Disptaches from WCF meeting in Abidjan

‘Our customers do care’ about sustainable cocoa, says M&S

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

M&S sells 1,000 products containing cocoa. ©iStock/Linda Steward
M&S sells 1,000 products containing cocoa. ©iStock/Linda Steward

Related tags World cocoa foundation Retailing Chocolate

UK premium retailer Marks & Spencer says its consumers expect cocoa from sustainable sources.

It runs contrary to earlier Hershey-backed research​ that said Millennial consumers claim to favor ethical products, but are often unwilling to pay the premium.

‘They want to know…’

Speaking at the World Cocoa Foundation’s (WCF) partnership meeting last week in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, Hazel Culley, sustainability manager at M&S, said: “Our customers do care. They really want to know that M&S is buying products that come from sustainable sources; that people are treated fairly.”

hazel culley
Hazel Culley, sustainability manager at M&S, was speaking at the World Cocoa Foundation's partnership meeting in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire last Thursday. Photo: ConfectioneryNews

M&S has around 1,400 shops globally with 900 of those in the UK. It stocks around 1,000 products that contain cocoa, from chocolate bars to ice creams and cakes.

“We are very far removed from the growers who make the cocoa for us… what we do do though is work very closely with manufacturers to understand where they are sourcing their cocoa from and we do work with the traders,”​ said Culley.

“It’s very important to us that we are contributing to industry efforts in order to help us prove this,”​ she continued.

Retailers in the cocoa debate

M&S was one of the few retailers at WCF’s partnership meeting last week, where members such as Mondelēz, Mars and Nestlé shared progress on the sustainability platform CocoaAction.

Solidaridad has alleged retailers have shown little commitment​ to support sustainable cocoa, while Germany confectionery association BDSI has previously said supermarkets cannot neglect their role​ in bringing about a sustainable cocoa supply chain.

Retail and taxes make up 44.2% of the final sale price for every ton of cocoa sold, according to the VOICE Network’s latest Cocoa Barometer.

Retailers can engage through CocoaAction: M&S

“Although we are not directly involved in CocoaAction, the majority of cocoa that we source is from suppliers that are involved in CocoaAction,”​ said M&S’ Culley.

She said CocoaAction gave the retailer a way to indirectly engage in cocoa sustainability.

“Although we are a very small user of cocoa, we want to contribute to these industry efforts,”​ she said.

Scaling up CocoaAction

CocoaAction is currently spearheaded by the nine largest companies in the chocolate and cocoa sector: Nestlé, Mondelēz, Mars, Hershey, Ferrero, Barry Callebaut, Blommer, Cargill and Olam.

But new WCF president Richard Scobey hopes to increase the number of WCF member companies participating in CocoaAction in West Africa.

“I also want to seize opportunities to scale up partnerships for cocoa sustainability in new regions, like Latin America and Southeast Asia,”​ he said in his opening address at the WCF meeting.

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