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A Domestic Future for Chocolate: Preposterous or Plausible?

Recently, the team at Minerva paid a visit to The Chocolatarium in Edinburgh, it was very enlightening on issues of sustainability and fairness of treatment for farmers, leading us to think a bit about the nature and possible future of chocolate.


While chocolate is one of our favourite snacks in the UK, it must be imported from the tropics. This is not just a case of relative productivity but an incompatibility between the requirements of the cocoa plant and the climate of our country. Most apparently, for much of our year, it is far too cold to support tropical plants that are used to a binary season structure that alternates between wet and dry rather than the four-season temperature variance of temperate zones, but this is not the only issue for cultivation in the UK. Contrary to how our weather is stereotyped, it does not rain sufficiently in most of the British Isles to support cacao plants (with 600-1000mm typical of lowland areas and cacao requiring at least 1250mm per year). The western coastal uplands of Scotland and Wales are excepted from this, but these locations are even more bereft of the requisite sun and warmth for the growth of cacao.


However, as we look towards a future of greater sustainability, we will need to rely less on imports for our foods. It may seem far-fetched today, but with possible advances in greenhouse agronomy, domestic production of cacao may one day be possible; in fact, the groundwork may already be laid. Examples include the Eden Project in Cornwall; while this site is largely an experiment meets educational tourist attraction rather than a commercial producer of tropical crops, it demonstrates that it is at least possible to grow large tropical rainforest plants in the UK. Kew Gardens’ cacao tree has done well enough to produce three smaller saplings. In Iceland, in 2023, a cacao plant was successfully cultivated to produce fruit. This took 10 years (an expected period for a cocoa plant after planting). The fruits were even converted into chocolate, which was reported to have a distinct smoky flavour (one of the advantages of single-source chocolate is that it has more complex and unique flavours. Considering that Iceland sits at the border of the Arctic Circle, if it is possible to cultivate cocoa well enough there to produce chocolate, it should be even more viable here.


Efforts to expand these currently quite experimental cultivations into a commercially viable enterprise will be difficult. It may not be viable relative to the cost of imports for quite some years yet, but someday, it may become a necessary reality for which much R&D will be required. Minerva Innovation Group have experience in the qualification of agricultural, architectural, and engineering projects for R&D tax credits. We hope that in future days, we might be able to help private limited companies seeking to expand the range of domestically produced crops to access tax relief.


Many companies may not be aware that they qualify for R&D tax credits, and any potential for innovation is worth exploring.


If you, or anyone you know, want to discuss our R&D tax and/or R&D grants services in more detail, please contact us via or 0141 378 4969!  


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