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RAW Cocoa

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What Does "RAW" Mean in Food?

The term "RAW" is used in many different ways in the food industry. There is no official definition, which often leads to complicated discussions about what "RAW" truly means. Products labeled as "RAW" are seen as purer and less processed. However, the criteria vary greatly, from 'unheated' to 'unroasted', 'unfermented', 'nothing added', and sometimes it is used solely as a marketing term.

The Definition of RAW According to VehGro

At VehGro, we see "RAW" products as those that retain as much of their original nutritional value as possible. This means that the products should not undergo any processes that could negatively impact their nutritional value. Of course, organic products already contain no artificial additives and are not sprayed with pesticides during cultivation, which would negatively affect nutritional value. However, the most critical factor that causes loss of nutritional values is heating. When heated above 45°C, important enzymes and vitamins in the product begin to break down. The products we call RAW have not been heated above 45°C at any point in their production chain. Our definition of a RAW product is thus: Organic products that have not been heated above the critical threshold of 45°C at any stage in the production process. Let us illustrate this by looking at the production chain of a RAW product as an example.

The Production Process of RAW Cocoa Powder

The processing of cocoa beans into end products involves several steps: To make Cocoa Powder, cocoa beans typically undergo the following production steps and temperatures can quickly rise in traditional production methods:

  • Fermentation (50-70°C)
  • Roasting (80°C - 100°C)
  • Grinding (60°C)
  • Pressing (80°C)


Fermentation of Cacao

Just like a compost heap in your backyard, a vat of fermenting cocoa beans generates heat. This can quickly rise to 50 - 70°C. Typically, the fermentation process of cocoa beans takes about 48 hours.

The producer of RAW cocoa powder uses temperature-controlled vats. As soon as the temperature approaches 40°C, which occurs every 8 to 10 hours, the vat is opened, the beans are stirred, or even transferred to a new vat, whatever is necessary to lower the temperature. Thus, this low-temperature fermentation process takes much longer and is more labor-intensive. Only after about 5 days is the process completed.


To make cocoa beans safe for consumption, bacteria must be killed. Traditional roasting kills bacteria but also significantly increases the temperature of the beans. The producer of RAW cocoa powder has a special process where the beans are washed with an alcohol solution, then washed twice more with water to remove the solution from the beans and finally gently dried with warm air.

Roasting of Cacao


Grinding of Cacao

Grinding of products often generates a lot of heat due to friction. The producer of RAW cacao grinds his cocoa beans in a special ball mill with stainless steel balls with a special water-cooled system and speed limiter. For RAW cacao, the speed is kept low. This means less heat development but also a longer grinding process to produce cocoa paste. After grinding, a final product is created: cocoa paste and/or cacao nibs. There are quite a few producers who sell their cocoa paste and cacao nibs as RAW and can reasonably prove that the temperature of the beans has not (or not for long) exceeded 45°C. But for cocoa powder and cocoa butter, one last process step must be performed.


By pressing the cocoa paste, cocoa butter and cocoa cake are created. Traditionally efficient pressing is done under extremely high pressure (800bar) where the temperature quickly shoots up to about 80°C. No producer can still call his product RAW after this process.

Our cocoa producer purchased 4 special presses from Italy that are small and equipped with a temperature gauge that controls and regulates the pressing process to keep the temperature below 45°C. If the temperature rises above 40°C, the presses slow down and stop pressing until the temperature falls again and then they continue. The result is a much longer time and naturally a much smaller volume that can be produced.

Pressing of Cacao


Cocoa Butter

To ensure that a product is truly RAW according to our own definition, it usually requires much more time and labor, and moreover, much less product can be produced in the same time as a non-RAW product. The consequence is that RAW products are scarcer and more expensive.