cacao beans directly from farmers in Mexico, Colombia and other cacao-producing regions. The end product is a very high-quality chocolate viewed as artisanal with a corresponding price point. Due to the quality of the beans and the lack of fillers, the products boast antioxidant properties and better health properties, as the vast majority of products are dark chocolate. The trend has also persuaded some of Canada’s more traditional domestic chocolate manufacturers to switch to sustainably sourced cacao to respond to consumer demand.
In 2015, the last year statistics were gathered, retail sales of chocolate in Canada grew by 4 percent, but fair trade-certified chocolate sales have been growing at an annual rate of 35 percent in Canada.
While the bean-to-bar industry in the U.S. has been strong for a number of years, it is a relatively new industry in Canada, with significant growth over the last 5 years among Canadian makers. Five years ago, Soma in Toronto was one of the only bean-to-bar makers in the country. Today, across Canada there are close to 40 companies producing bean-to-bar products. Canadian products have begun to gain international recognition, with an Ontario company being awarded a best-in-class award in 2016.
The bean-to-bar chocolate industry presents an opportunity for Wisconsin equipment manufacturers focused on the small-batch chocolate industry. While many small shops start off with very small volumes and utilize coffee roasting/grinding equipment, as these companies grow they require more specialized equipment to maintain a consistent texture throughout the process. Many of the small companies across Canada are increasing their manufacturing capabilities as their sales grow, and may require equipment to do so.