Fairtrade Fortnight Greenhouse Pioneer: Sophi Tranchell, MD of Divine Chocolate

Sophi Tranchell is ambitious, visionary, outspoken, and a genuine pioneer. She took on Divine Chocolate as MD and has realised the potential to support and empower farmers and growers.

We are delighted to celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight by republishing and updating our interview with Sophi Tranchell, founder of Divine Chocolate.

divine chocolate

With Sophi asMD, Divine Chocolate has realised the potential to support and empower farmers and growers, not only through guaranteeing a fair and equitable price for the cocoa crop, but through the democratisation of Co-operatives, and through investing in and growing a valuable and divine chocolate brand in a highly competitive market.

She speaks from the heart and when Divine launched into the US it was one of the women farmers now heading up a Co-operative who spoke out on the inequity of the cocoa market and the need for farmers to be recognised and rewarded fairly – on Capitol Hill in Washington, and on the front page of the Washington Times.

Tell us about Divine Chocolate – what’s your mission?

To improve the lives and opportunities of small-scale cocoa farmers in West Africa through their own branded Fairtrade chocolate marketing company.

What motivates you?

The sense that we are all linked together and that we can make the world the way we would like it to be, if we work together and are aware and selective about the goods and services we choose.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

Making Divine a commercially successful company and getting the farmers a platform to speak for themselves. It was fantastic to see Comfort Kumeah, a 56 year old farmer speaking on Capitol Hill in Washington DC to launch the chocolate company that she owns. And she even got on the front page of the Washington Times!

What are the challenges you face?

The chocolate market is very competitive and the big supermarkets control a huge amount of the market.Getting Divine out there, so that everyone who would like to buy it can, is probably therefore the biggest challenge.

What value do you think the Fairtrade certification scheme adds to your products?

Third party verification – we make lots of claims about our chocolate and consumers can be confident about those claims because Fairtrade Foundation has audited them.They audit Divine and they certify the farmers and make sure that they have received the Fairtrade Premiums and that they are deciding how to spend the extra income in an accountable and democratic way.

What exciting plans do you have for Fairtrade Fortnight 2014?

This year we’ll be opening another Pop-Up shop in Covent Garden’s Seven Dials, where we’ll be showcasing two brand new products as well as hosting chocolate making and tasting classes.

Shoppers will also have the chance to meet Mavis Adu Gyamfi and Mercy Zaah, two cocoa farmers from Kuapa Kokoo – the co-operative of farmers in Ghana who own 45% of Divine.

What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference?

Join in with your community, support local businesses, reuse things, wash less and choose goods and services that make the world the way you would like it to be and know that together we can make a difference.

What’s the coolest project or product you’ve come across?

HearingZaytoun’s storyof how they have worked with the Palestinian farmers to harvest their olives and export their olive oil is an inspiration and a great example of the indefatigable human spirit.

Elvis & Kress handbagsmade from old fire hoses – an imaginative example of reusing materials really creating value with great designs, all in all, a clever little business.

Can you recommend a game-changing book for our readers?

TreasureIslands:TaxHavens and the men who stole the worlda book by Nicholas Shaxson.These wealthy tax avoiders have not been paying their way for a long time. Lord Vesty seems to be the founding father of tax avoidance back in 1910! Put that in the History curriculum Mr Gove!

What do you listen to when you’re cooking dinner?

The Best of Earth Wind and Fire – this years’ wonderful French film Untouchablereminded me just how good it was to dance to.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Partnerships are a great way for a small company to succeed but you need to pick your partners carefully, make sure they share your values.

Who’d be your Eco Hero?

Wangari Muta Maathai – the Kenyan Nobel prize winner.