18 Jun 2013

NZ company to produce Solomon Islands branded chocolate

4:50 pm on 18 June 2013

A New Zealand-based company is planning to produce the world's first Solomon Islands chocolate line.

Cocoa exporter C-Corp last month shipped six tonnes of cocoa beans from Honiara to its newly established processing plant in Tauranga.

Cassandra Mason reports:

While the initial plan will be to process and distribute cocoa products to New Zealand manufacturers, General Manager Peter Keyte says the company wants to create the first-ever product line of chocolate sourced exclusively from Solomon Islands. He says the New Zealand market will be a good place to launch 100 percent Solomon Island chocolate bars, which C-Corp hopes will happen by 2014.

"PETER KEYTE: New Zealand's got some very good little chocolatiers, and there's heaps of them around. And you've got a very good cafe culture and organic healthy lifestyle base which would suit the sale of Pacific products in general and nibs and the quality products."

Mr Keyte says the chocolate bar will be C-Corp's elite product, made from the top 5 percent of the beans. He says Solomon Islands cocoa beans have a unique and better quality flavour than the larger African beans. But it's the inconsistency in the quality of Solomon Islands' cocoa that has stood in the way of a specific origin brand until now. Mr Keyte says C-Corp aims to change that.

PETER KEYTE: The ultimate thing for us is to try and get full plantation control so that we've got full vertical control of the quality of cocoa beans. At the moment, there is huge variation in the quality of the cocoa that's produced.

While the project is still in formative stages, Mr Keyte says C-Corp hopes to soon be exporting 30 tonnes of cocoa beans to New Zealand a month. The New Zealand High Commissioner to Solomon Islands Mark Ramsden says the project will be beneficial for both countries.

MARK RAMSDEN: This is, you know, a great opportunity for Solomon Islands. The New Zealand Government has been very focused on increasing two-way trade between New Zealand and the Pacific and sees that as a priority, so the opportunity for Solomon Island cocoa growers and C-Corp as an exporter to boost their revenue is really great.

Mr Ramsden says exports will create demand locally, as most cocoa producers in Solomon Islands are smallholders. He says plans to increase the exports and have Solomon Islands branded chocolate on sale will also be a great step for the country. The shipment arrives not long after chocolate giant Cadbury-Kraft revealed its plans to source 10,000 tonnes of cocoa from Solomon Islands.