MILWAUKEE — Executives from Ghana’s Niche Cocoa Industry along with state and federal officials recently unveiled plans to establish its first North American manufacturing facility that will be based in Franklin, Wis., a suburb of the greater Milwaukee metropolitan area. Niche Cocoa is Ghana’s largest private global cocoa processing company, and its North American presence would mark the biggest food and beverage investment in US history made by an Africa-based company.

The cocoa company plans to lease an existing 44,000-square foot building where they will hire 24 employees to process approximately 1,200 containers of Ghana-imported cocoa cake each year, which will be turned into cocoa powder, finished chocolate and cocoa liquor that then will be sold to other manufacturing facilities to be made into chocolate, ice cream and baked foods. The company expects the facility to be fully operational by January 2023.

“Niche is precisely the type of company we want and can uniquely support in our region,” said Rebecca Gries, vice president of corporate attraction and expansion at M7, a Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC). “The company adds to a strong cluster of global food and beverage manufacturers that call our region home, a reflection of our favorable business environment, strong manufacturing infrastructure and one of the nation’s highest concentrations of talented workers.” 

WEDC assisted with recruiting Niche Cocoa to the Milwaukee area where the company plans to partner with the city’s Omanhene Cocoa Bean Co., which specializes in manufacturing bean-to-bar chocolate that is sourced entirely from Ghana, the world’s second-largest cocoa bean produce. The Ivory Coast, another West African country, is the globe’s leading cocoa bean producer.  

“Together we’re creating cocoa products and compelling employment in both the US and Ghana,” said Steve Wallace, founder of Omahene. “We’re proving that a country’s competitive advantages, paired with strategic global partnerships, lead to winning outcomes in unexpected places.” 

The announcement also had support from the federal government. Marisa Lago, US Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, applauded the partnership between the two nations as a symbolic opportunity for other international prospects. 

“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,” Ms. Lago said.