Well, hello there. A chocolate company talking about cocoa, how revolutionary.
Well our friends at Pebble magazine wanted to get to know us and our cocoa a little better, so sent us a few questions. We're super proud of our cocoa, so we wanted to share our answers with you, and share a little more about the magic stuff that helps make all of our delicious bars, bags and nutbutter cups.
What does it mean for Doisy & Dam to pay more than a fair trade price?
For us, it means that people are treated with respect, listened to, understood and treated as stakeholders in the whole cocoa industry. We believe as a business and as individuals that you vote with your wallet, and that investing in suppliers with values that align with ours not only results in better cocoa and chocolate, but in a better community and livelihood for those who grow it.
What makes your sourcing/cocoa suppliers so special?
We work with brilliant suppliers who match our values. One of which is Luker Chocolate, who have been working on the ground in Colombia for over 100 years. They have a fantastic relationship with the growers – and in their words – “talk to famers not farms”, meaning they recognise and respect the people, communities and livelihoods affected by cocoa production. Their approach is revolutionary in the cocoa industry – as they manufacture at origin. This means they do as much processing of the cocoa in country as possible, and whilst this seems like a small decision, it has a huge impact. It ensure that the most value remains in the country of origin, rather than whisked off to Switzerland or Belgium, like the big companies in the cocoa industry, and creates more jobs for the growing community in Colombia.
This practice ensure a symbiosis between the growers and Luker as the processors, as both are equal shareholders in ensuring cocoa production is maximised and sustainably grown for now and the future. The approach of manufacture at origin also means there’s a very “boots on the ground” approach, so the farmers and growers are known, upskilled, and encouraged to share their learnings. Luker share theirs too; and give advice not only on cocoa production, but on fruit trees and hardwood too, so that their growers have multiple crops and therefore multiple income streams. Luker work hard to ensure their growers are as happy and successful as possible.
What governance/transparency do you have about where the money is spent in terms of community investment?
It’s fully transparent. We at Doisy & Dam pay a premium price on top of each kilogram of cocoa we buy to contribute to The Chocolate Dream, Luker Chocolate's collaborative plan to build sustainable well-being in the cocoa-growing communities of Colombia. This donation is made through the Luker Foundation, a non-for-profit separate foundation dedicated solely to improving the communities from which our cocoa is grown.
It is stakeholder-led, meaning that projects are carried out when and how they are desired by the community. The community are prioritised and focused on, and really listened too. Two projects we’re sponsoring at the moment are both focused on inspiring the younger generation, and are part of the Chocolate Dreamers project umbrella. The first is building additional wings in the local school in Necocli, and the second is an entrepreneurship programme for young people, coaching them around sustainable, income-generating initiatives. We are lucky enough to receive updates on both projects regularly from the team out in Colombia, and we’re excited to see them progress!
In terms of Luker Chocolate’s investment in the community, they work on brilliant projects that again, put the community at the heart of it all. When a new fermentation house was needed, Luker recruited two architects from Bogotá to design the fermentation house, and then asked local people if they wanted to train as carpenters, inviting them to work on the site, gaining carpentry skills for life. Not only did this mean several members of the community were upskilled but it also helped them feel like they had actively contributed to an incoming-generation industry within their town. Lastly, the fermentation house was designed to be beautiful and angular, rather than perfectly square as it’s hoped it will inspire more people to want to craft, create and construct in their hometown.
What are some of the biggest issues cocoa farmers face and how are you helping them overcome those issues?
By far, the biggest challenge facing farmers and growers in Colombia at the moment is unreliable, fluctuating incomes, that then result in young people going to the cities to find work, rather than staying in the countryside to become farmers. This is a challenge, as it means there are less and less growers per generation. As mentioned above, Luker are working on creating a sense of pride amongst the communities in which they work, so that people recognise farming crops (including cocoa) as a viable, reliable and enjoyable form of work.
As well as making farming more appealing to the younger generation, Luker are incredible at ensuring farmers are paid fairly and go above and beyond by ensuring to buy a farmer’s entire stock, even if there is no demand. They do this so that the farmers has a sense of reliability, and a guaranteed income stream. This in turn provides stability which gains the farmer’s trust and allows them to invest in the future. Alongside encouraging farmers to grow multiple crops (thus multiple incomes), this ladders up to creating a more stable, and ultimately more profitable and flourishing farming community for the growers who supply Luker.
What are some of the biggest challenges for a SME chocolate brand in being as sustainable as possible?
Being small means it’s hard to get everything right in one go. Whilst we are really proud of our commitment to sustainably sourced cocoa, one thing we are less proud of is our packaging. We’re proud of the fact that all the cardboard we use is FSC certified and recyclable, and we’re currently working on getting all of our packaging to be recyclable – whether at home or at a larger collection point, like a supermarket. It is something we are working on, but as a small team of 8, it is quite the challenge. We are hopeful that as the whole industry is moving towards greater sustainability commitments, that the bigger companies with dedicated packaging research budgets can innovate and share with us the key. What we can control right now is our communication around recycling, so we will always be clear to consumers on our products’ recyclability status and never mislead.
What do you want to help your farmers and suppliers achieve?
Our goal, since we started in 2013, was to make fun and delicious chocolate that made the world a better place just by eating it. We want a world where farmers are paid fairly, chocolate is full of natural ingredients, and huge swathes of the Indonesian rainforest aren’t deforested for palm oil. What we want to achieve is a better world with better chocolate, made with better ethics and better ingredients. Using sustainably sourced cocoa means our products are a little more expensive than our competitors, but we, alongside our suppliers and farmers understand that the chocolate industry at the moment isn’t fair, and that we need to make sustainable chocolate the norm, even if it's a hard message to land with customers. It might be a little more tricky, but it’s the right thing to do, which is why we back it so strongly. We want, in short, everyone who’s involved in chocolate, whether in the growing of the cocoa or the enjoyment of nibbling a bar, to feel proud of the ethics and ingredients that helped make that bar, and know that no harm was done along the way, and people are better off for having it.