Interview: Mondelēz Cocoa Life chief

Cocoa 'businessmen': Mondelēz aims to create enterprising farmers with Barry Callebaut tie-up

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Mondelēz teams with Solidaridad and Barry Callebaut to expand Cocoa Life and professionalize cocoa farming sector
Mondelēz teams with Solidaridad and Barry Callebaut to expand Cocoa Life and professionalize cocoa farming sector

Related tags Cocoa life Chocolate Barry callebaut

Mondelēz International has scaled up its cocoa sustainability program through a partnership with its major supplier Barry Callebaut and has set a long-term goal of professionalizing the cocoa sector.

Earlier this month, Mondelēz teamed with Barry Callebaut and NGO Solidaridad to eventually double numbers of farmers reached in Côte D’Ivoire through the Cadbury and Milka owner's Cocoa Life sustainability program.

‘Big Step’

“It’s really a big step up,”​ Cathy Pieters, director of Mondelēz’s Cocoa Life program, told ConfectioneryNews in a phone interview. We are now working with all our suppliers on the ground.”

Mondelēz already works with Ecom, Olam and Cargill under Cocoa Life, but has now added its largest industrial chocolate partner Barry Callebaut. At the end of 2014, Cocoa Life reached 40,000 farmers, but the latest extension with Barry Callebaut and Solidaridad will add another 26,000 farmers alone by 2018.

Under the partnership, Barry Callebaut will drive productivity among farmers through agricultural training while Solidaridad will help strengthen the local community.

Cocoa enterprise: The next generation

Mondelēz and Barry Callebaut

Barry Callebaut is a major supplier for Mondelēz. In 2010, Callebaut signed a long-term deal​ to supply Mondelēz’s predecessor Kraft Foods cocoa products and industrial chocolate, including Cadbury liquid chocolate deliveries. At the time, it was Callebaut’s largest outsourcing deal, outstripping the 80,000 metric tons per year it supplied to Hershey.

Pieters said resulting yield increases would “considerably increase income”​ for participating farmers. “On average what we are gearing towards is doubling income for cocoa,”​ she said.

But this does not mean Mondelēz will pay double the market price for cocoa. The departing CEO of Fairtrade recently said​ the chocolate industry needs to double the price it pays for cocoa to secure the commodity’s future and combat extreme poverty.

Mondelēz’s Pieters said: “Price is one factor and it is a critical factor, but it’s in the realm of net income.”

She said Mondelēz would instead double farmer income from cocoa via productivity with good agricultural practice (GAP) training and providing access to planting materials and fertilizer.

Participants in Cocoa Life are paid a premium, but there is no fixed minimum premium as there is for Fairtrade cocoa.

Pieters said: “Our vision is to have cocoa farmers become businessman and treat cocoa as an enterprise…For a farmer, he will never lose against a certified program.”

cocoa life mdlz resized
Cocoa Life is a 10-year cocoa sustainability program by Mondelēz International launched in 2012. The $400m project covers Ghana, Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire and three other cocoa origins. Mondelēz partners with a supplier and NGO for all its Cocoa Life programs. In Côte D’Ivoire it works with NGO Care and suppliers Cargill and Ecom. In Indonesia, it works with NGO Save the Children and suppliers Olam and Cargill. Mondelēz has a long-term goal to source all its cocoa sustainably, possibly all through Cocoa Life.

Beyond ‘low-hanging fruit’

cocoa life progress1
Source: Mondelēz

She added that the project with Barry Callebaut and Solidaridad would help turn cocoa growing communities into places “people want to live and young people want to stay”.

Solidaridad will be tasked to build community structures, running programs on areas such as literacy or women’s empowerment depending on each community’s needs.

According to Pieters, the latest partnership will go beyond the ‘low hanging fruit’ to reach non-organized as well as organized farmers,

But are the 26,000 new farmers in Cocoa Life already reached by Callebaut’s own sustainability programs?

“Some were in programs, but not all,”​ said Pieters. “A part of them are not organized – a big chunk.”

Combating deforestation and child labor

cote d'or2 fb
Mondelēz's Côte D’Or brand uses cocoa exclusively from the Cocoa Life program. Source: Mondelēz

Mondelēz is also conducting GPS mapping of each farm under Cocoa Life to combat deforestation. “It’s relatively new that cocoa is coming up as a contributor…it’s been called out,”​ said Pieters.

A recent peer-reviewed study​ found three-quarters of land in 23 protected areas surveyed in Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s premier cocoa grower, had been transformed for cocoa production and found a positive correlation between cocoa farming and the absence of primate species.

Under Cocoa Life, Mondelēz also recently commissioned human rights consultancy Embode to conduct a qualitative analysis of child labor within its Cocoa Life supply chain in Ghana and Côte D’Ivoire. It will assess the numbers of child laborers and the underlying causes so Mondelēz may take corrective action. 

It comes as a July report from Tulane University​ found 2.03m children were engaged in hazardous cocoa work in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana during the 2013/14 harvest season, up 18% from 2008/09 season.

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