Divine Chocolate, the first farmer owned, Fair Trade chocolate company, celebrated the announcement of its sister company’s first dividend distribution. This milestone achievement by Divine Chocolate in the UK advances the company’s promise to the cocoa farmers of Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana and comes on the heels of the successful launch of Divine Chocolate in the U.S.
Divine Chocolate Ltd’s largest shareholder is Kuapa Kokoo, the Ghanaian farmers’ cooperative from which it buys all its cocoa. Kuapa Kokoo owns 45% of the ordinary shares in Divine Chocolate Ltd and holds a further 283,605 preference shares earning interest at 7%. Kuapa Kokoo’s total dividend amounts to 47,352 British pounds, equivalent to over 93,000 US Dollars.
"This is a significant moment in the UK company’s history and I am confident the US company will celebrate a similar occasion in the coming years," said Erin Gorman, CEO of Divine Chocolate in the US. "We have seen considerable initial success breaking in to the US chocolate market and I am hopeful it will continue, as Americans fall in love with both the indulgent and delicious taste of Divine Chocolate and our mission to empower cocoa farmers."
In February of this year, Divine Chocolate launched a US company in an effort to increase the cocoa farmers’ access to the lucrative chocolate market. The US chocolate market is worth over $13 billion dollars and cocoa farmers see very little of that, but Divine Chocolate is changing the fortunes for cocoa farmers. Kuapa Kokoo owns a third of the US company; other investors include Divine Chocolate Ltd, Oikocredit, Lutheran World Relief and SERRV International.
All of the cocoa in Divine Chocolate comes from the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo and is purchased on Fair Trade terms. A Fair Trade premium is invested by Kuapa Kokoo into schools, clean drinking water, mobile medical clinics, and women’s entrepreneurship projects for the significant percentage of women cocoa farmers that are Kuapa Kokoo members (60% of the national executive board of Kuapa Kokoo are women). As owners of Divine, the farmers have two seats on the Divine corporate board, a share in the profits, and a seat at the table of global trade.
Sophi Tranchell, Managing Director of Divine Chocolate Ltd says: "For many start-up companies, announcing the first dividend is a welcome stage of the company’s growth. For Divine Chocolate it is a momentous occasion as it proves that with the support of British chocolate lovers we have been able to create a successful and profitable business which, through ownership, directly benefits cocoa farmers in West Africa."
Mr Ohemeng Tinyase, Managing Director of Kuapa Kokoo Ltd. and non-executive director of Divine Chocolate Ltd said, "For us, farmer ownership always made Divine Chocolate special. For the first time our members benefit as owners of a wonderful chocolate brand, and not only as suppliers of excellent fairly traded cocoa."
The decision to launch a Fair Trade chocolate company in the UK was made at the Kuapa Kokoo AGM in 1997. With the help of NGO Twin Trading, and Body Shop International, plus the support of Comic Relief and Christian Aid, Divine Chocolate Ltd (formerly The Day Chocolate Company) was launched in UK in 1998. The company tackled the difficult task of how to finance a company without handing over ownership to those who had capital. Through the intervention of the British Department for International Development, who provided a loan guarantee, it was possible to issue one-third of the shares of Divine Chocolate to Kuapa Kokoo. The other investors were Twin Trading (53%) and Body Shop International (14%). In 2006 Body Shop international transferred its entire interest in Divine Chocolate to Kuapa Kokoo, making the co-operative the single largest shareholder. Today the balance is held by NGO Twin Trading (43%), and by Dutch international development finance institution Oikocredit (12%).