Ghana-based Niche Cocoa is in the process of turning a 44,000-square-foot space at the Franklin Business Park into its first North American facility, local, state and national officials announced Tuesday.
Niche will initially employ more than two dozen workers at the new facility, located at 9705 S. Oakwood Park Drive.
The project will be the largest food and beverage investment by an Africa-based company in U.S. history and the largest Ghana foreign direct investment ever in Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC).
“Niche Cocoa’s historic investment in Wisconsin is an unmistakable signal to other companies across Africa and around the world — the United States is open for business,” said U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Marisa Lago, who was present for the announcement.
Headquartered in Tema, Ghana, Niche Cocoa Industry, Ltd., is the largest cocoa processor in Ghana. It is partnering with Milwaukee-based Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company, on the project.
Founded by Steve Wallace, Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company pioneered the production of single-origin, bean-to-bar chocolate manufactured in Ghana, according to a WEDC press release.
“I would like to say a big thank you to everybody here. You have made this to be a success story, and have welcomed us to your beautiful state,” NIche Cocoa founder Edmund Poku said during a press conference on Tuesday. “The cocoa industry is a $100 billion industry, of which Ghana and the Ivory Coast is getting $6 billion. By adding more funding to it, Africans will (benefit) from more foreign investment. (For the United States) it will bring in foreign direct investment, and it brings the technical know-how of how to process chocolate into the country. We believe that by coming here we will produce one of the best chocolates … We are bringing the taste of Ghana to Wisconsin.”
At its Franklin Business Park facility, which is expected to be operational by December or January, the company will take imported cocoa cake and European food processing equipment to turn the brick-like cakes into cocoa powder. That powder will then be available for nationwide distribution to be used by a variety of food makers for everything from chocolate bars to ice cream.
Giving a tour of the facility, Wallace explained that operation will likely process about 1,200 containers of cocoa cake each year. That cake would travel to the East Coast of the U.S. via boat and then be transported to Chicago by rail.
“Together, we’re creating cocoa products and compelling employment in both the U.S., and Ghana,” Wallace said.
The company plans to manufacture finished chocolate at their Franklin operations sometime in 2023. That process will use high-tech machinery to combine the cocoa butter and cocoa liquor produced in Ghana to produce chocolate bars for the other food processers.
"It will smell heavenly," Wallace said.
Later, during a tour of the facility, Poku said part of what attracted the Niche Cocoa to Wisconsin was the dairy industry, and future hopes of creating chocolate beverages here.
“We’re happy to welcome Niche Cocoa to the Franklin Business Park, joining several other well-known food processors/manufacturers and equipment manufacturers,” said Franklin Mayor Steve Olson. “Niche Cocoa continues Franklin’s long history of welcoming international corporations to our fast-growing community. Niche recognizes our great location, highly skilled workforce and our great business climate and quality of life for their employees.”
[caption id="attachment_557179" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] 9705 S. Oakwood Park Drive, Franklin. Image from LoopNet.[/caption]