28 Jan More Cocoa, Less Sugar – The Heart Of Hotel Chocolat
Hotel Chocolat is not only the favourite British luxury chocolatier, the company is setting the standard on the employment rights of the cocoa farmers who produce the key ingredient of our favourite guilty pleasure.
This month, the 2018 Cocoa Barometer published its report on the workers at cocoa plantations – the source of our mass produced chocolate. As reported in The Daily Telegraph this week, the group of 15 European non-profit organisations, have estimated 2.1 million children working in cocoa fields in Ivory Coast and Ghana alone, of which around 16,000 are forced into the trade, either by family members or child traffickers. A disturbing statistic from the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour found that 64% of children on cocoa farms were under the age of 14.
One chocolate company which is making a stand for the farmers at the supplier end of our favourite treat is Hotel Chocolat whose core purpose is More Cocoa, Less Sugar. Their mantra defines the main ingredient of all their chocolate products, driving the whole business plan and business actions from the supplier to the luxury end-products sold at their shops, cafes, restaurants and online to customers.
Hotel Chocolat’s Beliefs:
We’re constantly striving to be fresh, creative and innovative, and always one surprising step ahead.
Chocolate starts at the roots of the cacao tree. So we got stuck in.
You work too hard for bad chocolate. They work too hard for cheap cocoa. We’ve been raising the bar for cocoa-growing since 2002.
The authenticity of their products is at the heart of the passion of the two founders Angus Thirlwell and Peter Harris, who were on a mission to make chocolate exciting again when they established the first Hotel Chocolat shop in 2004. By focusing on the key ingredient of Cocoa, and driving their mantra More Cocoa, Less Sugar, they formed a chocolatier which followed the whole process from the farmer to the product in the shop. The company is one of the world’s few chocolate makers to actually grow cocoa, on their own Rabot Estate plantation in Saint Lucia. producing several thousand of its own cocoa trees, producing 20 tons of cocoa each year to make its own single-estate bars, Easter eggs and chocolate truffles.
By connecting the cocoa-growing to the end products in their shops, this gives the team an in-depth understanding of the factors and Ethics that impact the final flavour of our chocolate, crucially focusing on the farmers themselves. Their Engaged Ethics Programmein St Lucia includes education and training as well as practical support and investment to ensure sustainable crops, prices, and employee rights.
In 2018, the Academy of Chocolate global conference had a presentation by the High Commissioner for Saint Lucia His Excellency Guy Mayers who explained how the company has set the high standard for cocoa farmers on the Rabot Estate plantation:
“I have been deeply impressed with Hotel Chocolat’s achievements since they became cacao growers back in 2006. They have led a transformation of the local cacao growing economy and model, with their new approach to sustainable luxury. Their sincere respect for our country has resulted in their pioneering Engaged Ethics programme, with over 200 local farmers now members. The programme has resulted in a circa 5000% plus increase in the cacao agricultural GDP, from both price and yield increases. Not only have they have rejuvenated cacao growing here, they have solidified our reputation as top-quality cacao producers and considerably boosted the attractions of our tourism industry, profiling the strong food culture of the island.”
Thirlwell’s own passion for the key ingredient of cocoa stems partly from having grown up in the West Indies and seeing the way the cocoa farmers used to export the beans cheaply but produced no chocolate directly from St Lucia.
“Our vision was always to bring together the worlds of luxury chocolate and cacao agriculture – we believe that cacao growers deserve the same respect as wine growers. By buying cacao harvests at a good price, the farmers can reinvest in their farms, and along with technical support and access to high quality cocoa – it’s a win-win for everyone.”
The company’s other source of cocoa remains in Ghana in the Osuben Region since they started sourcing in 2005. They ensure their projects are about empowerment and as fair as possible to the farmers but they are limited in their influence in Ghana as all the cocoa is sold via the Ghanaian cocoa board and so they cannot have 100% traceability. The founders chose to move away from the Fair Trade association and established their own Engaged Ethics programme to enable the farmers in Ghana are paid a higher rate for their cocoa beans and maintain training in recognising and alerting the risks of modern slavery and human trafficking in their business and supply chains to protect the cocoa growers and ensure their future.
As the report from the Cocoa Barometer has shown, human rights and employee rights remain the ongoing issue at the heart of cocoa-farming but Hotel Chocolat is working to transform the lives of its farmers who produce its key ingredient. Their Engaged Ethics programme in St Lucia shows the way they want to move forward for all their cocoa growers to create a sustainable market for their locally-grown beans with supportive investment and training.
If one company can transform the lives of the cocoa growers in Ghana, it is Hotel Chocolat working with their passion for More Cocoa, Less Sugar.