For nearly 200 years, Easter and chocolate have shared a sweet history. Learn how Cargill is working to ensure that the future of cocoa and chocolate is sweet for everyone
Many holidays have a trademark and Easter, with its chocolate eggs, is no exception. These delicious treats were first introduced in the early 19th century and remain among the most popular sweets associated with Easter.
As one of the world’s leading producers of cocoa and chocolate, Cargill recognises its role in ensuring this beloved tradition. Cargill sustainably provides high-quality products throughout the world, bringing our customers peace of mind, integrity and excitement. Everyone in the cocoa sector has a role to play in creating a more sustainable future, and Cargill is uniquely positioned to connect stakeholders across the supply chain.
A change for cocoa communities benefits all
“Everything we do comes back to how we will create lasting benefits for cocoa farmers and their communities,” says Taco Terheijden, Sustainability Director for Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate. “Across all five countries where Cargill sources cocoa directly, we connect smallholder farmers to skills and resources that increase their resilience, while enhancing sustainability.”
Now food and beverage manufacturers can gain greater insight into this work and even play a more active role themselves and contribute to a more sustainable cocoa sector. Cargill offers them a broad and diverse portfolio of sustainable products and services, the Promise Solutions, to meet their evolving needs for greater supply chain transparency and brand value creation. The Promise Solutions will help them start or further grow their involvement in cocoa sustainability at their own pace, based on their specific interests and aspirations. Cargill’s CocoaWise™ brand-new portal provides customers fast and easy access to most relevant sustainability sourcing, financial and impact data but also engaging storytelling materials linked to Cargill’s Cocoa Promise supply chain. CocoaWise™ pulls information from a centralized data platform, CocoaWise™ 360, which is fed from a suite of Cargill’s digital tools that are designed to increase transparency and traceability while enhancing cocoa farming practices and community well-being. CocoaWise™ is a proof point of Cargill’s commitment to ensure a more transparent cocoa supply, investing in the digital transformation of its direct sourcing networks and leveraging the power of technology.
To help their customers to plot their sustainability journey and make the most of their investments, Cargill provides proprietary consumer insights.
“In today’s competitive marketplace, brands must stay ahead of the market in terms of insights, innovations and ideas,” says Inge Demeyere, Managing Director Chocolate Europe. “Consumers have high expectations, especially in indulgent categories like chocolate. We partner with our customers, sharing trends and sensory expertise to help them create products that are fresh, relevant and infused with joy.”
These capabilities will be on full display at Cargill’s one-of-a-kind “House of Chocolate” complex, currently under construction in Mouscron, Belgium. Here, customers will gain inspiration from Cargill’s gourmet chocolate chefs and develop new product concepts, while the in-house sensory lab ensures those products deliver on consumers’ expectations for taste, visual appearance, texture and more.
“Partnering with Cargill means connecting with experts with a passion for creating products that ‘wow’ the senses and excite consumers,” Demeyere adds. “We bring that same passion to our commitment to create a resilient, sustainable cocoa sector.”
Consumers are hungry – and willing to pay – for products made with responsibly sourced cocoa
When it comes to cocoa and chocolate, sustainability is taking on increased importance, influencing consumers’ purchase decisions and their perceptions of the brands they buy. New research from Cargill finds consumers look for products with sustainability credentials and are willing to pay more for brands that invest in environmental or social initiatives that align with their beliefs.
The research, which surveyed more than 7,000 consumers across 10 European countries, was designed to gain a deeper understanding of consumers’ sustainability perceptions, intentions and declared behaviors, providing a guidepost for brands as they plot their sustainability journey.
In the survey, Cargill found 70% of consumers factor sustainability into their food and beverage purchase decisions, with an even higher percentage of frequent chocolate purchasers, nearly three-quarters, reporting they prefer to buy sustainable products.
“Consumer expectations are higher now than ever before,” says Niels Boetje, Managing Director of Cocoa at Cargill. “Our research suggests that increasingly, consumers look for responsibly sourced brands, backed by concrete claims and compelling stories that connect the products they purchase with tangible progress on critical issues like child protection and deforestation elimination.”
