According to Char Green, marketing director of Divine, chocolate with a higher cocoa content is currently on-trend.
“We’re seeing that consumers understand that higher cocoa means less sugar,” she said, adding Ghanaian farmers are particularly benefitting from this drive.
“This means we’re buying more cocoa from the farmers and more income from end products going to them, too.”
As Ghanaian farmers own a majority stakeholding in the company, this is good news for an industry often swamped by criticism of unfair labor practices and rampant poverty among farmers.
Kuapa Kokoo, a cooperative established to support cocoa farmers in Ghana, owns 45% share in Divine Chocolate.
Divine Chocolate – which was at The Chocolate Show in London, UK, last week – told this site its keeping its eye firmly on the growing trend towards premiumization.
“We have been experimenting with flavors and formats and produces bars like a 70% dark chocolate with chilli and toffee pieces, and one made of swirls of milk and white chocolate, both in open-faced packs so consumers can see what they are about it indulge in,” said Green.
The company’s chocolate portfolio also includes white, milk and dark chocolate bars; numerous exotic flavor combinations, like Raspberry, Mint and Pink Malaysian Salt; and seasonal products like Christmas advent calendars and Easter eggs.
“We are really pushing from an innovation perspective to do more on high cocoa trends,” said Green, noting the company’s 85% cocoa bar, in particular, is growing year-on-year.
Green said the company has entered into a number of collaborations with other companies, such as the recent project with Fairtrade popcorn company Jo & Seph’s to “produce the first ever Fairtrade popcorn egg”.
Divine Chocolate is GMO- and palm oil-free, has Kosher and Halal certified products in the range and is sold in the UK, US, Asia, parts of Europe and Australia.
Divine is among the few chocolate companies in the world owned by cocoa farmers.
Divine claims company ownership means farmers receive a better deal for their cocoa and have a stronger voice and share of Divine’s profits.Profits are growing year-on-year, said Green.
The company posted a 6% increase of branded sales for the group in fiscal 2016, along with a 10% growth in US sales to $8.5m, which offset a fall in own label sales in the UK after a reduction in the number of lines Divine supplied to one customer in August 2015.
Green noted that sales in the US, the company’s biggest market after the UK, have reached $10m this year.
“We’re very proud of that milestone,” she said.
This translates to a healthy dividend to its biggest shareholder and its 85,000 farmer members.
Divine Chocolate was established in the UK in 1998 by Fairtrade NGO Twin Trading with a 52% share; the Kuapa Kokoo coop with a 33% share; and retailer Body Shop International with a 14% share.
The company launched a business in the US in 2007, but the two entities merged eight years later. After several share swops and donations, Kuapa Kokoo today owns the majority share.