Tag Archives: Kuapa Kokoo

Divine Chocolate: Innovative, Fair, and Delicious

Introduction

A major problem that has existed within the chocolate production industry has been the ethics surrounding the harvesting of cacao. For decades the means of harvesting cacao involved slavery where people were forced to work in harsh conditions, for 18 hours a day without pay (Carla Martin, Lecture 5). After the major cacao producing countries outlawed slavery, the working conditions still didn’t improve and the pay the workers received was not nearly enough to live. In fact, because many of the cacao producing farms were hidden in the jungle, many farm owners still got away with slavery because the lack of visibility meant the farm owners weren’t held accountable for their unethical standards. Even today visibility and pay are still a major problem in the cacao farming industry. In 2015, the average income for a Ghanaian household working in the cacao farming industry was between 50 and 80 cents per day (Carla Martin, Lecture 7).  However, one company that is working to bring ethics and visibility to the cacao farming and chocolate production industries is Divine Chocolate. 

Divine Beginnings

Divine Chocolate is a British bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer that was founded in 1998. Their mission is to create delicious and ethical chocolate from the harvesting of the cacao beans, to the selling of the bars. They also, ensure that all other ingredients that go into their chocolate bars are produced in an ethical manner. Divine Chocolate was created when Twin Trading and Kuapa Kokoo came together with the goal of changing the world cacao market for the better.  Twin Trading is a non-governmental organization that creates farming co-operatives around the world. They focus on improving the working conditions and paying fair wages to farmers. Their main focus is on the ethical farming of coffee, cacao, and nuts (“Who We Are”). One of their farming co-ops is called Kuapa Kokoo, which is a farming co-op in Ghana that grows and trades cacao. Kuapa Kokoo is comprised of 85,000 farmers from 1,257 different villages (“About Us”). That number continues to grow because of the exceptional way they treat and pay their farming members. All of the cacao that goes into the Divine Chocolate bars are grown by farmers in the Kuapa Kokoo farming co-op. 

Scorecard grading the ethical standards of chocolate companies
Image Source

Kuapa Kokoo Cooperative

Kuapa Kokoo was founded in 1993 and it means “good cacao growers”. Their mission is “to empower farmers in their efforts to gain a dignified livelihood, to increase women’s participation in Kuapa’s activities, and to develop environmentally friendly cultivation of cocoa” (“The Divine Story”).  In, 1995, Kuapa Kokoo was the first small farm farmers’ organization in West Africa to receive the Fairtrade certification. They ensure the farmers are working reasonable hours, with sufficient breaks, and proper pay. Kuapa Kokoo does all the administrative work that goes into trading cacao and bypasses all the shady government cacao agents. This is to ensure visibility, fairness and that the farmers are not getting swindled by government agents or other entities with ulterior motives. Specifically, Kuapa Kokoo, “weighs, bags, and transports the cocoa to market [and] ensures that all its activities are transparent, accountable and democratic (“The Divine Story”). Before the Kuapa Kokoo co-op existed, government agencies would use faulty scales that misrepresented the true weight of a farmer’s cacao harvest. This allowed them to steal from unsuspecting farmers which further harmed them. 

Structure of Divine Chocolate and Kuapa Kokoo 

Where Divine Chocolate is especially unique is in their company structure. Today, 44% of Divine Chocolate is owned by the Kuapa Kokoo farming Co-op. In other words, this means that each farmer in the Kuapa Kokoo co-op has a small ownership stake in Divine Chocolate. This unique business structure earned Divine Chocolate the Millennium Product award “for its innovative organizational model” (“Inside Divine”). This is the first company in the world where the cacao farmers have a stake in the chocolate company they are harvesting for. This is significant because Kuapa Kokoo and its farming members now have a say in how Divine manufactures, markets, and sells their products. Because the farmers partially own Divine chocolate and Kuapa Kokoo is a Fairtrade co-op, the farmers are paid exceedingly better than they were before. Receiving a cut of Divine’s profit, having a say in Divine’s operations, and having an influence in the worldwide marketplace has greatly empowered and motivated the farmers because now their work is properly valued, their ideas are considered, and their well-being is a priority. 

