While the Ebenezer Scrooge figures in this world bemoan the "rampant consumerism" that has become part of Christmas in the Western world, let's not forget that intelligent shopping choices help support some of the poorest labourers in the world. Chocolate munchers in the US and Europe are often blissfully unaware that African cocoa farmers often spend most of their days cultivating the crop for a mere pittance.
This particular holiday seems to bring out shoppers' conscience, as sales in Divine, whose cocoa is supplied by a farmers co-operative in Ghana, increase every year. Divine spokesperson Charlotte Borger told ConfectioneryNews.com that, in fact, the season generates just under ten per cent of total sales.
The Divine company works hard to supply a range of new and tasty chocolate products of course, Borger added. As well as an advent calendar, chocolate coins and Dubble chocolate puddings, the company has this year launched new chocolate boxes and Divine after-dinner mints.
"In fact, we have a continuous new product development programme - so new products are always in the pipeline," she said. "We start planning them as soon as Christmas finishes." According to analysts Mintel, the total Fairtrade market was worth about £230m by the end of last year, experiencing some 265 per cent growth between 2002 and 2006.
These results happily indicate that consumer preference for fairly traded products is slowly growing, and indeed chocolate lovers will not be alone if they opt to fill their children's stockings with Divine chocolate this year. Only last month, the UK Archbishop of York himself called for a boycott of all non-fairtrade chocolate because of the cocoa industry's link unfair labour practices.
Shockingly, a Fairtrade label is the only guarantee that the chocolate has absolutely no links to child slavery, said Archbishop John Sentanu. On the other side of the Atlantic, anti-poverty activists Global Exchange urged children to give, rather than request, chocolate this Halloween, again to protest against poverty and child labour in cocoa-growing regions.
According to the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO), African countries provide about 70 per cent of the world's cocoa, up from 61 per cent in the mid-1990s. Cote D'Ivoire and Ghana cultivate the lion's share, accounting for 65 per cent of global net exports between them. By contrast, the Asia and Oceania region's share of global production has declined to 16 per cent from 17 per cent, while the Americas' contribution has fallen to 13 per cent from 19 per cent.
Most of the cocoa cultivated in Africa is exported to the major centres of cocoa consumption in Europe and North America, with the Netherlands and the US maintaining their positions as the world's two leading cocoa processing countries, the ICCO added.