Consumer demand for ethically produced confectionery continues to grow

Findings from a Cargill survey this month that showed 70% of consumers in Europe are willing to pay more for sustainably sourced chocolate ranges is something of a landmark moment.

While sustainability programmes have been increasingly put in place during the past two decades, there has traditionally been a question mark over whether this was being driven primarily by the industry’s recognition of the need for urgent changes, or by consumers themselves.

It’s now fair to say that both scenarios are true – but the latest study from Cargill underlines that a clear majority of customers – particularly younger generations, are more finely attuned to ethical purchasing as a concept. This is especially important for manufacturers moving forward, indicating that there is now an overwhelming demand and desire to see conditions improve rapidly in key cocoa producing areas of West Africa in Ghana and Ivory Coast.

Consequently, it is encouraging that major initiatives such as the Cocoa and Forests Initiative (CFI) agreed two years ago between the region’s governments and key confectionery companies and civil organisations, pointed to a way forward to delivering on much-needed programmes to tackle deforestation, as well as the living income differential payments of $400 per tonne as a premium payable by manufacturers to directly aid farmers, was also a key milestone.

These are notable stepping stones along the pathway to solving the many issues linked to underlying poverty within the region, which there appears unanimous agreement that greater levels of scaled-up, co-ordinated action on all fronts is required to impact upon the 1.5 million children sadly still recently reported to be impacted by child labour.

However, having recently covered the World Cocoa Foundation’s partnership meeting, which was held digitally owing to the pandemic, it was crystal clear that the majority of the industry is united in its belief that the future of the cocoa sector is hugely dependent on supporting those very farming communities that are at the sharp end of the sector.

Let us hope for a brighter year ahead in 2021, where life may eventually return to something approaching reality and the efforts of industry, civil organisations and charitable organisations such as Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance can make major  inroads into finally moving towards full delivery of ambitious sustainability goals.

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