Divine is committed to ensuring that farmers of Kuapa Kokoo have a voice in the company. Currently two out of the five members of Divine’s Board of Directors are from Kuapa Kokoo. Divine also ensures that at least one out of the four yearly board meetings are held in Ghana (“Inside Divine”). This ensures that all the farmers can witness and participate in the company in a meaningful way. 

Video showing the success that Kuapa Kokoo and Divine Chocolate’s partnership has generated

Goodness in Ghana

The effect that Divine Chocolate and Kuapa Kokoo has had on the community has been immeasurable. First, because Kuapa Kokoo is a Fairtrade co-op, they receive a Fairtrade premium. The Fairtrade premium is a grant of additional money given to the co-op so the farmers can collectively decide how to improve their community and their workplace. With this premium, the farmers have invested in community development, farm skill development, clean water, improving education, and several other things that improve the lifestyle of those in the community (“The Divine Story”). They similarly receive dividends from Divine Chocolate which allows the farmers to upgrade equipment yearly so as to ensure high levels of production.

Kuapa Kokoo is also deeply concerned with social and environmental issues. They been on the forefront of speaking out against child labor because they understand that this is still a major problem that needs to be address throughout the industry. They also have created several goals that are aimed at improving the environment and increasing productivity while still adapting to environmental changes. 

Worldwide Effect

Divine Chocolate has also had a large effect on the global chocolate market. They have set an extraordinary example of how to ethically run a chocolate company. Since their founding in 1998, the number of Fairtrade chocolate sales in the UK has skyrocketed by more than 8800%. Many of the major chocolate companies have also made a shift to become more Fairtrade. Divine Chocolate’s success inspired Cadbury to convert Cadbury Dairy Milk to Fairtrade. This was a major move because, not only was Cadbury Dairy Milk its leading brand, but Cadbury was also one of the major five chocolate companies in the world so having them convert even one product to Fairtrade had a major effect on a lot of people worldwide (“The Divine Story”). In the years following Cadbury’s move, Nestlé and Mars began buying cocoa from Cote D’Ivoire which was the beginning of their process to partially convert to Fairtrade. By 2013, the shift to Fairtrade chocolate worldwide was in full swing. In the UK specifically, in 2013 eleven percent of the chocolate sold was deemed Fairtrade (“The Divine Story”). Divine Chocolate takes pride in the fact that they were one of the first companies to commit themselves to Fairtrade ethics and they are even prouder that their example has inspired other companies to commit to Fairtrade production. 

Graph showing the large increase in Fairtrade Chocolate Sales in the UK
Image Source

Divine in the US

As I mentioned before, Divine Chocolate was a company that headquartered and sold only in the UK. However, in 2007, with the help of Oikocredit, (a company that provides loans and capital), Divine Chocolate was able to launch its United States branch of the company. In fact, Divine Chocolate launched in the United States on Valentine’s Day 2007 which is the day the most chocolate is bought and consumed in the United States (“The Divine Story”). Their original launch was very small; however, now Divine Chocolate is sold at Whole Foods, Walgreens, Walmart, and through Amazon.com.

In 2015, after the Divine Chocolate USA branch gained solid footing in the American market, Divine Chocolate merged their UK and USA branches to form one unified company. With this new structure, the Kuapa Kokoo co-op still remained 44% owners of the company (“Inside Divine”). The CEO of the newly merged company was Sophi Tranchell. She was a managing director from the UK branch of the company before they made the merge. After the merger she said, “Having launched Divine in the USA nine years after the founding company launched in the UK, it has been very exciting to see it successfully navigate all the challenges in the USA market and mirror the success of Divine in the UK. We have seen a growing appetite around the world for business being done differently” (“Inside Divine”). In this statement Sophi Tranchell alludes to the fact that Americans became more aware of the issues involved with products that weren’t Fairtraded. This heightened people’s willingness to purchase Fairtraded chocolate even though they are typically more expensive. Sophi also mentions how the added American dimension to the company makes their global reach much larger and makes Divine stronger because they can inspire and market to a completely different group of people. Furthermore, the new market allows Divine “to deliver [on their] mission to fairly and sustainably remunerate smallholder cocoa farmers in West Africa” (“Inside Divine”). This larger market means more profit which, in turn, means more money for the farmers who need it the most. 

