The social enterprise Divine Chocolate has come a long way since its launch in the late 90s, according to Third Sector. What started as a simple idea to get more Fairtrade-certified chocolate from west Africa on sale in the UK has grown steadily into an international chocolate business with a turnover of £12 million a year and offices in both the UK and the US. Its managing director, Sophi Tranchell says that part of the success lies in the fact that it produces a product that has widespread appeal. "Through chocolate we're able to engage with everyone," she says. "It makes it quite distinct from social enterprises that are doing more complicated things.”
The way hasn’t always been easy for the brand, but changes in consumer behavior have also helped Divine in recent years. Fifteen years ago only a limited number of consumers were taking into account social and ethical considerations when purchasing products. Now many more, especially the younger millennial generation, are purchasing ethically.
What separates Divine from its commercial rivals is not just the fact that it produces only Fairtrade-certified chocolate, but also its ownership structure. Forty-four per cent of the business is owned by Kuapa Kokoo, a cooperative of cocoa farmers in Ghana set up in 1993. Divine buys almost all of its cocoa from the cooperative and gives 2 per cent of its annual turnover to fund Kuapa Kokoo's work. Tranchell says it has invested more than £2 million in projects to support cocoa farming communities to date.
Divine continues to face challenges. Many of the major chocolate companies now use Fairtrade-certified chocolate in their well-known cheaper brands, which has made it harder to differentiate its upmarket brand from the mainstream. The availability of Divine products are the main challenge. Divine is stocked by retailers such as Waitrose and Starbucks and in charity shops such as Oxfam, but it's not readily available in locations such train stations.
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