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Development of mixed starter cultures for the production of high quality cocoa in West Africa


Export of cocoa plays a significant economic role in West African countries like Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria, the major cocoa producing region in the World. Fresh cocoa beans have to go through a fermentation and drying step to obtain the desired characteristic 'cocoa flavour'. Traditionally, cocoa beans are fermented through a spontaneous, indigenous fermentation with no control of the microorganisms present. As a consequence, the quality of cocoa varies. These variations negatively influence the price and thus the economy of the cocoa producing countries. The main purpose of the proposal is to improve the quality of cocoa through the development of starter cultures to control the fermentation. the performance of potential starter cultures will be examined in micro fermentations using advanced methods including GC-MS, GC-olfactometry and HPLC. The key deliverables are : Development of one or more starter culture consortia for the production of cocoa of consistent high quality; Identification of the roles of specific microorganisms in the cocoa fermentation; Investigation of microbial interactions during the fermentation of cocoa. The project proposed contains highly innovative aspects as microbiologically well characterized starter cultures with proven technological properties for the fermentation of cocoa are developed for the first time. The research training is multi-disciplinary, including advanced state-of-the-art methodologies, complementing the skills of the applicant and making the applicant highly qualified to pursue his line of research into fermented foods. The project addresses important community policies, most importantly, policies on development co-operation, allowing transfer of knowledge, but also policies on consumer protection. The possibility to produce cocoa of a consistent high quality will positively influence the economy and give West African developing countries a competitive advantage on the World Cocoa market.

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