A Christmas season to remember, yet reflect on wider global conditions
As we’re now officially into December, it seems that marketing activity for the season is being ramped up in impressive style right across the food and drink sector, with confectionery being given the strongest media spotlight of the entire year.
It’s not hard to see why that’s the case, as even those territories that don’t necessarily celebrate Christmas in a British and US fashion understand its wider significance and extreme value to individual countries around the world and their respective manufacturing operations.
After the difficulties and challenges of the past couple of years amid Covid and more recently global events such as the cost of living crisis and ongoing war in Ukraine, some reasons to seek out some positives and enjoy time with family and friends at this time of year is something to be genuinely cherished.
So while the kinds of cosy fireside Christmas images that we might conjure up of happy family scenes (such as in this main image here) sharing bakery and confectionery ranges are the indeed the stuff of marketing campaigns, I’m sure there will be many who are joining me in sparing a thought for those at the sharp end of chocolate and confectionery chain, farming in West Africa.
Without their immense efforts, then such cheery scenes of indulging in seasonal simply wouldn’t be possible for any of us. So it is only right that the spotlight has very definitely been kept on communities efforts to try and drive a genuine living income for those working within agriculture in Ghana and Ivory Coast in particular, many of whom are still earning well below UN poverty-defined wages.
It’s not a situation any of us can be comfortable with, and in truth, the industry has responded increasingly in recent years in terms of advancing the pace of engagement programmes for the region, but as we have reported only this past week (of flash flooding), every step forward that appears to be being taken in terms of multi-million funding for the sector, major world events often mean that those positive steps are eroded.
So where lies the answer? Well, ultimately, we will all have to pay significantly more for our chocolate and snacks sourced with cocoa from West Africa if the present generation of farmers is to thrive against increasingly harsh conditions for their respective markets. Is that an easy message for consumers to understand and acknowledge? Probably not, but it’s the reality that needs to be faced.
How that is actually put into practice is another question, but it’s one that younger shoppers in particular, are increasingly engaged with in terms of their purchasing patterns that place sustainability and ethical sourcing as notably high priorities, even in these financially hard-pressed times, and rightly so. With child labour and deforestation sadly being issues that are all too real, requiring major government and industry responses, the challenges ahead are plain for all to see.
Neill Barston, editor, Confectionery Production