On 8 and 9 November 2021, a symposium on the benefits of cocoa for human health was organized by the African Cocoa Platform as an on-site event in Grand-Bassam, Côte d'Ivoire as well as online. The African Cocoa Platform is a multi-stakeholder-platform initiated in 2018 by GIZ’s Green Innovation Centres for the Agriculture and Food Sector to promote and facilitate the exchange of technical knowledge and experiences in the West and Central African cocoa sector.
The background to the event is that many small and medium-sized cocoa processors in Côte d'Ivoire often label and market cocoa products with alleged health benefits, however, without having any scientific evidence to support them. This can lead to legal and economic difficulties for these companies. The main objective of the symposium was therefore to raise awareness among cocoa processors and to inform them about the properties of cocoa that are actually proven from a scientific and medical point of view as well as to shed more light on the legal situation of labelling and marketing of cocoa health effects. Invited to the symposium were companies from Côte d'Ivoire, but also from the other member countries of the African Cocoa Platform Ghana, Nigeria, Togo and Cameroon, which participated online.
The first day of the symposium focused exclusively on the scientific aspects of cocoa health benefits. The official opening speeches by high-ranking guests from Côte d’Ivoire, such as the Deputy Managing Director of the Conseil Café Cacao and the Executive Secretary of the National Council for Nutrition and Food, were followed by the scientific contributions of eight experts from Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon and Italy. Especially the scientifically proven effects of cocoa regarding cardiovascular disease, cancer, hypertension, diabetes and cellular aging were addressed and discussed with the 50 participants in Côte d’Ivoire and more online.
The second day of the symposium linked the scientific knowledge gained on the first day to economic strategies and practical experiences of entrepreneurs and public institutions. Four speakers from German and Ivorian companies, the Delegation of the European Union to Côte d'Ivoire and the Ivorian public standardization organization CODINORM offered valuable insights into the legal framework for labelling cocoa health benefits in Côte d’Ivoire as well as the European Union and answered numerous questions on marketing strategies and hygiene precautions in the production and commercialization of such products.
The symposium highlighted the potential of using health and nutrition arguments to promote marketing as well as consumption of cocoa products. Therefore, based on the different contributions, several recommendations were made for a more practical and concrete approach to cocoa health benefits as well as next steps in the follow-up to the symposium. Most importantly, the education and training of entrepreneurs on the nutritional and health properties of cocoa should continue in the future and opportunities for improved support to cocoa processors in funding scientific studies and analysis as a basis for cocoa health claims should be explored. This could be done through government support, but also through cost sharing between small and medium-sized cocoa processors.