5 Questions For Finding A Cocoa Bean Supplier That Will Help Your Chocolate Shop Stand Out

Many specialty chocolate shops offer delectable chocolates, which can make it difficult to stand out in the industry unless your chocolate shop has a unique feature. If you're looking for a competitive edge over other chocolate shops, working with a great cocoa supplier could give you the advantage you need. Here are five questions to ask potential cocoa bean suppliers that will help you find the right one.

Do You Offer Cocoa Beans from Different Regions?

Cocoa beans are like coffee beans, tea leaves and grapes. They're all agricultural products that have terroir. As The Evergreen State College explains, terroir is a term for how where a food comes from influences the food's taste. It's a word borrowed from the French and is often used for wine, but many foods -- including cocoa beans -- have terroir.

A supplier that has cocoa beans from different regions will have beans with different terroirs. Because their beans are grown in different regions, they'll have subtly different tastes. They'll all taste like cocoa beans, of course, but each different region's beans will have unique notes that you'll be able to bring out in the chocolate you make.

When Were Your Cocoa Beans Harvested?

Like most agricultural products, cocoa beans don't last forever. They won't go bad quickly like dairy or meat products do, but they will lose a little flavor over time. Therefore, you'll want to work with a cocoa bean supplier who has fresh cocoa beans.

A good supplier will have plenty of cocoa beans from the past year's harvest, and they won't try to sell you beans that are several years old. The best will also have beans from different countries. Countries have different growing and harvest seasons, so stocking several different countries' beans ensures that you'll always have access to truly fresh beans. This will ensure the chocolates you produce have the maximum amount of flavor possible.

Do You Have Any Information About the Cocoa Bean Farmers?

How much cocoa bean suppliers know about the farmers who grew the beans they have varies greatly. In some cases, suppliers know little about the farmers because cocoa beans are sold in large auctions and change hands many times. In other cases, suppliers purchase beans directly from farmers.

When possible, you'll want to work with cocoa bean suppliers who have relationships with, and thus know something about, the farmers that grew the cocoa beans they stock. You can use this information to create a personal connection between your customers and the farmers, telling your customers the farmers' stories.

Do Your Cocoa Beans Have Any Certifications?

Certified cocoa beans might cost you more than non-certified beans, because farmers must pay for these certifications. You'll likely be able to charge more for chocolates made from certified cocoa beans, though, because consumers like knowing that the foods they eat have been produced in an environmentally friendly and ethical manner. If you want to market your chocolates as certified, you're going to have to work with a cocoa bean supplier that offers certified cocoa beans and pay the higher prices for the certified beans.

Cocoa beans may have any number of certifications. Three well-known ones are

  • Rainforest Alliance Certified
  • FairTrade Certified
  • Certified Organic

In many cases, cocoa beans have more than one certification. Using these beans in your chocolates allows you to advertise each of the certifications.

Have Any of Your Cocoa Beans Won Awards?

Many countries have annual competitions for cocoa bean growers. Purchasing beans that have won awards not only ensures that your cocoa beans are of the highest quality, but it also lets you market your chocolate shop as a purveyor of award-winning chocolates. This claim will show customers that you shop is truly a gourmet chocolate shop.

Contact a custom cocoa bean supplier for more information.