Upcycling and the Cacao Fruit
Nearly everyone is familiar with chocolate, but few people know that chocolate is actually the seed of a fruit. This fruit grows on the cacao tree, which is a tropical fruit tree native to the forests of Ecuador. The cacao tree is one of the most remarkable plants on earth, and its fruit is loaded with health benefits.
But there is more to the cacao fruit than merely its seeds. Those seeds are housed in a large, colorful pod. Inside that pod, each seed is encased in a sweet fruit pulp as white as snow. Like the seeds, the fruit pulp is a powerhouse of antioxidants, theobromine, and caffeine, and also contains a host of prebiotics and healthy organic acids.
While the seeds of the cacao fruit are used to make chocolate, the sweet and nutritious pulp that encases those seeds is discarded during the chocolate-making process. At Xoca we know this all too well, as two of our co-founders are chocolate makers based in Ecuador. After eight years spent farming cacao and making chocolate, two truths became increasingly clear:
Cacao Fruit tastes delightful
Almost no one was doing anything with the juice
To us, this seemed like a waste, as well as a lost opportunity. We created Xoca with the intention to put the remarkable fruit of the cacao tree to much better use. That’s where upcycling comes into play.
What is Upcycling?
Upcycling is the process of transforming by-products or other “waste” materials into new products of higher quality. Upcycling shares many of the same environmental benefits as recycling, but there’s an upgrade involved. It’s part of a regenerative design movement where the end products are healthier, cleaner, and usually have a higher value than the material inputs. In the case of cacao fruit juice, there’s the added benefit of providing an additional revenue stream for farmers.
Upcycled foods and beverages are made from ingredients that would otherwise have ended up in a food waste destination, such as incinerators or a landfill. By avoiding these destinations, upcycled food makes better use of the energy expended in growing, transporting, and preparing that food.
How Xoca Upcycles Cacao Fruit Juice
Xoca sources its cacao fruit from a group of small family farms in Ecuador. The cacao farmers we work with did not previously have a market for their cacao fruit juice. They only sold the seeds for chocolate, and often struggled to make a living despite their hard work. Meanwhile, the juice was literally dumped onto the ground or into the nearest waterway.
Xoca was born with the idea to convert this discarded resource into an opportunity for both farmers and consumers—the proverbial win-win scenario. To source our juice, we work directly with farmers and provide them with the equipment and training necessary to collect juice on the farm shortly after the cacao pods are opened. Once collected, our juice is reduced to a rich honey, through a process of gentle heating. This honey is then shipped to the US, where we use it to make Xoca Cacao Fruit Soda.
The cacao farmers we work with now have two revenue streams instead of one. They sell the seeds of their cacao fruit to chocolate producers, and they sell the juice to Xoca. This increases their earnings by over 50% per cacao pod. Collecting the juice also has the added environmental benefit of reducing acidic run-off into local waterways.
Xoca is a cacao fruit based sustainable food and beverage company founded in Chicago that operates on a farm level in Ecuador. We source the components of the cacao fruit that have been traditionally overlooked by the chocolate industry and upcycle them into innovative, nutritious, high-quality functional products with great taste.
All of our cacao fruit based foods and beverages are carefully crafted only with responsibly and transparently sourced ingredients. The flavor profiles of everything we create relies on 100% natural ingredients, which is faithful to our vision of pure and simple foods and beverages.
You can take a peek at our drinks here.