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Ahmed Bin Sulayem Image Credit:

Dubai: Buoyed by the success of its tea and coffee centres, DMCC is now all set to launch a dedicated centre for the mother of all superfoods — cacao.

Ahmed Bin Sulayem, executive chairman and chief executive officer of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) spilled the beans on their new venture in an exclusive interview with Gulf News recently.

“We will incubate a select range of cacao services at our coffee centre in Jebel Ali from mid-April. We hope to eventually transform the Emirate into an international trade hub for the much-sought after superfood,” Sulayem said.

For the uninitiated, cacao is essentially chocolate in its raw and purest form.

It is derived from the seeds (also known as cacao beans) that come from the pods of the Theobroma cacao fruit tree. The tree is primarily grown and harvested in Central and South American like Indonesia, Nigeria, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Malaysia and the Ivory Coast.

Cacao is chock-full of antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, fibre, zinc, copper protein. In fact, it contains more antioxidants per gram than blueberries, goji berries, raisins, prunes and even pomegranates. Cacao also happens to be the highest plant-based source of iron.

Bin Sulayem said they have reached out to top cacao industry players and stakeholders across West Africa and South America in recent weeks to understand the dynamics of the market and thrash out a plan on how Dubai could play a central role in supporting the sustainable growth of cacao.

“We are also in touch with the US-based Blue Stripes Urban Cacao in the US and some other companies engaged in cacao business,” he said.


Bin Sulayem said he is excited and optimistic about the new business and would soon launch a webinar series focused on raising awareness about the superfood.

“Few thought that DMCC Tea Centre and DMCC Coffee Centre would reach the levels of trade we see today. By utilising our expertise and experience gained from developing these commodities, we see cacao and its high-growth potential as a logical next step,” said Sulayem.

“While connecting producers with consumers will be an important part of our model, we will ensure that the DMCC Cacao Centre follows our high-level approach toward sustainability, which prioritises driving value across the entire supply chain,” he added.

A cacao webinar series focused on raising awareness of the superfood will be announced by DMCC in due course.

Oded Brener of Max Brenner chocolate fame, who launched Blue Stripes Urban Cacao, said traditional chocolate production wastes 70 per cent the cacao fruit. “But now global demand for cacao shell, fruit and beans is rising. At Blue Stripes for instance, we make cacao bread from the shell flour, cacao water from the food and cacao espresso from the beans,” said Brender, often described as the modern-day Willy Wonka. “What we are seeing is a revolution that will change the chocolate industry forever and make it more sustainable,” he said.

Did you know:

Cacao is also linked to holistic wellness and is used for physical, mental and emotional balance.