Whole Cacao Products: Sustainable and Healthy

Chocolate is one of the Western world’s favorite sweet treats. The delicious cocoa-based candy comes part and parcel with birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and celebrations of all kinds. However, the demand for chocolate slowed for the first time during the pandemic when many consumers actively avoided unhealthy luxuries.
Although the chocolate market has since recovered, today, many people still want healthier ways to enjoy cocoa. One of those ways is to eat the entire cacao fruit – nibs, pulp, and all.
The Chocolate Industry Wastes 70% of the Cacao Pod
Chocolate is made from dried, fermented cocoa beans. Farmers must break open the cacao fruit to get at the beans and pull them out of the sticky white pulp inside. They discard the fruit and its shell (most of a cacao pod’s weight). This process is very wasteful overall.
As more people become weary of the cocoa industry’s wastefulness, manufacturers must step up and offer sustainable solutions. One exciting option is using the entire cacao fruit to create packaged foods and snacks.
Why Eat Whole Cacao Products?
Ancient people in Mesoamerica made a bitter ceremonial drink called xocolatl (Aztecs) or chocolhaa (Mayan) from cacao. They also often ate the beans whole and traded the fruit as currency. A lesson to be learned from these civilizations is to treat cacao pods with respect. Here are two reasons to eat more than just the beans:

  1. Cacao Fruit is Nutritious
    Jungle animals that eat wild cacao fruit never even look at the beans–they’re only interested in the sticky white pulp. That’s because it’s delicious and packed with nutrients! The fruit surrounding the cocoa beans is hydrating and rich in B vitamins, magnesium, and healthy fats. The hard husk protecting the pod is also edible and an excellent dietary fiber source.

  3. It Makes Cacao Farming More Sustainable
    Cacao farming is notorious for its environmental impact, and global talks are already about making it more sustainable. One such solution would be using more of the harvest (fruit and husks). It would help us reduce food waste, greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. When organic matter rots, it releases methane, 80 times1 more harmful than CO2.

How Selling Whole Cacao Pods Could Benefit Farmers
The cocoa industry is wrought with inequality, and over two million cacao farmers live under the poverty line. Despite their vital role in the chocolate supply chain, they earn less than 7% of the profits.2 Cacao fruit and husks could become an additional income stream for West African and South American farmers, uplifting them out of poverty.
Of course, that would require purchasers of whole cocoa products to pay a fair price. Third-party environmental associations like FairTrade and Rainforest Alliance could help facilitate these negotiations.
Five Cacao Products Healthier Than Chocolate
The upcycled chocolate movement is growing daily, with ethical businesses like Blue Stripes, Bantu, and The Cacao Fruit Company leading the way. Here are five non-chocolate cacao products consumers are exploring in 2024.

  1. Roasted cacao nibs – crushed cocoa beans – eaten raw and unrefined.
  2. Cacao juice – a tropical hydrating fruit juice made from the pulp of the cacao pod.
  3. Cacao granola – made from the husks and nibs.
  4. Dried cacao fruit – minimally processed and sugar-free.
  5. Cacao trail mix – made from dried fruit and husk.

Raw, Whole, and Organic Is the Future
Despite environmental and social challenges, our love affair with chocolate is far from over. Shoppers of the future will not abandon cocoa; they will only look for better versions. Switching to USDA-certified organic cocoa extracts will help you future-proof your product line for eco-conscious consumers. Please contact us for more information.

1 https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/video/whats-deal-methane
2 https://www.iisd.org/system/files/2022-11/2022-global-market-report-cocoa.pdf