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A quest for exotic chocolate ingredients to support Himalayan farmers

Founded in 1987 by chocolatier Josef Zotter, Zotter is an Austrian company with a product range of over 400 varieties of chocolate, such as ‘Brazil Nut Nougat with Jungle Pepper’ and ‘Passion Fruit and Caramel with Thyme’. With a focus on innovation and sustainability, they work with 100% organic ingredients of fair-trade quality and physical traceability. Ennovent is currently exploring the sourcing of organic, fair trade ingredients from the Himalayas, across India, Nepal and Bhutan, for Zotter chocolates. The aim of the project is to create new chocolate, which makes additional income for farmers in the Himalayan region.

Zotter Chocolates

The Zotter family business specializes in creating bean-to-bar chocolates, where production is carried out completely in-house; from the roasting of the cocoa beans to the grinding in the conche. Their creative centre for chocolate extends over 5,200 square metres, to accommodate for the complex process of transforming beans into a final product. Currently, Josef Zotter works with his family to purchase cocoa beans directly from farmers in Peru, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama, Belize, Colombia, Madagascar, Togo and the Dominican Republic.

Hand-sorting of cocoa in Madagascar

The planned collaboration between Ennovent and Zotter presents an opportunity to diversify product lines, while improving standards of living for local Himalayan communities. The project also aims to promote conservation of biodiversity, in line with Sustainable Development Goal 15 (Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss).

So far, Ennovent has carried out a marketing challenge and an innovation scouting exercise. The marketing challenge used social media to put together outreach fliers and ask people to nominate ingredients which could be used for Zotters chocolates, with a focus on organic, exotic and truly unique ingredients. The innovation scouting exercise utilized a pyramiding methodology to identify similar ingredients which are either fair trade or have the potential for it. We connected with experts in our immediate network and requested them to either nominate an ingredient or a person in their network, thus spreading the search through word of mouth or the domino effect. After completing the sourcing process, we assessed the ingredients and have so far shortlisted approximately ten ingredients, and followed up with nominees to locate and get in touch with potential suppliers. We are now working to understand the story behind each ingredient and how it impacts livelihoods and biodiversity in the Himalayan region while also exploring the challenges associated with sourcing and supplying them.

We thus intend to demonstrate the possibilities of using edible fruit, flowers and other out of the box ingredients in ethical, high-quality supply chains. Ennovent, along with local partners, will work with farmers to ensure the quality and quantity of produce meet the required specifications. More importantly, we will focus on improving the lives of farmers, while preserving their pristine ecosystem.

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