Swiss chocolate producer Barry Callebaut plans to increase its cocoa processing capacity in the Ivory Coast by more than 50% over the next two years.

The company said the move was in response to an increase in demand for cocoa liquor as more and more previously fully-integrated food companies outsource their production of primary cocoa liquor and chocolate.

In recent months, the company has agreed three significant supply contracts with major confectionery groups, Nestlé, Hershey and Cadbury. Under the Hershey deal alone, Callebaut will supply at least 80,000 tonnes of chocolate and chocolate products a year.

Barry Callebaut said it was "well positioned to further benefit from this trend and is therefore securing future supplies by expanding its operations in Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa growing nation".
 
As part of the expansion, Callebaut said it plans to double the volume of cocoa beans it sources directly from local co-ops and farmers, rather than through the commodities market. The company said direct bean sourcing provides greater access to quality cocoa beans.

"Barry Callebaut has won three large supply contracts in the last six months, with Nestlé, Hershey and Cadbury," said CEO Patrick De Maeseneire. "To respond to this increased demand for cocoa products we need to secure our cocoa bean supply; this is why we are expanding our operations in Ivory Coast.

"In parallel to the outsourcing trend, we also see rising consumer demand for origin chocolate. We will therefore also increase the amount of beans we source directly from farmers and cooperatives. This gives us greater control over the quality."
 
Barry Callebaut has four factories in Ivory Coast, and employs some 500 local staff in Abidjan and San Pedro. The planned increase in direct cocoa sourcing and processing activities will create around 60 new jobs, the company said.
 
As part of its 'Partenaire de Qualité' programme, launched in 2005, Callebaut said it is now supporting the construction of a medical centre in Goh, a village 60 km southwest of San Pedro, where Barry Callebaut has one of its production units.