Working Group on the Development of
International Standards for
the Assessment of Cocoa Quality
and Flavours

There is an urgent need to develop standardized procedures and language around assessing cocoa bean quality and its direct relation to high quality chocolate for buyers and for consumers to understand.  While buyers seek different quality and flavour profiles in the cocoa they buy, establishing accepted, credible and verifiable protocols for assessing and communicating about cocoa quality attributes is urgently needed to facilitate comparison among samples with feedback to improve fermentation and drying processes for different cocoa genetics. 

The aim is to un-tap the value and flavour potential of these cocoas from different regions first and foremost for farmers, farmer organization to enable them to present the value proposition to potential buyers and to facilitate communication among sellers, buyers and consumers of cocoa and chocolate. The international standard will help farmers and coops improve their market access by increasing their capacity to improve quality and having a clear understanding of the unique characteristics and qualities of their cacao.

An informal Working Group was set up in September 2015 during the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) Annual Seminar on Cocoa in the Americas, to explore the development of international standards for assessing cocoa quality was therefore established and coordinated by the Cocoa of Excellence Programme.

The initial work carried out was an inventory of all the standards and protocols that exists to see who is doing what, what is need to be aligned and who could contribute. This included looking at what is done in coffee, wine and olive oil (and others) to apply suitable approaches to cocoa.  Based on this analysis, a first proposal was developed for international standards and protocols. This proposal for international standards and protocols, as well as the review of already existing standards and protocols are available here. The status report and proposed standards were lead by Dr Darin Sukha, Cocoa Research Centre (CRC) and supported by the Lutheran World Relief (LWR), under Cacao Movil, funded by the US Department of State and Swiss Development Cooperation, and in partnership with the Cocoa of Excellence Programme.  Once the initial phase was completed, the Working Group requested the Cocoa of Excellence (CoEx) Programme to formally coordinate the initiative.  

The vision, goal and purpose of the initiative are the following:

Vision:  To enhance transparency and market access for smallholding cocoa farmers through improved quality assessment.

Goal:  To communicate and develop awareness of buyers, sellers and consumers of cocoa and chocolate about quality, flavour profiles and celebrate excellence of high quality cocoa and chocolate related to best agricultural and manufacturing practices.


  • To standardize how actors along the cocoa value chain assess and communicate cocoa quality attributes, in an effort to improve transparency and help cocoa farmers better understand and meet quality standards demanded by buyers.

  • To develop and document a protocol for evaluating cocoa quality and flavours for use by farmer cooperatives and broad use within the sector that aligns with existing standards and needs of private sector actors while also simple enough to be used by cocoa producers and chocolate makers.

The members of the Working Group represent the range of stakeholders from cocoa producers’ associations, to traders, to chocolate manufacturers and to research organizations.  It was proposed that members represent their individual expertise but also their institute and organization. It was proposed that the WG remains small and efficient but that it forms a broader group for consultation.

The members of the Working Group are the following:

  1. Amacacao/KUNAKakaw: Juan Francisco Mollinedo - Amacacao/KUNAKakaw, Guatemala

  2. Belcolade/Puratos: Julien Simonis - Belcolade/Puratos, Belgium

  3. CAF/ILAC: Federico Vignati - Iniciativa Latinoamericana del Cacao, Peru

  4. CBI: Nubia Martinez - Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries, Peru

  5. CoEx: Brigitte Laliberté - Bioversity International/CacaoNet/Cocoa of Excellence Programme- coordinator of the WG, Italy

  6. CRC: Darin Sukha - Cocoa Research Centre, Trinidad and Tobago

  7. CRS: Kraig Kraft - Catholic Relief Services, El Salvador

  8. ECOM: Daniel Domingo - ECOM, USA

  9. EE: Christina Liberati - Equal Exchange, USA

  10. FCIA: Brad Kintzer, Vice-President of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association, USA

  11. FCCI: Carla Martin - Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute, USA

  12. Guittard: John Kehoe - Guittard Chocolate, USA

  13. ICCO: Yunusa Abubakar - International Cocoa Organization, Côte d'Ivoire

  14. IICCT: Martin Christy - International Institute of Chocolate & Cacao Tasting, UK

  15. LWR: Carolina Aguilar - Lutheran World Relief, USA

  16. LWR: Rick Peyser - Lutheran World Relief, USA – providing critical input from the coffee sector

  17. Seguine/Guittard: Ed Seguine - Seguine Cacao and Chocolate/Guittard Chocolate, USA

  18. Valrhona: Pierre Costet – Valrhona, France

  19. WCF: Paul Macek - World Cocoa Foundation, USA

The development of standards will ensure close links with existing related initiatives such as the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA), the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative (HCP), the European Cocoa Association (ECA), the Association of the Chocolate, Biscuits and Confectionery Industries of Europe (CAOBISCO), the Federation of Cocoa Commerce (FCC), the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) and its Expert Panel on Fine or Flavour cocoa, Regional partnerships and others.  The Working Group will continue to laisse with similar initiatives in coffee (Q-grader), wine, and olive oil. Work will be carried out in consultation with private sector and relevant bodies, as well as with those working on the ground with cocoa farmers in cocoa fermentation and quality.  

Proposed Next Steps:

  1. Revise the proposal for wider consultation – including a broader participation from the industry, exporters, and producers from all regions of the world.

  2. Propose a draft training course (can be several modules) for training farmer cooperatives on the proposed protocols.

  3. Finalize the standards and protocols based on feedback received.

  4. Publish and disseminate the international standards and protocols.

  5. Develop physical reference sets for training on the international standards and protocols.

  6. Propose professional training and accreditation scheme based on the agreed protocols and standards for all the supply chain actors.

The Working Group organized 2 International stakeholders’ consultations on the development and validation of proposed international standards on cocoa quality and flavour assessment that took place in Managua, Nicaragua, 19 – 21 September 2017 and in Paris, France, 30 October 2017.  The report of both consultation is available for download here:


For more information, please contact the coordinator of the Working Group, Brigitte Laliberté at:


*Top photo from the left, beans cut test (, Ed Seguine (Seguine Cacao Cocoa & Chocolate Advisors), chocolates and hands (*