US cocoa group Blommer Chocolate Company and Singapore-based ingredients firm Olam International have formed a 50-50 joint venture, GrowCocoa.

The JV aims to “bolster the cocoa supply chain” and support the sustainable production of cocoa, the companies said in a statement today (19 June).

Cocoa supply offers ingredients firms a significant opportunity: according to the World Cocoa Foundation, the market is currently valued at US$5.1bn globally and has been growing at a rate of 3% for the past 100 years.

However, the nature of cocoa production also means there are some significant challenges down the supply chain.

Declining yields and quality have largely meant that small-scale cocoa farmers are unable to improve their incomes and reinvest in their farms. And there are no quick fixes: it takes five years for a cocoa tree to produce its first beans and the “peak growing period” for the average cocoa tree is just ten years.

Through the new JV Bloomer and Olam have demonstrated their commitment to furthering economic and social development in cocoa growing regions as well as encouraging good environmental stewardship.