Press and News Cacao of Excellence 2023 Award Winners Revealed

Cacao Of Excellence 2023 Award Winners Revealed - Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT


AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS (February 8, 2024) – Cacao of Excellence, a programme of the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) announced today the winners of the 2023 Cacao of Excellence Awards, honouring excellence in the cultivation of cacao, while also supporting and encouraging a more sustainable sector. The full list of Gold, Silver and Bronze winners can be found below and on the Cacao of Excellence website.

By: Julien Simonis

The winners were announced today, February 8, 2024, during a live ceremony split into the following regions: Asia and the Pacific, Africa and the Indian Ocean, South America, and Central America and the Caribbean. The event was held at the Chocoa Trade Fair and Chocolate Festival and was co-hosted by Julien Simonis, Cacao of Excellence Programme Manager, Marie-Amélie Ormières, Founder of Constellation Cacao and former Cacao of Excellence Jury Panelist, and Mariana De La Rosa, Co-Founder of Gaia Cacao and Manager at Chocoa. The event brought a diverse range of guests together including Cacao of Excellence Best 50 nominees, members of National Organisation Committees overseeing participation of producers, as well as entities from over 50 cacao origins, cacao cooperatives, agricultural institutes, traders, buyers, manufacturers, chocolate enthusiasts, and Chocoa Trade Fair guests.


Cacao of Excellence 2023 Award Winners Revealed - Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT - Asia Winners

Cacao of Excellence 2023 Award winners from Asia and the Pacific. Photo Credit: Shawn Landersz/CoEx

Speakers and presenters included Juan Lucas Restrepo, Director General of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, Michel Arrion, Executive Director of the International Cocoa OrganizationFederico Sisti, Secretary General of the Chamber of Commerce of Umbria, Ed Seguine, President of Seguine Cacao Cocoa and Chocolate Advisors, Andrea Doucet, Global Brand Leader for Cacao Barry of Barry Callebaut,  as well as 2023 Cacao of Excellence Jury Panelists Clémentine Chaussé, Global R&D of Puratos, Valentine Detalle, Research and Development Manager of Barry Callebaut, Laura Sweitzer, Director of Sustainability and Strategic Sourcing of Tcho Chocolate, Andrea Mecozzi, sustainable cacao sourcing expert and founder of Cacao Clandestino, Florent Coste, Cacao Technician of Valrhona, Vincent Ferreira, Vice President of Bean To Bar France and Director General of Hasnaâ Chocolats Grands Crus, Alexandre Bellion, Chocolatier and owner of Chocolaterie Alexandre Consulting and Development, Karin Chatelain, Food Sensory Scientist of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), Stephen Yaw Opoku, Plant Physiologist of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana, Dorine Kassi, cacao quality flavour expert and trainer, Dr Naailah Ali, cacao quality and flavour researcher of the Cocoa Research Centre of the University of the West Indies, Dr Darin Sukha, Research Fellow and lead of the Cocoa Research Centre of the University of the West Indies’ Flavour and Quality Section, John Kehoe, Director of Sustainability of the Guittard Chocolate Company, Gary Guittard, owner of the Guittard Chocolate Company, Dr Nubia Martinez, cacao and chocolate sensory evaluation expert, DrZoi Papalexandratou, Cacao R&D expert and Lead Cocoa Advisor of Zoto BV, César Magaña, Cacao Director of Belco, and Adriana Arciniegas Leal, Cacao Researcher of the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE).

Cacao of Excellence 2023 Award Winners Revealed - Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT - Africa Winners

Cacao of Excellence 2023 Award winners from Africa and the Indian Ocean. Photo Credit: Shawn Landersz/CoEx

"Congratulations to the winners of the 2023 Edition of the Cacao of Excellence Awards—whose incredible achievements and dedication continue to push the sector forwardsaid Juan Lucas Restrepo, Director General of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, host of the Cacao of Excellence programme. “These Awards stand as a celebration of the hard work, expertise, and commitment of producers to elevating cacao quality and sustainability. This recognition not only honours producers but also underscores the broader importance of their role in shaping the future of the cacao sector.”

