Fair trade is getting sweeter

Marketplace Staff Feb 14, 2007

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Have you chosen your gift yet? Chocolate is the common gift du jour today. And just in time for Valentine’s Day, a new product is making its U.S. debut: Divine Chocolate. The CEO of that company, Erin Gorman. Welcome.

ERIN GORMAN: Thank you.

THOMAS: Divine isn’t just a new company, it’s also a new kind of business. What’s different about it?

GORMAN: The difference with Divine Chocolate is that it’s part owned by the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana. They have a say in the company and they have a share in the profits.

THOMAS: That’s different from the way cocoa farmers usually are involved in the chocolate manufacturing process, isn’t it?

GORMAN: Absolutely. Farmers historically have sort of been put into a place in the cocoa supply chain and the chocolate market where most people never really hear about them, they never see them and they really don’t know what their lives are like.

THOMAS: The chocolate in Divine Chocolate is Fair Trade Certified. What does that mean?

GORMAN: Fair Trade Certification is an international system that guarantees that farmers receive a minimum price for their cocoa. And on top of that, they receive a social premium that is then invested into community development projects. They’ve used it to invest in schools, in communities where there aren’t schools to provide good drinking water, to provide mobile medical clinics where doctors go out into the rural regions where farmers wouldn’t have access to health care. And they’ve also used to train women in particular on how to engage in income generation so that they can have money for their families in the off-season.

THOMAS: Is it true that many cocoa farmers have never even tasted chocolate?

GORMAN: In Ghana in particular this is true, because unlike in Latin America where you have this historical connection with the ancient Aztecs and Mayans using cocoa for various religious and cultural uses, in Ghana it was an imported crop so there’s no historical use, but also the heat and lack of refrigeration in rural areas means cocoa farmers might work their whole lives and never have enjoyed the delicious benefits of their work.

THOMAS: Now your company is launching today in the U.S., but it already exists in the U.K. doesn’t it?

GORMAN: Yes, we first launched in the U.K. in 1997 and we then wanted to extend into the U.S. market because the U.S. is a $13 billion chocolate market and even getting a small share of that back to cocoa farmers would really improve their livelihood.

THOMAS: Sounds pretty sweet.

GORMAN: Thank you.

THOMAS: Erin Gorman is the CEO of Divine Chocolate.

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