Bean to bar: the chocolate industry in Canada

The bean to bar trend has spurred specific equipment needs for the Canadian market.

According to Agricultural and Agri-Foods Canada’s 2012 report, the chocolate confectionery industry had shrunk in terms of employee numbers, but sales, export, and import volumes were steadily increasing. (The closure of Hershey’s Smith Falls, Ontario factory in 2009 was a key contributor to the 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 naturally, from scratch, and without fillers. Imported cacao beans  are superior beans; typically fair trade, organic or direct trade, with products made on site and in small batches, using processes such as roasting, cracking, winnowing, grinding, conching, and tempering. Some key bean to bar manufacturers in Canada 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 the corresponding price points. Thanks to high-quality beans and a lack of fillers, bean to bar products boast antioxidant and better health properties,  with the vast majority containing dark chocolate ranging in percentage of content.

The trend has also persuaded some of Canada’s traditional domestic chocolate manufacturers to switch to sustainably sourced cacao, in response to consumer demand.

In 2015 (the last year statistics were gathered), retail sales of chocolate in Canada grew four percent, but Fairtrade-certified chocolate sales by volume have been growing domestically at an annual rate of 35 per cent.

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 few years. Five years ago, Toronto’s Soma was one of a few bean to bar makers in the country. Today there are close to 40 companies across Canada producing bean to bar products. Canadian products have also begun to gain international recognition, with an Ontario company being awarded a best in class award in 2016.

The bean to bar chocolate industry offers an opportunity for equipment manufacturers who focus on the small batch chocolate industry. While many small shops start off with very small volumes and use coffee roasting/grinding equipment, these growing companies eventually require specialized equipment to maintain a consistent texture throughout the process. Many small chocolatiers across Canada are increasing their manufacturing capabilities, and their equipment needs will grow in tandem with their sales.

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