Cargill found sustainability concerns influence purchase decisions across demographic groups, with younger consumers, age 18-34, most attuned to these issues. Among this cohort, 76% acknowledged sustainability has become more important to them in the past year when choosing chocolate products, with just over half of these Gen Z and millennial shoppers reporting a corresponding uptick in sustainable product purchases.
Within the chocolate space, consumers’ affinity for products perceived as sustainable was even more apparent. While flavour and price remain the top two considerations for these purchases, survey respondents ranked environmental and social sustainability on par with factors like nutritional value, brand name and previous product trial.
Given the breadth of issues encompassed by sustainability-linked initiatives, the research dug into consumers’ highest concerns related to chocolate products. Child labour topped the list, followed closely by farmer income and deforestation. It found that companies’ commitments in these areas had a positive impact on brand perceptions, with consumers viewing brands who would make these investments as more premium, trustworthy and of higher quality, among others.
Despite the importance of sustainability in product decisions, consumers cited limited product availability – along with challenges determining which products are sustainable – as key barriers to purchasing sustainably sourced products. Those concerns ranked above factors such as higher price and trust in sustainability claims. Further, the majority of consumers, 68%, said they would pay more for a chocolate product made with sustainable cocoa. Consumers also indicated they were more willing to pay a premium for chocolate products with sustainability claims as compared to those made with less sugar, single origin cocoa or even organic claims.
“Sustainability is rising in importance across a broad range of consumers, providing an opportunity for brands to elevate their existing commitments and invest in initiatives that truly resonate with their customers,” comments Boetje. “At Cargill, we operate in the middle of the supply chain, creating a bridge between the cocoa-producing countries and our customers that produce consumer products. As a result, we are well positioned to support food and beverage manufacturers’ sustainability commitments and collaborate on initiatives that reflect their customers’ priorities. We can help reinforce their brand values and bring their sustainability goals to life with assets that communicate in an engaging way.”
Scaling up sustainability programming for transformative impact
To tackle cocoa sustainability challenges, Cargill works together with partners to make a transformative impact on the ground in cocoa-producing countries. For example, CARE and Cargill collaborated over the last decade to improve agricultural production, increase household incomes, empower women, connect farmers to markets, improve nutrition and household wellbeing, and foster well-governed communities through an inclusive approach – one that is driven by and for communities.
The Cargill-CARE collaboration – which also included other partners like Cargill customers and farmer organisations – has created broad positive impact across cocoa-growing communities in West Africa. For example:
- Women in these programs in Ghana between 2016 and 2019 reported a 30% increase in participation for family financial decision-making. They also reported an 18% rise in the number of women holding community leadership positions.
- In Côte d’Ivoire between 2015 and 2018, the percentage of food shocks in areas where programs operated was 16% lower than other communities, with some municipalities seeing a 65% drop in the frequency of food shocks. Family members in these areas were also 33% more likely to eat fruits and vegetables at least three times a day.
- To date, Cargill and CARE have supported the establishment of 275 community action plans to encourage good governance, mobilise funds and address pressing needs, leading to infrastructure improvements for water, sanitation and schools.
The two partners’ efforts also have greatly benefited cocoa farmers’ productivity, livelihoods and market access, so these farmers and their families can build resilient businesses for the long term.
Through the Cargill Cocoa Promise, Cargill is working with 132,000 cocoa farmers, their families and communities to strengthen their socioeconomic resilience, and to equip them with the skills, knowledge and resources to grow cocoa in a more sustainable and profitable way. For example, to date, CARE and Cargill have established 376 VSLAs comprising 9,034 members, of which 6,853 are women, in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, providing access to capital to improve their cocoa farms or other activities.
“Cargill has been working in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana for decades,” said Harold Poelma, President of Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate. “In 2012, we launched the Cargill Cocoa Promise – our commitment to enable farmers and their communities to achieve better incomes and living standards. Longstanding partnerships like the one with CARE are crucial in achieving our commitments.”
Image credit: Cargill – ADIEMBRA GHANA AFRICA
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Editor, International Confectionery
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