Divine Chocolate is a chocolate company with a strong sense of social consciousness, and it holds the distinction of being the only Fairtrade chocolate company in the world owned by cocoa farmers. Chocolate can help bring people together, and Divine Chocolate understands the value of sharing equitably with the people who grow the ingredients in its delicious chocolate. Subsequently, Divine aims to create and foster a sustainable future of cocoa farming.

Kuapa Kokoo is a co-operative of over 85,000 cocoa farmers located in the African nation of Ghana that receives 44% of Divine Chocolate’s distributable profits. Moreover, a personal story about a co-operative member—typically discussing how her involvement in the organization has positively impacted her life —is printed on the inside of each wrapper. The symbols on the outside of the wrapper -- called Adinkra symbols -- are also crucial to the local culture.

By empowering cocoa farming communities, Divine Chocolate maintains its status as a Certified B Corporation, joining a worldwide network of companies who use global business enterprises as a force to spread good and improve people’s quality of life.

Early in 2019, Divine Chocolate released an organic line of vegan 85% chocolate bars in a number of tasty flavors. The cocoa was sourced from the island of São Tomé which is located off the coast of West Africa and bears the nickname “Chocolate Island." The new line features four distinct flavors: Lemon, Turmeric & Ginger, Blueberry & Popped Quinoa, and Cocoa Nibs.

Recently, Liz Miller, the Senior Marketing Manager of Divine Chocolate, discussed the company and its heartfelt social mission via an exclusive interview.

Ghana, cooperatives, and farmers

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get into the chocolate industry, and how did you find yourself at Divine Chocolate?

Liz Miller (LM): While I have been in marketing and communications roles for nearly a decade, getting into the chocolate industry was a complete leap of faith for me!

I was working in the nonprofit sector for several years, and when I was at a time in my life where I wanted something new to challenge me, I found a job posting at Divine. Even though the chocolate industry (and the for-profit world) was new to me, I loved the mission of Divine Chocolate and how it connected back to farmers in Ghana. Since I had studied abroad in Ghana while in college, it seemed like an exciting way to combine my background and skills while also staying true to my personal desire to do something positive for people in the world.

MM: What inspired Divine Chocolate to create such a socially conscious brand, and why do you source your chocolate from Ghana?

LM: Divine Chocolate began by and for cocoa farmers. Members of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers' Co-operative in Ghana collectively established that they were not receiving a fair deal for the sale of their cocoa beans and voted to start their own chocolate company so they could better sustain their livelihoods.

The farmers own 44% of the company and work together to build programs and initiatives in their communities to reach their goals.

MM: What it the history of how the cooperative started?

LM: As mentioned above, Divine Chocolate was created by cocoa farmers who saw an opportunity to build their own company so they could have a voice in the industry. With this vision in mind, cocoa farmers searched for help in growing their company and found support in several like-minded NGOs in the UK that provided resources for the farmers to execute their goal.

Twenty years later, our company has grown to include over 85,000 farmers and corporate offices in both London, UK and Washington, D.C.

MM: Is there a farmer story that you find particularly powerful?

LM: I love the story of Mercy Zaah, a cocoa farmer in her mid-50s. She has been a member of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union (the co-op that co-owns Divine Chocolate) since 1999. Several years ago, Divine Chocolate invited Mercy to the United States as a representative of the co-op. I coordinated her visit which included events in Washington, D.C., and Austin, TX.

Mercy was an impressive speaker, in part because she had only learned how to speak English and read (any language) only three years prior! She learned literacy and language skills as a part of her participation in the co-op’s community women’s programs, supported by sales of Divine Chocolate. It was amazing to give Mercy the platform to share her story, and everywhere we went the audiences were excited to meet her and thank her for her important role in producing the cocoa for the Divine Chocolate bars they all know and love!

Flavors, nations, and the future

MM: How many flavors do you currently sell, and what is your personal favorite?

LM: Divine Chocolate sells a variety of products, including 15 flavors of 3oz chocolate bars (the ‘everyday collection’), 4 flavors of our organic 85% dark line, 5 flavors of snack bars, 4 flavors of luxe bars, 3 baking products, and a range of seasonal items that chocolate lovers can enjoy at Christmas, Chanukah, Easter, and Valentine’s Day! My personal favorite is the Dark Chocolate with Raspberries 3oz bar (and the Cappuccino Milk & White Chocolate snack bar is a close second.)

MM: Might you expand into other nations in the future?

LM: Divine Chocolate has offices in the UK and the US and recently acquired a distributor in Sweden. Divine is sold in the US, UK, Canada, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Czech Republic, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia. We also have worldwide reach in terms of the farmers from whom we source. In addition to the Fairtrade cocoa that originates from Ghana (and São Tomé for our new organic line), we source Fairtrade mangos from Association TON in Burkina Faso, Fairtrade vanilla from Madagascar, Fairtrade coconut from SOFA farmers association in Sri Lanka, Fairtrade almonds from Mountain Fruits Farmers Association in Pakistan, and Fairtrade sugar from Kasinthula Cane Growers Association in Malawi.

MM: How important do you think Certified B Corporations will be for the future of the earth?

LM: I typically look to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) to frame my vision of global success in the world today. As such, it is extremely important that businesses work collaboratively with governments and the NGO/nonprofit sector in order to meet these goals. Certified B Corporations are an integral part of this process because they are businesses who have a made a commitment to standards that go beyond profit, many of which link back to the SDGs.

If businesses prioritize making a positive impact on people and the environment, we will all fare better in the end.

MM: What are the best experiences that your career with Divine Chocolate has afforded you, and how do you hope the company evolves from here?

LM: One of the best experiences of my career at Divine Chocolate was hosting a cocoa farmer in the US and planning her visit. Having that personal relationship with a cocoa farmer made me feel extremely fulfilled and seeing the impact that our company makes on her life was also satisfying!

I can learn about a variety of cross-industry topics – from the food industry (and specifically chocolate) to marketing & communications to fair trade and international development. I love meeting advocates for social enterprise and people who are working hard to make business better for everyone!

I also consider the professional development growth that Divine has made possible an incredible boon to my career. I have been in an incredibly supportive environment in which I have grown my leadership skills tremendously and influenced decisions at a high level.

I hope the company evolves in a way that we can expand our reach around the world, both in terms of producers we’re able to involve in the process and chocolate lovers that we can inspire. I’d like to see Divine become more well-known for our innovative business model and values while serving as an example for other companies. Overall, I want more people to enjoy our exceptionally delicious chocolate, learn about Divine’s story, and feel compelled to support a company that truly has farmers at its heart!

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