How to Start Cocoa Processing Business

Post-harvest management and processing of cocoa beans are important to get the consumable form of cocoa. This article includes cocoa processing business plan sample checklist with a flowchart for a small unit.

Actually, raw cocoa is not a consumable item. So, it needs proper processing to get the cocoa beans and cocoa powder. Also, proper post-harvest management is important after immediate harvest of cocoa pods.

Actually, the demand for processed cocoa is growing globally. And if you live in a cocoa producing area, you can consider initiating a cocoa processing unit. Actually, the bakers, confectioners, chocolate manufacturers are the major consumers of processed cocoa.

5 Steps for Initiating a Cocoa Processing Unit

Step 1 – Craft a Business Plan

In starting this business, crafting a business plan is mandatory. Your business plan must include the financial analysis and marketing plan. Moreover, the plan must consist of Business Description, Product Description, Organizational Data, Marketing Strategy, Competitive Analysis, Operations Plan and Financial Information.

Step 2 – Secure a Space

In initiating the unit, you must have a wide space. However, the exact requirement depends on the level of processing you start and the volume of the product. Also, this type of business a wide space for storage the raw materials and finished items. So, depending on your business plan, you must secure a space for the processing operation.

Step 3 – Obtain License & Permission

Actually, cocoa processing and producing value-added products come under the food processing industry. So definitely, you will need to check the licensing requirements in your area.

Step 4 – Establish the Unit

Establishing the unit needs machinery installation, electrification etc. Also, you will need to hire skilled manpower for operating the unit smoothly

Step 5 – Cocoa Processing Method

After the immediate harvest of the pods, you can store them for a maximum of four days. Actually, it helps to enhance the pre-fermentation activity inside pods and helps to get good quality cured beans. You can break the pods by hotting them against a hard surface. And you can extract the beans without placenta keep them for fermentation immediately.

Fermentation

First of all, cover the raw beans by a sugary mucilaginous pulp. The beans with pulp around are called ‘wet beans’. The kernel or ‘nib’ is a useful part and is bitter without any aroma or flavor. Generally, the different methods of fermentation essentially involve keeping together a mass of a reasonable quantity of wet beans for four to six days. And also mixing thoroughly on alternate days.

The pulp around the mass is lost. Also, you can notice a series of biochemical changes in beans. And there are highly necessary for imparting the chocolate flavor. You must produce and conserve the heat by keeping fresh beans compactly. It helps to complete the chemical changes inside.

Biochemical Changes During Fermentation

Generally, the pulp contains about 80% water, 10-15% glucose and fructose and 0.5% non-volatile acids largely citric acid. You must sterile the initially. The presence of sugars and high acidity (PH 3.5) provide excellent conditions for the development of microbes.

Initially, yeasts start to proliferate and they convert sugars to alcohol. The watery contents of pulp flow off as sweating due to the breakdown of cells of the sap. Actually, it happens due to enzyme action or by simple mechanical pressure which continues for 24 to 36 hours.

The activity of yeasts leads to the production of CO2 which includes anaerobic conditions and allows the development of lactic acid bacteria. And it assists in the breakdown of sugars.

Actually, the activity of bacteria leads to the production of organic acids. When sweatings have run off, the conditions become more aerobic. Also, acidity gets reduced by removal of citric acid. The presence of oxygen allows the acetic acid bacteria to take over from yeasts and convert alcohol to acetic acid. These reactions cause a rise in temperature in the mass of beans.

Temperature in Biochemical Changes During Fermentation

Generally, the temperature rises steadily during the first 2 days reaching 40 – 45°C and after first mixing to about 48 – 50°C. This rise in temperature and acidity cause death of beans, followed by the loss in selective permeability of the membrane. Also, it causes the diffusion of materials from outside into the beans. And this causes the breakdown in the internal cell structure. Additionally, the PH of the cotyledon is around 6.6 and when the contents enter the bean, they lower the PH to about 4.8 and of fermentation.

