Global Business Guide Indonesia

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Joint Venture | Technology Transfer | Research and Development
BT Cocoa | Mr Thomas Jasman
Mr Thomas Jasman

China, India and Indonesia experienced an increase of 7%, 9.9% and 6.8% in growth of demand for chocolate between 2008 and 2013, respectively, and are projected to continue on a similar positive trajectory going forward.

Mr Thomas Jasman, President Director

BT Cocoa is a leading player in Indonesia’s cocoa processing industry that has had success in serving both the local and international market. What more can you tell us about your company’s background?

Our company was founded in 1983 and was originally established as a bean-to-bar operation that oversaw the end-to-end production of chocolate confections for the consumer market. In 2001 we divested our consumer product business to focus fully on cocoa processing. We made this decision in light of the trend among major multinational chocolate brands to outsource cocoa processing. Our strategy in taking this course of action was also influenced by Indonesia’s position as the world’s third largest producer of cocoa beans, which provides us with a big advantage when taking into consideration that the global cocoa processing industry has over the last five to ten years moved from consuming countries to origin countries where there is an abundant supply of the necessary raw materials. The introduction of a progressive tax on the export of raw cocoa beans in 2011 only served to strengthen the local cocoa processing industry’s prospects for the future, and hence precipitated the entry of big companies such as Cargill, Barry Callebaut and Olam. To facilitate the entry of foreign investors and multinationals increasingly interested in Indonesia as a processing hub as well as a market in its own right, we intend to develop a distribution network across the archipelago so that our customers will be better able to market their products locally.

How has BT Cocoa differentiated itself from its competitors and what can you tell us about your main strategies going forward?

Since divesting our confectionary business, we have enjoyed success by paying close attention to our integral role in the supply chain, in keeping with the growing consumer demand for traceability and certified products. Today’s F&B industry is mainly driven by consumers that are increasingly attuned to product integrity and responsible sourcing practices, and as such several of the largest F&B conglomerates have taken to publicly announcing that they will be sourcing only certified beans by 2020. We have made it our priority to adjust to this and in 2011 established BT Source as a division dedicated to overseeing multiple warehouses and collection units across Indonesia, with the majority located in Sulawesi as the country’s main cocoa bean producing regions. With this infrastructure in place, we are able to work directly with smallholders to efficiently obtain raw materials of the highest quality at the best price. We are also working to develop a system called 'Cocoa Trace' through which consumers would follow a link on their product packaging to find out where the raw materials come from. We expect that our customers would be able to use this as a marketing tool for their final products in the future.

Our company is also focused on investing in our manufacturing facilities to ensure that we reach an international standard of production so as to be able to serve blue-chip customers. In addition to this, we take pride in our commitment to R&D, particularly as it relates to working with local SMEs that require the technical assistance of an experienced partner when it comes to developing new applications for cocoa.

What is your outlook for the future development of Indonesia’s cocoa processing industry?

Asia is one of the fastest growing markets for chocolate consumption in the world. China, India and Indonesia experienced an increase of 7%, 9.9% and 6.8% in growth of demand for chocolate between 2008 and 2013, respectively, and are projected to continue on a similar positive trajectory going forward. Together, these countries stand to comprise a market for chocolate valued at more than $800 million USD, and thereby represent the immense potential for cocoa and chocolate industries to thrive in Asia. 

It is thus not surprising to see that local F&B players such as Mayora and GarudaFood have sought to emulate the leading multinational firms in expanding not only in Indonesia, but also in Southeast Asia, China, and India. Our company has since its establishment been focused on serving Asia in its entirety, and this will continue to be the case going forward. This region currently accounts for 80% of our powder sales.

Much is expected of the new government to improve upon the business climate in Indonesia. What should the new administration prioritise in spurring the development of the cocoa processing industry?

When we process beans, we get two different products: cocoa powder and cocoa butter. These two products have very different markets, in that the former tends to go to developed markets and is used in the production of high-quality chocolate, whereas developing countries tend to use the latter in producing more affordable compound chocolates. As such, one of the challenges we face as a cocoa processing company is to balance between these totally different markets and ensure that both our butter and powder products are absorbed. The government can play a key role in addressing our industry’s current difficulties in exporting to developed markets due to the continued imposition of a tax on Indonesia cocoa butter in the European Union. Competing cocoa processing industries in West Africa are presently not subject to an export duty levied by the EU, and this puts us at considerable disadvantage. On the supply-side, we require more involvement from the government to work with smallholders to increase crop yields as there is only so much that the private sector can do.

How is BT Cocoa positioned towards working with international investors and foreign companies looking for an experienced local partner in Indonesia?

Since 2005 when we renovated our factory, we have had one thing in mind; namely, to go public. This remains in our plans for the future, and opens the door to the involvement of foreign entities in providing us with the capital to expedite our continued growth and expansion. With that said, we are most interested in working with parties able to bring more to the table than money; our company is keen to cooperate with partners able to offer synergies. For example, we are currently working with a leading palm oil business that produces one of the main ingredients in compound chocolates and together we carry out joint marketing initiatives reach out to compound chocolate manufacturers. Another prospective area of cooperation that we are open to is in carrying out a joint venture with a well-established player from a developed market such as Japan to produce industrial chocolate, insofar as we are able to do so without negatively impacting our existing customers. For international firms, it should be a priority to find a good local partner with an extensive distribution network so that they can test their products within the domestic market before investing heavily.

As a final message, what would you like our readers to remember about Indonesia?

Indonesia has been rightly identified as an emerging economy with huge potential due to its political stability, sizeable domestic market, and young population. There are still many things that the government needs to do to support businesses in making the most of this potential, such as improving upon infrastructure and education, but at least we are moving in the right direction. Indonesia is very much a sleeping giant on the cusp of waking up.

Global Business Guide Indonesia - 2015

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