Happy new year! This holiday season we’ve extended a warm invite to some fantastic organisations to share a guest post here on the No Nasties blog. At No Nasties we’re committed to bringing about much-needed change in the Indian cotton farming industry - and we love to connect with people who are using the same principles and ideas in other fields around the world. So new year diet be darned, today we’re all about starting 2013 on a sweet note… with chocolate! Our first guest blogger of this year is Charlotte from Divine Chocolate, a fair trade chocolate company that has become a household name in the UK while enabling radical progress in the cocoa farming industry in Ghana.
Here in the UK we love chocolate! On average we eat 10kg to 16kg of it per person a year! And the market in the UK alone is worth around £3.9billion – it’s huge! The market is dominated by three big players – Kraft, Mars and Nestle – but now there’s a much smaller company making a big splash – and the ripples are spreading around the world. It’s called Divine.
Divine is a chocolate company on a mission… to deliver a sublime experience to chocolate lovers everywhere, while raising the bar on what it means to trade fairly with farmers, and do business in a better way. It’s the amazing story behind Divine that has had such an impact, and changed how people think about chocolate for ever.
Back in 1997 a cocoa farmers’ co-operative in Ghana called Kuapa Kokoo (‘good cocoa farmers’ in Twi) voted at their AGM to set up a chocolate company in order to access a share of the valuable chocolate market (worth many times as much as the raw cocoa). A year later the first Divine bar was launched in the UK – 33% owned by the farmers themselves. Set up with the support of Twin Trading (a fair trade NGO), The Body Shop, and charities Christian Aid and Comic Relief, the company was established with the aim ‘to improve the livelihood of smallholder cocoa producers in West Africa by establishing their own dynamic branded proposition in the UK chocolate market, thus putting them higher up the value chain’. This mission still drives everything we do – and to this end we have successfully both grown sales (we’ve seen turnover of £11.8m), and been at the forefront of raising consumer, business and government awareness about the need for fairer trade.
We have grown a brand and a reputation that is inclusive, fun, accessible, high quality, passionate and determined. Divine has flourished through wonderful collaborations with a myriad of other brands big and small, and we love engaging with chocolate lovers and interested consumers, and the continuous liaison with the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo. Through the Fairtrade deal, and ownership of the Company, Kuapa Kokoo has developed into a thriving, dynamic and democratic organisation now with 65000 members from over 1400 villages – benefiting from the regular Fairtrade income, the premiums that are funding community improvements for thousands, and the status, market knowledge, and ‘seat at the table’ in the cocoa market, that owning Divine has given them. They have two representatives on the Divine Board, and farmers regularly visit the UK to find out more about their company and the market they supply. The co-operative has introduced pioneering women’s programmes, already having a significant impact on women’s lives and opportunities, and has created its own Child Labour Awareness Programme. They are a truly inspiring example of what is possible for smallholder farmers in Africa.
In 2007 Divine achieved a really significant milestone – the delivery of the first Dividend to Kuapa Kokoo – very tangible evidence that Divine Chocolate is succeeding at what it set out to do. Because, in 2006, The Body Shop had handed over their share in Divine to the farmers – Kuapa Kokoo’s stake grew from 33% to 45% so they receive the largest share of the profits. With a big flourish on Valentine’s Day, Divine was also launched in the USA – a bold and exciting move to introduce millions more chocolate lovers to Fairtrade and Divine Chocolate.
Divine Chocolate is also fulfilling its objectives to be a catalyst in the chocolate industry – and it was by creating a significant Fairtrade cocoa supply from Ghana, and a market hungry for Fairtrade chocolate in the UK, that Divine prompted the decision Cadbury’s (now Kraft) made to convert some of its business to Fairtrade (and the other big players have followed).
In a world that is becoming increasingly confusing to the consumer (or business) aspiring to live and shop more ethically, we hope we offer chocolate to cherish and a beacon for change. Our plan is to continue to prove it’s perfectly possible in business to put people first as well as profits, and make chocolate which is good news for everyone. Divine has created a model that is sustainable and empowering in the long term, and not arbitrary like charity. It is a model that doesn’t just deliver more reliable income – but profits, knowledge and power, enabling farmers to share in the wealth and market they have helped create.
Thanks, Charlotte! It’s been great for us at No Nasties to have your support and advice. We’re passionate about seeing great changes in the Indian cotton farming industry and it’s super encouraging to see how much difference the principles of fair trade have been making in Ghana. Here’s to a Divine (and definitely not nasty) 2013