Uniqueness in the Fairtrade Chocolate Market

One way that Divine Chocolate differentiates itself from a lot of other bean-to-bar Fairtrade chocolate companies is through the products they offer. Many bean-to-bar Fairtrade chocolate companies only offer dark chocolate. This is very problematic because the majority of the global market prefers milk chocolate and, if there are no Fairtrade options, consumers are forced to turn to the big 5 chocolate companies which are generally not Fairtrade. In fact, in a 2013 survey it was found that 51 percent of people prefer milk chocolate, 35 percent prefer dark, and 8 percent prefer white chocolate (Ballard). However, Divine helps fill this gap in the Fairtrade chocolate market because they offer all three types of chocolate in a variety of different flavors which very few companies do. Divine, along with a few other diverse Fairtraded chocolate companies , are helping take power away from the Big 5 Chocolate companies that are not fairly traded. 

Shows the wide variety of chocolates and flavors that Divine offers
Image Source

Outlook

Divines presence in the world market place is growing nicely. I believe Divine Chocolate will continue to grow and thrive in the Fairtrade Chocolate market. Last year group sales increased 6.4%, however the impending Brexit decision has affected their overall profit margins mostly because of the decline in value of the dollar and pound in relation to the Euro (Annual Report 2017-2018). Nevertheless, the number of sales increased nicely from the year before and, once the turmoil surrounding Brexit is resolved, the increase in sales will begin to show in their balance sheet. 

Kuapa Kokoo is also flourishing as they now produce almost 5 percent of Ghanaian cacao, which equates to about 640,000 sacks of cacao a year (“The Divine Story”). While 5 percent may seem small, the most important thing is that it is all produced and sold ethically, while prioritizing the health of its workers and the environment. Divine also has plans within the next year to expand its range of cacao to São Tomé (Annual Report 2017-2018). This will broaden their market appeal and it will allow them to bring their groundbreaking business model to the people of São Tomé. The farmers on São Tomé have historically been treated very poorly over the years and they will greatly benefit from Divine’s co-op business model. 

Conclusion

I think things are looking up on all fronts for Divine Chocolate. Their commitment for over 20 years to empower the farmer has transformed thousands of people’s lives. It is very important that Divine continues with their mission because, while they have made a big impact already, there is still a lot of work to be done in the global market place. All in all, Divine has done a great job addressing the major problems in the chocolate industry that we have discussed in class. They have increased visibility, paid fairly, and empowered the farmer so that participating in the bean-to-bar chocolate making industry is desirable and sustainable for everyone from the top to the bottom. 

Scholarly Sources Cited
Multimedia Sources Cited

It’s Not About the Chocolate: Portrayal of Women in Chocolate Advertisements

m&m’s ad featuring “Miss Green”

The image above originates in an Australian campaign for the Mars m&m’s candy, in which each of the m&m’s “characters” (cartoon versions of each color m&m) supported a different political party (Schiller). This ad intends to sell chocolate, pretends to sell a political party, and actually sells the female body. By using indirect methods of advertising to trade on cultural stereotypes rather than actual products, images like this, especially prevalent in chocolate advertising, promote entrenchment of these stereotypes. In her book Chocolate, Women and Empire, Emma Robertson explains how “the consumption of chocolate in the west became feminised early in its history” (Robertson, 20). Chocolate and women have been associated closely throughout the western history of the product. Often advertising equates not only chocolate and femininity but also the concepts of sin and indulgence. The way that m&m’s uses the “Miss Green” character (notably the only female m&m character in their lineup until quite recently) portrays an edible candy as obviously female and almost always sexualized. “Miss Green’s” alluring gaze, the presence of handcuffs, and the double meaning of the phrase “working the polls” make obvious what the image suggests: We as consumers should vote for her because she’s sexy, and then we should buy chocolate. This image advertises the particularly harmful idea that a woman could only exert political or environmental power through pole dancing or other sexual displays.

Not every advertisement is as problematic as the one above, of course. This essay aims to explore and critique alternative portrayals of women and chocolate in advertising. One reaction to problematic chocolate marketing comes from Divine Chocolate, a UK company which buys cocoa from Ghanaian farmers, including the Kuapa Kokoo Cooperative. Divine presented a series of advertisements in Women’s fashion magazines in the UK, which featured female cocoa farmers, dressed fashionably and elegantly, holding a piece of Divine chocolate.

