Fostering a circular bioeconomy in the cocoa value chain

Although in the agro-industrial processing of cocoa numerous byproducts exist, these are often disposed of as waste. This project examines the potential for byproduct valorization along the joint cocoa value chain in Ecuador and Switzerland



Switzerland is an important trading partner for Ecuador in the cocoa sector, importing and processing Ecuadorian cocoa in its world-renowned chocolate industry. Ecuador, a country located in South America, is not only known for its rich biodiversity, but also recognized for its top-quality cocoa varieties including Fine Flavour Cocoa (i.e., cocoa beans of exceptional quality, which bring specific flavours and aroma to fine chocolates). Cocoa is, in fact, Ecuador’s 6th largest export, bringing more than USD 700 million to the national economy and representing 37% of the country’s area planted in permanent crops. On the other hand, Switzerland’s total imports of raw cocoa amounted 52000 tonnes in 2021, at a value of EUR 145 million and were sourced primarily from Ghana (55%) and Ecuador (23%). About a third of Switzerland’s total cocoa import corresponded to Fine Flavour Cocoa beans, with Ecuador being Switzerland’s main supplier in this category. Although studies about the structural characteristics of the cocoa value chain are well-known, less is known about the waste streams from cocoa’s agricultural and industrial processing, as well as their disposal methods and alternative utilization pathways. By treating cocoa byproducts as waste (current scenario), valuable ingredients, including biologically active compounds and antioxidants with benefits to human health are lost.


By means of a mixed research approach, this exploratory project examines the potential for byproduct valorization in the agricultural chain of Ecuadorian cocoa as well as in the industrial production chain of Swiss chocolate. We posit that for a successful circular bioeconomy transition, a three-pillar approach of economic feasibility, environmental impact, and social innovation should be considered.


It is expected that a closer look into the cocoa byproduct valorization possibilities could not only support the development of social and technical innovations, and enable access to new alternative markets, but could also reduce environmental pollution, contribute to the development of a more sustainable cocoa industry, and ultimately promote the circular bioeconomy both in Ecuador and Switzerland.

Dieses Projekt leistet einen Beitrag zu den folgenden SDGs

  • 1: Keine Armut
  • 2: Kein Hunger
  • 9: Industrie, Innovation und Infrastruktur
  • 12: Verantwortungsvoller Konsum und Produktion