In a previous post, CNN looked at the dark side of the chocolate business, but some chocolate companies are making every effort to use cocoa which is ethically produced.
CNN's Richard Quest talked to Sophi Tranchell, the managing director of Divine Chocolate, just one such company that's making that effort. Divine Chocolate is owned by cocoa farmers and puts the fair trade policy in practice.
Q: How does fair trade work in practice?
TRANCHELL: The way that fair trade works is that there's a guaranteed minimum price. So if the price gets below a certain level, then the fair trade price sets in. And there's also a fair trade social premium. And so that's the $200 a ton social premium. For every ton that we bought, we've paid an extra $200, which the farmers get to decide collectively and democratically how they spend that money.
And that's so there's a very distinct extra piece of money that they've got that they wouldn't have got from selling their cocoa on the open market.
Q: And how does that affect the price that you pay, the core price?
TRANCHELL: It is the world market negotiated price at the time, because cocoa is a traded commodity that changes all the time.
Q: So to clarify, the actual, if you like, fair trade element of this is the $200?
TRANCHELL: At the moment it is. But I've been working for Divine for 12 years and 12 years ago, the world market price was about $800 and the fair trade price was $1,600. So we were paying a lot above the world market price. So that the fair trade mechanism is a guaranteed minimum price to protect farmers from the real fall in the price of the market.
Q: But you'd agree it is a sort of a gerrymandering of the market in one respect, isn't it?
TRANCHELL: No, I don't think it is at all, actually. What we've done is build a consumer market for these products. So what we've done is - and which people thought was unlikely that we would manage to do - is get consumers to buy these products and to go out of their way to buy it and to pay a bit extra for it because they knew the farmers would benefit.
Q: But is there evidence that people make that distinction and say "This is fair trade chocolate" - people who are not necessarily a tofu-eating, sandal-wearing, tree-hugging lover, but just regular people who like good chocolate?
TRANCHELL: Obviously, there's loads of people who love Divine because it's fantastic chocolate and who'd go and buy it again because it's fantastic chocolate. But what we certainly saw when we started and we were a little tiny company starting in a very competitive market with lots of people who spend millions of pounds in advertising, we had a core group of people who were prepared to go into shops and actually ask for products that weren't there.
Q: How much do you involve yourself in the conditions under which the beans and the pods are actually grown, so that you know what's happening down in country?
TRANCHELL: So I think the thing that's important about Divine is that Kuapa Kokoo, the cooperative farmers in Ghana, actually own 45 percent of the company. And we buy all of our cocoa from those farmers. So those farmers are organized in a cooperative, which has a set of principles. And those principles are about empowering people and about improving people's livelihoods.
Q: But do you think there is still some skepticism about fair trade?
TRANCHELL: Yes, there's always going to be skeptics, aren't there? There are people who are skeptical. But what I can say is that from a Divine perspective, Divine uses cocoa from Kuapa Kokoo. I know what Kuapa Kokoo do. I've been there and seen it. The "Fair Trade" mark means that consumers can be assured of that proposition because it's been checked by independent people who've gone and checked that the money has got to the farmers and that the farmers are making a decision that their organization enables them make in a democratic way, which means the money is spent fairly and well.