cadbury-2-birmingham-genericEarly in December, mainstream media reported that chocolate-maker Cadbury was proposing to change the way it works with Fairtrade – embarking on ‘a new global partnership’ between its Cocoa Life programme and Fairtrade that will support the rollout of Cocoa Life to Cadbury brands and others, including Suchard and Toblerone.

The partnership between Cadbury and Fairtrade has enabled the establishment of strong farmer organisations, provided training and support for farming communities and offered benefits such as loan schemes and agricultural tools. Some concern has now been expressed about Cadbury-Mondelez’s decision to move the Fairtrade mark to the back of Cadbury products and place the Cocoa Life label on the front.

Cocoa Life was created in 2012 by Mondelez to source all of its cocoa supply sustainably by working with communities who are setting their own ‘most value’ action plans. It is expected to secure a positive future for 200,000 farmers and 1 million community members in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, India and Brazil by 2022. In the UK, five times as much Cadbury chocolate will now be made from sustainably sourced cocoa.

Today, Business Desk reports that Cadbury’s owner has agreed to sell most of its grocery business in Australia and New Zealand. The firm announced that the move will enable Mondelēz to make further investment in brands, including Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate. It added that, starting in the UK and Ireland in May 2017 with a phased roll-out, Cocoa Life will be extended across Cadbury chocolate brands in key markets across the world.

An unmitigated disaster?

MSM reported the words of Paul Birch, secretary of Fairtrade Association Birmingham and chief executive of coffee co-op Revolver which carries the Fairtrade mark, who said: “This is in my view an unmitigated disaster. Cadbury were a shining light, a jewel in the crown, and they have abandoned their principles and abandoned the thousands of supporters of Fairtrade around the country.”

divine_ebenezer_withcocoapods-2One of Divine Chocolate’s farmers and his cocoa pods: from James Ramsden’s website

The Co-operative News  whilst acknowledging the ‘controversial’ nature of the decision, gave a more balanced account.

It reported that Divine Chocolate, another co-op that carries the Fairtrade mark, is worried that consumers will be unable to assess and compare the benefits to farmers being offered by the different chocolate brands if more companies follow suit. “It is however good to know that, through Cocoa Life, Mondelez is continuing to invest in working with farmers in Ghana. We hope that the continued association with Fairtrade means that they will continue to support smallholder farmers to build their organisations.”

Co-operatives UK’s secretary general Ed Mayo, who was involved in the launch of the Fairtrade mark before he joined the co-op, writing in a personal capacity, said: “The test of the Cadbury announcement will be whether cocoa farmers and their co-operatives are better off or worse off as a result of the decision”.

Michael Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “The evolution of our partnership with Cadbury and Cocoa Life is an exciting development as it embeds Fairtrade, our values, principles and unique relationships with farmer networks, into the whole programme. In doing so, together we can increase the scale and impact of Cocoa Life, towards a common goal – one in which cocoa farmers, their organisations and communities are empowered, can invest in their own future, and go from just surviving, to thriving.”


Many in Birmingham will remember the sterling work of John Boyle (above) in collaborating with a wide range of organisations, outlets and companies, to achieve the Fairtrade City Mark and welcoming Cadbury’s adoption of the mark in 2012.

In these uncertain times it is good to see a company able to work round the clock and many people in Bournville will warm to the words of Glenn Caton, President, Northern Europe at Mondelēz International:

“Cocoa Life builds from Cadbury’s proud heritage of sourcing cocoa sustainably, which dates back to a hundred years ago, when the Cadbury family helped establish cocoa farming in Ghana.”