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Glasgow cocoa processor expands plant

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United Cocoa Processor in the Pencader Corporate Center is looking to expand operations to serve a new client. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

GLASGOW — A cocoa product manufacturer is expanding its operations to further maximize the return found in a single bean in the chocolate manufacturing market.

United Cocoa Processor (UCP), a cocoa processing plant located in Pencader Corporate Center, is on track to finish renovations to its Newark facility this summer. With a second roasting line, UCP will be able to roast 211,000 pounds of cocoa beans and nibs per day, according to applications filed with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).

This expansion is prompted by “a significant new client,” according to documents filed with DNREC. UCP representatives would not identify this client to the Delaware Business Times, but the manufacturer serves international and domestic clients looking to buy products like cocoa liquor, butter and powders.

Established in Delaware in 1992 and led by President Jonathan Liu, UCP manufactures cocoa nibs, cocoa mass, butter and powders for bakeries, confectioneries, packaged food and ingredient distributors. Clients range from large multinational companies to single stores.

Equipment included in the expansion will clean the incoming cocoa bean and remove its shell to expose the cocoa nib. From there, the nib will be roasted and ground into cocoa mass. UCP employs approximately 120 people, and plans to add more jobs through the expansion, although it’s unclear how many new positions will be added.

Liu’s family owned a cocoa processing company in São Paulo, Brazil, but decided to relocate to Delaware due to the state’s business-friendly climate and its close proximity to Philadelphia, considered to be the epicenter of the cocoa industry in North America. 

Philadelphia’s chocolate and candy industry can be traced as far back as the 1800s, with 20 small stores like Quaker City Chocolate (which produced Good & Plenty), Hershey’s and Whitman’s. Today, Philadelphia’s ports import an estimated 80% of all cocoa beans from Ghana and Indonesia.

To keep up with demand, UCP expanded in 1998 to include a bean grinding facility. That process was later refined through various improvements, and later expanded its production line to feature blocked cocoa butter, cocoa powers, and blocked cocoa liquors. 

Back in 2014, UCP imported most of its beans from Brazil. But today, UCP now monitors cocoa bean quality and flavor around the globe to best fit their clients flavor profiles and beans may come as close as the Dominican Republic and as far as Southeast Asia.

Liu took over the family business in 2006, and implemented a one-of-a-kind computer system that assesses and controls the risk the company has, according to a 2014 Technical.ly Delaware article. Cocoa is a commodity that fluctuates wildly due to civil unrest and weather conditions in the Ivory Coast. 

For example, in April 2018, cocoa was at $2,800 per ton but come April 2019 that price dropped to just under $2,300 per ton. As of June 14, the price of cocoa closed at $2,380 per ton.

“You might start with one ton of beans but you do not end with one ton of product. Our system is designed to assess all the risk we can get with processing cocoa. When exchanges go up and down we can react quickly. We know where we stand at any given time,” Liu told Techical.ly Delaware in 2014.

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