“A world without chocolate is no world at all,” said Patrick De Maeseneire, chairman of Barry Callebaut, organisers of Chocovision 2018, in his opening statement to 200-plus delegates gathered in Davos for what is effectively the economic forum for the chocolate industry.
Few in the room would argue the point, but the point of this year’s Chocovision goes much deeper. A lot has changed since the last conference in 2016 and as De Maeseneire said: “sustainability is no longer a slogan.”
He urged business, politicians and consumers to work together to make a lasting impact on not only the environment, but on the industry, making it healthy and sustainable for future generations.
'Profit with a purpose'
He called for business leaders in the room to think of “profit with a purpose” and urged them to do more to contribute to society in a more meaningful way. Sustainability is important for the whole industry and an important topic for cocoa producers, many of whom are in attendance at this year’s conference.
He agreed of course that business needs to make a profit, and “the more we sell, the more we can give back”. Chocolate knows no boundaries and speaks all languages, he reminded delegates, and was therefore a global imperative that the industry looks after itself by protecting those from all levels who work in it.
At the start of the conference, delegates were asked in an online poll: “Do you feel optimistic that the stakeholders involved [in Chocovision 2018] can make changes needed to achieve greater sustainability?”
82% answered ‘yes’.
Chocovision 2018 has a mandate to deliver change, how the industry goes about it will be a key ingredient. Will the talk be full of bubbles like an Aero bar? Or can we expect something more solid, like a Toblerone from this year’s conference?
Dr Gro Harlem Brundland, a ‘sustainability legend’ and former Norwegian prime minister, delivered the opening day keynote address.
She urged stakeholders to seize the opportunity of improving sustainability and called out to the young people coming into the industry to “show leadership” and “put us on the right path”.
Sustainability should not be a burden and businesses are no longer exempt from the solution, she said. “Business and society will either rise together or fall together,” she told the conference.
“How can business be an effective change agent, help implement the sustainable development agenda and accelerate change for the better?” she demanded to know.
Such is Brundland’s standing on diversity, inclusion and the environment; stakeholders had better have answers ready for the next time she is invited to speak at Chocovision.
For the millennials, represented here by delegates from the One Young World 2017 conference. The solution is easy: “We need young minds to tell the old fashioned people to put away their old-fashioned thinking and open their eyes to the modern world,” said one member in an international dialog that took place with Brundland after her speech.
Because the United States has the largest chocolate consumer market (60%) it also needs to show leadership and John H Downs Jnr, president and CEO of America’s National Confectioners Association is acutely aware of the challenges that lay ahead for the industry.
The chocolate industry in the US continues to grow and is worth billions of dollars to the economy, but he knows there are fundamental issues around online retail, demographic changes, consumer trends and new product development that will need to be addressed if that growth is to be maintained.
Stefan Buhler, CEO of the Bühler Group, called for greater transparency in the industry and ended with a quote from British behavioral scientist Jane Goddall: “We do not own this planet, we only borrowed it from our children.”
With its theme of ‘To the Point’ clearly set out, Chocovision 2018 will look at how technology is spurring innovation, how the industry can ensure a sustainable future and what role business can play as an agent of change.
Over the next two days all eyes will be on Davos and how stakeholders intend to implement that change.