Chocolate bars. We all love them. But the downside is that their plastic wrappers are so hard to recycle. Some can be recycled if you have a local Teracycle scheme in your area but it depends on the brand of chocolate.

In the UK we are the seventh highest consumers of chocolate in the world and the fourth largest in Europe. Britons get through close to 700,000 tonnes of chocolate every year, an average of three bars each per week. The industry is worth over £4 billion.

Worldwide close to eight million tonnes of chocolate is eaten annually. Cadbury alone sells 350 million bars of Dairy Milk in a year so we are consuming billions of bars of chocolate during the course of a year. That’s a lot of plastic wrappers.

The good news is that there is a plastic free alternative. We spoke to Divine Chocolate…

Tell us about Divine?

Founded and launched in the UK in the late 1990’s, Divine is the only Fairtrade chocolate company co-owned by Cocoa farmers. Divine was later launched in the USA in 2008 and today Divine can be bought in Canada and Australia, across Europe, and in South Korea and Japan too.

In 2013 Divine became a registered B Corporation and this year we are celebrating our 20th anniversary.”

Can you explain Divine’s business model?

“Divine is a social enterprise. Our business model reflects the belief that producers should earn a share of the profits they help to create. That’s why the majority shareholder (44%) of Divine Chocolate is Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union, a co-operative of 100,000 cocoa farmers in Ghana who grow the finest quality cocoa for our everyday and seasonal collections. The farmers’ 44% ownership stake in Divine Chocolate is a first in the Fairtrade world.

In addition to the financial benefits and the training, community and farm improvements, and increased income the farmers choose to invest in, Kuapa members benefit in other important ways from owning Divine Chocolate. They have two representatives on the Divine board and are therefore closely involved in the development of the company. Owning a chocolate company gives Kuapa Kokoo farmers a voice in the cocoa industry and a ‘seat at the table’. Through owning their own company cocoa farmers have had unprecedented access to the industry they supply, and members have visited UK and other countries around the world to raise awareness amongst chocolate lovers about their lives and challenges.”

What is the ‘Bean to Bar approach’?

“Since Divine launched in 1998, we have always encouraged people to value and cherish chocolate more – by knowing more about the people who depend on it. Through our relationships with cocoa growers in Ghana and São Tomé, we can trace the cocoa in any bar of chocolate back to the co-operative village from which it originated. This bean-to-bar approach demonstrates our commitment to social and economic issues and ensures excellence in quality control.”

Tell us about the Cocoa growing process?

“Did you know that chocolate originates from fruit? Chocolate is derived from cocoa beans — these beans are technically dried and fermented seeds from the Theobroma cacao tree. From the tree, these seeds (also called beans) come from a fruit called a cocoa pod. 

Cocoa quality is determined right from the moment it starts growing on the tree. The cocoa grows best under the canopy of the tropical rainforest, where the pods get the right amount of sun and shade. 

Most Ghanaian cocoa is grown on small family farms, typically of between 2-3 hectares. It is usually intercropped with other plants and trees, such as plantains, maize and spices. These not only provide shade while the cocoa trees are growing, but they can also provide up to 65% of the family’s own food supply as well as additional income.

A typical tree will provide 20-30 Cocoa pods. Cacao trees typically grow between 12 to 15 metres, and it is about 2-4 years before the flowers that grow on the tree first appear. A cocoa pod is created when these flowers are pollinated. Out of the 10,000 blossoms produced by each tree, only about 20 – 30 are pollinated and become cocoa pods. Since a typical cocoa pod contains anywhere from 20 to 50 cocoa beans, making one Divine Chocolate bar requires approximately 2-5 cocoa pods.”

Run us through Divine’s range of products?

“In the twenty years of delivering fairer trade and empowerment to cocoa farmers, we have never lost sight of the fact that our chocolate is the star!

Our sharing bars come in a variety of exciting flavours combined with deliciously rich dark chocolate, seriously smooth milk chocolate, and creamy white chocolate. From punchy raspberry, toffee & sea salt, to classics like mint and orange.

We also sell snack sized bars, boxed chocolates, drinking chocolate and chocolate for use in baking.

Is your chocolate suitable for those with certain allergies or dietary requirements?

“All Divine products are suitable for vegetarians. Our products can be guaranteed totally nut-free as the factory where they are made handles nuts.

Our chocolate bars do not contain wheat/gluten, however, they are produced in a factory which does produce other products containing wheat/gluten, so we cannot guarantee these, or any Divine product is completely gluten-free. We are delighted to announce that the entire Divine range is kosher.”

What about your ingredients?

“Divine is committed to using Fairtrade certified ingredients in our products whenever Fairtrade ingredients in the appropriate formats are available. All the cocoa, sugar and vanilla used to make Divine chocolate are certified Fairtrade. We are also proud to say that we source Fairtrade almonds from Pakistan, Fairtrade mangos from Burkina Faso, and Fairtrade coconut from Sri Lanka so Divine is helping to deliver a fair deal to farmers all over the world, not just Ghana!

On a few of our products you will see that a small amount of non-Fairtrade sugar and non-Fairtrade flavours are in some of our flavoured bars. This is because some ingredients we need to use come in a processed format that is not yet available using Fairtrade components – for example the sugar and natural peppermint oil that makes up the mint crisp in our Dark Divine and Mint. Whenever a Fairtrade supply of the ingredients we use becomes available, we make the switch, as we did with sugar and vanilla some time ago.

Divine does not use any palm oil in its chocolate, and aims not to use any additional ingredients that contain palm oil. This is for a number of reasons. Rainforests are still being cut down to plant palm oil plantations and we do not want to subscribe to the impact this has on the environment and animal habitats.”

And your environmental impact?

“As a responsible company Divine is conscious of its environmental impact. We use limited airfreight in our supply chain, and keep up to date with best practice regarding all the materials we use. Our packaging is reviewed annually with respect to environmental impact.

All of Divine’s chocolate bar wrappers are both FSC certified, meaning that they are made from sustainably-sourced paper, and recyclable.

Latest developments include keeping our Easter Egg packaging to a minimum with no plastic, using only FSC paper and board, removing the cellophane wrapper from the Divine Advent Calendars, cutting down ‘chocolate miles’ in our supply chain, and sourcing almost all our seasonal packaging locally in the UK.”

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