Divine Chocolate, the farmer-owned chocolate company, has merged its UK and US businesses in a move to strengthen the group, give it a wider customer reach and deliver its mission to fairly and sustainably remunerate smallholder cocoa farmers in West Africa, as well as empowering them to take their future into their own hands.
Kuapa Kokoo, the farmers’ co-operative in Ghana that voted to set up a chocolate company back in 1997, will own 44% of the merged company. Divine Chocolate UK’s managing director Sophi Tranchell takes the role of chief executive.
“Having launched Divine in the USA nine years after the founding company launched in the UK, it has been very exciting to see it successfully navigate all the challenges in the USA market and mirror the success of Divine in the UK,” she said. “We have seen a growing appetite around the world for business being done differently.”
Kuapa Kokoo is a Fairtrade-certified co-operative with over 80,000 members, which has invested Fairtrade premium and profit share from Divine in farmer welfare, community improvements, skills training, and gender equality. Divine UK has also to date delivered over £2m (2% of annual turnover) to a Producer Support and Development fund invested in Kuapa Kokoo’s women’s programmes, literacy and numeracy training, model farm practice, the co-op’s own radio programme, as well as maintaining its democratic and co-operative principles.
Divine Chocolate Ltd (UK) has acquired the 69% of Divine Chocolate Inc (USA) that was in other ownership, through a mutually agreed share swap, resulting in Divine Chocolate Ltd owning 100% of Divine Chocolate Inc., while bringing in some minority shareholdings to Divine UK.
In 2013-14, Divine UK’s turnover was £8.3m and Divine US’s 2013-14 turnover was $6.1m. According to Divine’s finance director, David Upton, merging the businesses brings many benefits. “We will be sharing best practice and be in a position to hedge our foreign exchange risk in both the US and the UK,” he said. “The potential in the US is really exciting, and we will be focussing on continuing to deliver strong profitable growth.”
Divine Chocolate also distributes across Scandinavia, Netherlands, France, Czech Republic, South Korea, Japan and Australia.
By Rebecca Harvey