The 2023 Edition of the Cacao of Excellence Awards marks a monumental milestone for our programme as the new Cacao of Excellence R&D Cacao Laboratory, equipped with an exceptional team, received, analysed, and processed all submitted cacao samples following the stringent protocols outlined in our recently published Guide for the Assessment of Cacao Quality and Flavour,” said Julien Simonis, Cacao of Excellence Programme Manager. “Deep appreciation goes to the 2023 Edition’s technical committee members and jury panelists for their respective analysis of cacao mass, and chocolate samples. We extend gratitude to every cacao producer who participated in this Edition for their extraordinary commitment, and to National Organisation Committee members whose dedication made these remarkable wins possible." Simonis added, “The Cacao of Excellence journey continues to unfold, with an enduring commitment to honour and reward producers of Excellence, spearhead innovation in cacao quality, and empower origins to adeptly analyse, value, and market their superior quality cacao.”

Cacao of Excellence aims to catalyse a transformation in the cacao sector by discovering and rewarding excellence, empowering farmers and connecting them to the market, driving innovation and standards, and safeguarding genetic diversity.

Cacao of Excellence 2023 Award Winners Revealed - Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT - South America Winners

Cacao of Excellence 2023 Award winners from South America. Photo Credit: Shawn Landersz/CoEx

For the 2023 Edition, Cacao of Excellence received 222 cacao bean samples from 52 participating origins hailing from Africa and the Indian Ocean, Asia and the Pacific, Central America and the Caribbean, and South America. The process for bean reception, processing and analysis can be found on the How the Cacao of Excellence Awards work webpage.

For the 2023 Edition, the Technical Committee’s evaluation of all 222 samples processed into cacao mass led to the selection of the Best 50 nominees eligible for Gold, Silver, and Bronze Awards. Nominated samples were processed into chocolate and evaluated by a broader jury panel consisting of 32 experts from various professions such as chocolatiers, sensory evaluation experts, and bean sourcers.

It was an honour and a privilege to judge the 2023 Edition and be able to discover an incredible array of flavour diversity across each cacao sample – warm congratulations to the winners,” said 2023 Cacao of Excellence Jury Panelist Laura Sweitzer. Added Jury Panelist Adriana Arciniegas Leal, “Exploring the vibrant colours, aromas, and flavours of the samples is truly incredible. Each diverse and complex sample sparks curiousity, and the blind evaluation process prompts this further. I am grateful to have gone on this sensory journey.”

For many of the 2023 participating producers who reached the Best 50, the Awards give visibility to their work and the quality of their cacao. The value from this international recognition helps them receive better prices for their efforts, ensures that the crop they grow is more sustainable, and motivates them to cultivate better cacao. For Bronze winner Moïse Lantoum from the Republic of the Congo, “I make a living from cacao just as my parents, grandparents and great grandparents have before me. The money we earn from cacao and getting recognised for our know-how is what drives us to do better and produce excellent cacao.” Gold winner Marco Corsetti of Costa Rica’s Chocolatera del Volcan said, “winning an award is important to us as farmers because it helps us achieve a better price for our efforts and this is important in the face of local production costs.”

Global recognition and prestige validate the hard work involved in cultivating excellent cacao.  This rang true for Peru’s Gold winner, Carmen Montes Taipe of the Asociación Productores Agropecuarios Valle Nazangaro de Vizcatan del Ene-Vraem who said, “the Awards are an important window to the world, helping our product gain global recognition and creating value for our cacao.” For the Philippines Silver winner Judith Gabasa of the Saloy Organic Farmers Association, “our goal in participating in the Awards was to showcase our community and our farmers association, nationally and globally, and to inspire other farmers.”