Made in Greater Philadelphia: Chocolate Manufacturing

Chocolate in its many forms is a food product as important as water- not as necessary, but certainly craved!

Chocolate has become an abundant commodity that is as easy to find as stopping at the gas station for a quick fix or simply walking down the candy aisle at the local grocery store, where the entire wall is filled with every different chocolate varietal.

Painstaking care is taken to achieve the right texture and taste by artisans, gourmet chocolatiers and bakers around the world, ensuring that the finished product is perfect. There is a science to chocolate, for instance the average human body temperature is 98.6 degrees F and chocolate has a melting point of 93 degrees F. A good piece of chocolate should melt on your tongue.

As consumers, we are privy to the finished product without stopping to consider the chocolate process. It is something that can be taken for granted like so many other items that are so accessible.

Our region boasts significant cocoa processors that roast, grind and press chocolate – Barry Callebaut, Blommer Chocolate, Cargill, Mars and ADM; along with numerous confectionery manufacturers, including Tasty Baking, Hershey, Turkey Hill, Kraft Foods, Asher’s Chocolates, and many, many bakeries and specialty chocolatiers. Some, including Hershey and Mars also process cocoa beans.

It takes many hands to ensure the meticulous treatment of chocolate. This process takes a very large amount of people to complete, and the cocoa supply chain is vast and global.

The Cocoa Value Chain – from Farmer to Consumer*


Farmers grow cocoa trees on small farms in tropical environments, within 15 – 20 degrees north and south of the equator, a narrow band called the Cocoa Belt or the Chocolate Belt. Cocoa beans grow in pods on trees of the Theobroma cacao species. Cocoa beans grow into beautiful trees.

The top 3 cocoa producing countries are: the Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Indonesia. Nearly 60% of the world’s cocoa is farmed in the Ivory Coast and Ghana.


The growing season in the tropics is continuous, however, most countries have two peak periods for picking that last for several months each. Cocoa farmers carefully snip the pods and allow them to drop to the ground where family members and neighboring farmers work together to collect the pods in baskets.

The outer husk of the pod is split with a sturdy stick and discarded along with the inner white pulp of the pod. A farmer can expect 20 – 50 beans per pod, depending on the variety of cocoa.

Fermenting & Drying:

Once the beans have been removed from the pods, the farmer packs them into boxes (typically in Asia and Latin America), or heaps them into piles (found in Africa). The pods are covered with mats or banana leaves. The layer of pulp that surrounds the beans heats up and ferments the beans. Fermentation is an important step and lasts three to seven days, producing the chocolate flavor we know when the beans are roasted.

The beans are then dried basking in the sun for a few days, or farmers use solar driers to dry the crop.


After the beans are dried and packed into sacks, the farmer sells to a buying station or local agent. The buyer then exports them to an exporting company. The exporting company inspects the cocoa and places it into burlap, sisal or plastic bags. The cocoa is trucked to the exporter’s warehouse near a port. Sometimes, additional drying is necessary at this point.

Packing & Transporting:

The exporting company finalizes the time and place for shipment and the beans are loaded onto ships. Once the ship reaches its destination, the cocoa is removed from the hold and taken to a pier warehouse. Details of export process vary by country. Cocoa is stored in bags or bulk in the warehouse. The buyer will conduct a quality check to accept delivery and cocoa is usually stored until requested by the processor or manufacturer. Trucks or trains carry the cocoa in large tote bags or loose in the trailer to the manufacturer’s facility on a “just-in-time” basis.

According to the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PRPA), in 2015 alone, the Philadelphia port received 103,121 break bulk tons of cocoa beans and approximately 50,000 tons in containerized cocoa beans, In fact, the Philadelphia Port is the national leader in cocoa bean imports.

Roasting & Grinding:

Beans are first thoroughly inspected and cleaned. The inside of the cocoa bean is called the nib. Depending on preferences, beans can be roasted with the shell intact, or the nib can be roasted alone. Once the beans have been shelled and roasted (or roasted and shelled), the nib is ground into a paste. The heat generated by this process causes the cocoa butter in the nib to melt and creates “cocoa liquor.”

Cocoa liquor does not contain alcohol. It can be further refined, sold as unsweetened baking chocolate, or used in chocolate manufacturing. Cocoa liquor is sold at room temperature.

The cocoa processor has the option of treating the cocoa liquor with an alkali solution (alkalizing), which reduces the acidity. This treatment is also known as “ditching” and produces “Dutch processed cocoa”. By alkalizing the liquor, it becomes darker and has a milder, but more chocolaty flavor, and stays in suspension longer in liquids such as milk.


The cocoa liquor is fed into hydraulic presses that divide liquor into cocoa butter and cocoa cakes. The cocoa cake can be sold into the generic cocoa cake market, or ground into a fine powder.