Divine Chocolate advertisement featuring a cocoa farmer

In an article printed in the Journal of African Cultural Studies, scholar Kristy Leissle pointed out how these advertisements were particularly effective in undermining the Western image of Africa as a “primitive” society in a dichotomy with the “cultured” West. She explains, “The images reflect the fact that women in Ghana also live multi-faceted lives – indeed they do farm, but they are also businesswomen, wear attractive clothes, beautify their bodies with industrial accessories, and assert their roles in transnational (or local) market exchanges” (Leissle, 136).  In contrast to the m&ms ad, Divine chocolate’s ad campaign features a variety of women without reducing women to a single cartoon image, and also presents a more complex picture of chocolate. The ad uses the image of a woman to explore the origins of the product rather than distract from them. Leissle analyzes how “Divine Chocolate expends considerable effort to make Kuapa Kokoo farmers – and Ghana as a cocoa origin site – visible to Britain’s chocolate shoppers” (Leissle, 124). The m&m’s add distracts from the origins of the chocolate, focusing instead on the wants of the consumer, whereas Divine chocolate focuses on the origins of the product being sold, and how the product is thus better than other chocolate, which comes from companies that do not treat their cocoa producers fairly.

While I agree that Divine’s advertisements are very effective at shedding a new, positive light on African producers, I think there are still problematic elements to these ads, especially in their depiction of women and their misplacement of what is being sold. The woman’s pose and revealing clothing, as well as her somewhat sultry gaze (Leissa refers to a “seductive gaze” and “just pursed lips”) still sell the idea that this beautiful woman serves as a sexual object, not an active producer and businesswoman (Leissle, 134). Keep in mind that these advertisements were primary aimed at woman readers of fashion magazines and probably inspired by designer fashion advertisements. However, Even though the ads were aimed at women rather than heterosexual men, and did not have the goal of arousing the audience, they are still able to objectify women. All consumers are conditioned by images around them (images like the m&ms ad) to view female bodies as objects. In a study, social scientist Beth Eck evaluated women’s reactions to images of sexualized female nudes. She concluded that “women may resent these images, they may uneasily identify with them, but they are also accustomed to the mundane practice of viewing them and accepting them” (Eck, 706). The same can be said for sexualized advertisements. As well as to some extent selling the woman pictured in the image, the ads also sell a sense of consumer morality. Rather than selling the chocolate product itself, these ads focus on selling a feeling of moral accomplishment to consumers.

Our group has constructed a third advertisement in the same vein as Divine Chocolate, but that we feel better represents the Kuapa Kokoo farmers and the relationship between women and chocolate as both producers and consumers.

chocolatead

The women selected and posed for Divine’s original advertisements were chosen as “women with attitude.” Leissle also uses the word “sassy” (Leissle, 134). For our ad, we chose to depict a woman who served a very important role in the Kuapa Kokoo Cooperative and was also an experienced farmer and ambassador, Comfort Kumeah. Kumeah’s image appears confident and in control, despite a lack of “attitude” or sexual allure. Our advertisement places a greater emphasis on the production of cocoa and cacao farming, stepping away a bit from the focus on Africa as a producer of the finished good, chocolate. If it had been available, we would have chosen an image of Kumeah holding a finished Divine chocolate bar as well as the beans. However, I think that focusing on the beans themselves as a finished product emphasizes these women farmers as competent producers. Furthermore, the emphasis on the quality of the beans in our ad centers the attention on selling the product itself, presenting Divine and Kuapa as businesses without connotations of charity or aid relief organizations. Our intention with this ad was to provide an image of possibly advertising systems that could combat the sexist imagery presented overtly by Mars and more subtly by Divine.

 

Works Cited

Eck, Beth A. “Men Are Much Harder: Gendered Viewing of Nude Images.” Gender & Society 17.5 (2003): 691-710. Print.

Leissle, Kristy. “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24.2 (2012): 121-39. Print.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.

Schiller, Nikolas R. “The M&M’s of Australia Say Vote Green.” The Daily Render. N.p., 12 Feb. 2008. Web. 11 Apr. 2014. <http://www.nikolasschiller.com/blog/index.php/archives/category/green/&gt;.