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Partnerships key to tackling cocoa supply chain challenges, says industry

By Kacey Culliney , 11-Jun-2012

'Joining forces will be key to driving a sustainable future in cocoa and chocolate' - a key message from the Chocovision 2012 Conference
'Joining forces will be key to driving a sustainable future in cocoa and chocolate' - a key message from the Chocovision 2012 Conference

Partnerships will be crucial in tackling the supply chain challenges in the surging cocoa and chocolate industry – this was the key message at Barry Callebaut’s Chocovision conference.

The Swiss cocoa and chocolate firm’s international conference – ‘Balance the challenge: From cocoa to chocolate – strategy, sustainability and success’ – was held in Davos, Switzerland on 5-7 May. It pulled together around 200 senior industry leaders and key stakeholders in the cocoa, chocolate and retail industries to explore solutions to secure a sustainable future.

“Cocoa and chocolate is a growing industry. We have to take all the challenges along the supply chain as our own challenges. We are all responsible and have to take leadership. We can’t do it alone, so partnership is key. Together we can, and we will, create a sustainable cocoa supply chain,” a Chocovision spokesperson from Barry Callebaut told ConfectioneryNews.com.

He detailed that various challenges were acknowledged at the conference, including the task of working across both developed and developing markets, continually changing consumer needs and behaviour, working innovatively, ensuring quality from the bean to the bar and overseeing working and living conditions at the beginning of the chain.

Pooling industry together

“We wanted a call for action, not just another debate,” the spokesperson detailed, and “we were hoping to create a neutral platform for all stakeholders,” including competitor involvement as this was not a company event.

Key speakers included rock musician and activist Sir Bob Geldof and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammed Yunus.

Geldof detailed that “the biggest challenges in the world today can only be overcome when the big players – governments, corporations and NGO’s – find a way to work together strategically.”

Juergen Steinemann, CEO of Barry Callebaut echoed Geldof’s sentiment in his closing speech stating that “the chain has become too complex for any one of us to master individually,” and all stakeholders must join forces.

The Chocovision spokesperson acknowledged that a lot has been achieved so far by industry “but there is much more potential for success, especially when it comes to solutions leading to a cocoa production that is economically viable, socially equitable and environmentally sound.”

Firms must become much adapt faster to changing market environments and be smarter with inter-cultural expertise, he said.

“We have to be ready for innovations coming from developing countries and we have to embrace the possibilities of technologies like social media to communicate with our stakeholders – from the consumer to the farmer, or even connect them directly,” he said.

This will only happen “if we all work together, of course in a pre-competitive way,” he added.

The end of the conference saw William Guyton, president of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) announce the establishment of the WCF Senior Leaders Council – a global platform that aims to provide solutions on ensuring cocoa production is economically viable, socially equitable and environmentally sound – with focus along the entire supply chain.

The second Chocovision conference has been scheduled for 2014.

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