Divine Chocolate celebrates 15 years

01 March 2013

DIOCESE OF LONDON

All wrapped up: a model of St Paul's Cathedral, made from Fairtrade packaging, was placed in the cathedral last Friday

All wrapped up: a model of St Paul's Cathedral, made from Fairtrade packaging, was placed in the cathedral last Friday

WHEN Christian Aid heard, in 1998, that a co-operative of cocoa farmers in Ghana wanted to set up their own chocolate company, the charity could not have envisaged that Divine Chocolate would go on to become a business that has an annual turnover of £8.2 million.

Celebrating its 15th anniversary during Fairtrade Fortnight, which runs from 25 February until 10 March, Divine Chocolate is the first Fairtrade chocolate bar aimed at the mass market to be launched in the UK. The company is 45 per cent owned by farmers.

On Tuesday, the managing director of Divine Chocolate, Sophi Tranchell, said: "When I first took up the job, it was an insurmountable task we had taken on to launch it into the very competitive market in the UK. Christian Aid has been a fantastically practical group of people. The way they have educated their supporters means that they have a really nice, quiet confidence."

In the early days, in Christian Aid's campaign Stock the Choc, supporters handed postcards to retailers to persuade them to buy Divine. Today, Divine Chocolate has a turnover of more than $4.5 million in the United States, and exports to Scandinavia and the Netherlands.

On Monday, the Fairtrade Foundation launched a new campaign calling for support for smallholder farmers. The report Powering up Smallholder Farmers to Make Food Fair warns that the global food system is failing these farmers, who produce 70 per cent of the world's food. Many are "trapped in a cycle of poverty, exacerbated by decades of price volatility, under-investment in agriculture, and now global inflationary prices for food and farm inputs and the impact of climate change", it says.

The campaign launches a five-point agenda for action, and calls on the Prime Minister, who is hosting the G8 summit in June, to put smallholder farmers "into the heart of government's trade policy".

The charity has also launched a petition on its website, where supporters can turn themselves into a "personalised paper person". The foldable "mini-marchers" will be displayed on Monday at a demonstration in Parliament Square.

The Foundation estimates that sales of Fairtrade products are in-creasing annually by 12 per cent in the UK.

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