foodcircle Interviews: Alessandro Piano
Meet Alessandro Piano, Dutch cocoa expert and chocolate lover.
After completing a degree in food chemical engineering in the Netherlands, Alessandro Piano went on to join his father’s company, COM.EX.IM.
Having written his thesis on cocoa processing and the production of cocoa butter and cocoa powder, it’s quite fitting that he is now working in the trading of cocoa beans and semi-finished cocoa products. Alessandro is a chocolate lover and is incredibly knowledgeable in sourcing the best raw materials.
foodcircle: You’ve been working at COM.EX.IM for over 16 years, what inspires you to do what you do on a daily basis?
Alessandro: I have been working with Comexim for 16 years because my dad, who founded the company in 1986, was able to transfer to me, the love for this world. I’m still working in the cocoa industry on a daily basis because almost every day there is a challenge and this is exciting, not boring. When I was a student, my father told me that the cocoa industry was for gentlemen. I will not stop trying to be a reliable member of this cocoa world.
foodcircle: Within the cacao industry, there is an ever increasing demand for organic food ingredients. Why organic and how is this impacting your business?
Alessandro: Organic is one of the oldest certifications and today still, it is a guarantee of quality and reliability. It is an increasing challenge but it is a fair and correct market and it must be faced.
foodcircle: Cocoa manufacturers have many varieties to choose from (Criollo, Forastero, Trinitario), but why is the dutch cocoa powder so popular?
Alessandro: Dutch Cocoa was the first alkalized cocoa powder and still has the secret of being the best by-product of the cocoa beans. The cocoa beans are processed in the proper way, in order to achieve a unique combination of color and taste making the Dutch cocoa powder a great product.
foodcircle: What is one common misconception about the cacao industry that you would like to set straight?
Alessandro: Sometimes we hear the excuse that “cocoa is a natural product and variations may occur”, however; I know that if the producer is reliable and an expert in what they do, they know perfectly how to deal with all the variations. In that way, they can always provide the best and most consistent product to the customer.
foodcircle: With plenty of information available about the cacao industry and about manufacturing chocolate, tell us something exciting that we don’t know.
Alessandro: We all talk about Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario but there are around at least 17 different groups of clones in addition to a great number of hybrids. Cocoa is also classified following its form, such as Amelonado, Angoleda, Cundeamor and Calabacillo. There are infinite opportunities for new blends and new chocolates, they just haven’t been invented yet.
foodcircle: We’d love to know the most bizzare flavour of chocolate that you’ve tasted?
Alessandro: I love chocolate in all its forms but I still remember a chocolate called DiVino Aroma that had a very good link between two great products of nature - cocoa and grapes.