Divine Chocolate, the farmer-owned chocolate company and award-winning social enterprise, has merged its UK and USA businesses. Kuapa Kokoo, the farmers' co-operative in Ghana that voted to set up a chocolate company back in 1997, will own 44% of the merged company. Divine Chocolate Ltd's Managing Director Sophi Tranchell MBE takes the role of CEO. This week the newly merged Board will be meeting for the first time, with Board members including elected Kuapa farmer Sampson Cobina, all flying in to Washington DC from around the world.
“Having launched Divine in the USA nine years after the founding company launched in the UK, it has been very exciting to see it successfully navigate all the challenges in the USA market and mirror the success of Divine in the UK. We have seen a growing appetite around the world for business being done differently.” says Tranchell.
“The new structure strengthens the group, making us more resilient and giving us a wider consumer reach, and in doing so gives Divine more power to deliver our mission to fairly and sustainably remunerate smallholder cocoa farmers in West Africa, as well as empowering them to take their future into their own hands.”
Divine Chocolate Ltd (UK) has acquired the 69% of Divine Chocolate Inc (USA) that was in other ownership, through a mutually agreed share swap, resulting in Divine Chocolate Ltd owning 100% of Divine Chocolate Inc., whilst bringing in some minority shareholdings to Divine UK.
Divine will publish the newly merged figures after year end (end of June). Divine Chocolate Ltd's 2013-14 turnover was £8.3m and Divine Chocolate Inc's 2013-14 turnover was $6.1m.
Divine's Finance Director David Upton adds: “Merging the businesses brings many benefits at this point in the company's growth. We will be sharing best practice and be in a position to hedge our foreign exchange risk in both the US and the UK. The potential in the US is really exciting, and we will be focussing on continuing to deliver strong profitable growth.”
Divine Chocolate also distributes across Scandinavia, Netherlands, France, Czech Republic, South Korea, Japan and Australia. Divine has seen the most significant growth in USA in recent years which promises considerable potential for the future.
Divine Chocolate has developed a successful range of bars, gifts and seasonal specialities – now available in both supermarkets and independent stores across UK, USA and Europe, and Fairtrade specialist stores around the world. Divine is a leading champion of Fairtrade, raising the bar from the start with its farmer-owned business model, and an ambassador for social enterprise.
Kuapa Kokoo is a flourishing Fairtrade certified co-operative, now with over 80,000 members, which has invested Fairtrade premium and profit share from Divine in farmer welfare, community improvements, skills training, and gender equality. Divine Chocolate Ltd has also to date delivered over £2m (2% of annual turnover) to a Producer Support and Development fund invested in Kuapa Kokoo's women's programmes, literacy and numeracy training, model farm practice, the co-op's own radio programme, as well as maintaining its democratic and co-operative principles. Its growth and progressive initiatives have made it a force to be reckoned with.