Could Israel suddenly become a cocoa superpower?
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Israel doesn't have the right climate for growing cocoa, but a new start-up intends to grow cocoa beans in a — and this is already generating interest among snack producers.
Why is one of the world's largest snack companies, whose brands include Cadbury, Toblerone, Oreo and Milka, betting on cocoa supplies from Israel?
The cocoa beans, from which the main ingredient of chocolate is obtained, have never been grown in Israel, because cocoa plantations need a humid tropical climate, like in Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and Ecuador, which are leading producers in this industry. $130 billion.
One Israeli agri-food start-up aiming to produce the “food of the gods” is not bothered by these climatic conditions. Celleste Bio's high-quality cocoa will be produced in a laboratory. at the Misgav Industrial Complex in northern Israel, aims to do so using traditional cell culture methods.
CTO Hanne Wolpin explains how it's done to ISRAEL21c:
“You can basically grow plant cells almost as easily as growing yeast. Put them in a solution of sugar, water and vitamins and they will keep multiplying.” and grow. The trick is to ensure that the end result is exactly the product you want, in this case cocoa butter and powder,” — she says.
Researchers are now in the process of finding optimal growth conditions for the stem cell-like plant. The next step will be to visit the World Bank of Cocoa Genes in Trinidad and Tobago to obtain samples of cocoa varieties.
And Volpin insists that there will be no genetic modification after that, “no laboratory tricks to change natural variations.” ;.
Celleste Bio was founded a year and a half ago by Volpin and fellow cell biology experts and agri-food entrepreneurs Avishai Levy, Orna Harel and Daphne Michaeli.
Volpin laughs, — we all recognized the challenges of growing cocoa and the challenges the industry was facing.”
Over the past few decades, organizations and journalists have brought unethical farming and labor practices to the attention of the chocolate industry. The 2010 documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate exposes illegal child labor and slavery on cocoa plantations in West Africa.
In an effort to reform the industry, all chocolate products made from ethically grown cocoa are now Fair Trade stamped.
This lets consumers know that farmers are being paid a living wage (often above market value, which is very low) and that workers are of legal age and have safe working conditions.
Despite these gains, the prevalence of child labor (about 1.56 million children) in cocoa-producing areas in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana has not decreased significantly over the past 10 years, according to a 2021 European Commission report.
Another problem the industry is suffering from is — unsustainable farming practices. In Côte d'Ivoire, it is estimated that 70 percent of the country's illegal logging is related to cocoa cultivation. Climate changes such as droughts or floods have also led to plant diseases and crop losses, making the chain supplies are unstable.
A new lab-grown cocoa technology guarantees consistent cocoa yield, climate independence and superior end product quality, which will surely impact the entire chocolate industry.
This explains why Mondelēz International — the world's third largest snack manufacturer with 89,000 employees, — sees lab-grown cocoa as an attractive solution.
Other investors in Celleste Bio include Israel's The Trendlines Group, US-based Barrel Ventures and Israeli agricultural cooperative Regba Group.
liters, it will be transferred to the production workshop.
The development of laboratory cultivation of cocoa beans, as the authors of the technology suggest, can “make Israel a cocoa superpower”.
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