Chocolate Making:

To make chocolate, cocoa liquor is mixed with cocoa butter, sugar and some cases, milk. The mixture is then placed into conches – large agitators that stir and smooth the mixture under heat. As a rule, the longer chocolate is conched, the smoother it will be. Conching may last for a few hours to three full days, or even longer! After conching, the liquid chocolate may be shipped in tanks or tempered and poured into molds for sale in blocks to confectioners, dairies, or bakeries.


People around the world enjoy chocolate in thousands of different forms. The cocoa, chocolate, and confectionery industry employs hundreds of thousands of people around the world and is a key user of other agricultural commodities such as sugar, dairy products, nuts, and fruits.

*World Cocoa Foundation

Cocoa – a precious commodity!

It is easy to consume the finished product, taking chocolate for granted. Perhaps the next time you unwrap a candy bar, you will think of all of the people and the process it took to create that delicious treat!

Chocolate Facts:

  • The Annual world consumption of cocoa beans averages approximately 600,000 tons
  • The total consumption of chocolate worldwide 7.2 million tons (in 2009)
  • The United States is ranked 15th in chocolate consumption at 10 pounds per person
  • Revenue of chocolate production in the United States was $16 Billion in 2009

How many beans does it take to make a pound of Chocolate?

Answer: It takes approximately 400 cocoa beans to make 1 pound of chocolate.

Barry Callebaut Group

The Barry Callebaut Group is the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality chocolate and cocoa products. We are the reference for innovation in the industry providing a comprehensive range of services in the fields of product development, processing, training and marketing. At Barry Callebaut, we are committed to sustainable cocoa production to help ensure future supplies of cocoa and improve farmer livelihoods. For this, we support the independent, non-profit Cocoa Horizons Foundation in its goal to shape a sustainable cocoa and chocolate future. 

The Barry Callebaut Group has been producing chocolate and cocoa products for more than 150 years. We are a fully integrated company that masters every step from the sourcing of cocoa beans to the finest chocolate product. We are proud to serve the entire food industry, whether it be industrial food manufacturers or artisans and professional users of our products.

Today, we are the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality chocolate and cocoa products. We have a global network with production sites in Europe, Africa, North and South America as well as Asia Pacific.

In 2007, Barry Callebaut acquired the modern cocoa factory from Food processing International (FPI).

Blommer Chocolate Company – A Fully Integrated Chocolate Supplier

Blommer Chocolate Company is the largest cocoa processor and ingredient chocolate supplier in North America. With four strategically located manufacturing facilities in North America, the company provides comprehensive business solutions for domestic and international customers of all sizes in the confectionery, baking and dairy industries. Among Blommer’s core competencies are cocoa bean processing, chocolate manufacturing, commodity risk management, and product and process R&D.

The company is a leader in advancing sustainable cocoa farming, playing an active role in the World Cocoa Foundation and promoting sustainable farming practices through its privately managed programs in Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia and Ecuador. Founded in 1939, the family owned and operated company maintains an outstanding reputation for customer service and quality.

Facts about the Port of Philadelphia, and the import of cocoa beans*

  • The Port of Philadelphia is the fourth largest port in the U.S. for the handling of imported goods. It is strong in bulk cargoes, such as fruits, vegetables, cocoa beans, and aggregates.
  • Pier 84 is the leading cocoa marine terminal in the USA, providing stevedoring (dockworkers), warehousing, de-bagging, sampling, and transportation services for the cocoa industry. There is over two million square feet of certified cocoa warehousing space in the Philadelphia region.
  • The port of Philadelphia handles about 90% of all cocoa beans entering the USA.
  • About two-thirds of the cocoa “grinding” companies, which do the initial stage of the chocolate making process, are located within a day’s drive of Philadelphia. In addition, about 90% of the cocoa bean warehousing in the USA is located in the Philadelphia area.
  • The port of Philadelphia is part of the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), which is the largest global market for cocoa. ICE allows cocoa buyers and sellers to trade product globally and virtually, using trusted, certified transportation service providers. Philadelphia is an ICE certified Port, and Pier 84 is an ICE certified facility. This gives cocoa shippers added confidence to use Pier 84.
  • Most of the beans originate from the Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Nigeria in Africa. Beans also come from Ecuador and the Dominican Republic and smaller amounts from Central America, which ties in well with the Port’s strong connections with that region.
  • Cocoa from Philadelphia occasionally goes to the US Midwest, Canada, and along the US East coast, although most of our beans travel to grinding facilities and chocolate factories in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

*Philadelphia Regional Port Authority

Mexican Hot Chocolate

2 cups Whole Milk
1 1/2 cup Callebaut Dark Chocolate
3/4 cup Callebaut Milk Chocolate
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
Whipped Cream and Cinnamon

1 tsp Ancho Chili Powder Heat milk on the stove until steaming; do not boil. In a separate bowl, combine both chocolates. Pour steaming milk on top of chocolate and let sit for about 20 seconds to melt chocolate slightly. Whisk milk and chocolate together until fully incorporated, creating a liquid mixture. Add cinnamon and chili powder to taste.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a touch of cinnamon on top.