The acetic acid diffusing in through the testa causes breakdown of polyphenol and lipid membranes of the vacuoles of the cell and cell contents are mixed. Also, various enzymatic reactions take place and polyphenol gets oxidized. The reaction is partially responsible for the removal of the bitter taste from the beans.

Different Methods of Fermentation

Actually, different cocoa producing countries adopt various methods for fermentation. However, the heap box and tray methods are the most standard ones.

Heap Method

This involves keeping a mass of not less than 50 kg of wet beans over a layer of banana leaves. You will need to spread the banana leaves over a few wooden sticks to keep them a little raised over the ground level. Actually, it facilitates the flow of sweating.

Then fold the leaves and keep over the heap. And keep few wooden pieces over it to keep the leaves in position. Then the heaps dismantled and beans are mixed at third and fifth days. It needs about 6 days for completion of fermentation. Finally, you can take out the beans for drying on the seventh day.

Tray Method

Wooden trays of 90 cm x 60 cm x 13 cm size with battens or reapers fixed at the bottom with gaps in between, are filled with beans. Each tray contains about 45 kg wet beans. Then, stack the six such trays one over the other and keep an empty tray at the bottom to allow the drainage of sweating. After stacking, keep the beans on the topmost tray cover with banana leaves. After 24 hours of setting, keep the stack of the trays covered with gunny sacking to conserve the heat that develops.

You don’t need to mix the beans. Generally, it takes 4 days for completion of the fermentation. On the fifth day, you can take out the beans for drying. You need to stack the minimum 6 numbers of trays. However, you can use as many as 12 trays simultaneously.

Box Method

In this method, you can use 1.2 m x 0.95 m x 0.75 m wooden boxes with holes at the bottoms. Fill the sides of the boxes with wet beans. Generally, these boxes can hold one tonne of wet beans. You will need to mix the beans on every alternate day. As the quantity of the beans is high, this is best done by changing the beans from one box to another at the time of mixing.

Small Scale Methods of Fermentation

For a small-scale operation, you can adopt both the tray method and box method. However, tray method is best one. You can operate with a few beans. Generally, a number of factors influence the duration of fermentation. Mainly, the weather changes and seasons are the most important aspects. Also, you can’t go for fermentation with unripe pods. Additionally, Criollo beans ferment more quickly than those of Forastero. Well-fermented beans are plump. They are filled with a reddish-brown liquid. The testae become loose and detached from the cotyledons.

Drying

You can dry the fermented beans either in the sun or by artificial means. You can sun-dry the beans in thin layers of 2-3 cm depth and stir from time to time. Under the normal sunny weather, you can complete the drying within 4-5 days. However, during the monsoon, you can adopt mechanical drying. However, you must provide proper care to avoid exposure to beans to smoke and fumes. After drying the beans properly, they produce a characteristic of cracking sound on compressing fistful of beans in the palm.

Storage

Under prevailing conditions in cocoa-growing belts, beans absorb moisture and attain equilibrium moisture content. Generally, it is not safe for their long-term storage. Therefore, you can store the beans without spoilage only for a short period. You can pack the dried beans with a moisture content of 6-8% in polythene-lined gunny bags. However, you must clean and break the beans before storage.

You must provide a sufficiently ventilated store. Also, keep the bags on a wooden platform with an air space of about 15-20 cm below the wooden planks set over the floor. You must control the humidity under 80% to prevent mold development and pest incidence in the beans.

As cocoa can absorb and retain any odor in its surroundings, you must avoid keeping food-stuff near it. Also, avoid the nearness to smoke or kerosene fumes. The success of cocoa processing and manufacturing the chocolates in the development of flavor by roasting the beans followed by several steps. Generally, it includes the extraction of cocoa butter from the nib and sugar to produce chocolate. You can follow the flowchart to get the various steps in detail.

Actually, there are several aspects that influence the character of chocolate taste and the aroma of cocoa products. It depends on each step of the manufacturing process. Precise standardization is necessary to make good quality cocoa products for the reputed processed food brands. In commercial cocoa processing, you must consider adopting sustainable strategies to minimize the loss and to optimize the profit revenue.