From bean to bar: how ethical investment helps create Ugandan chocolate.
Investment from Shared Interest has helped Pink Foods transform cocoa farming in Africa.
When Stephen Ssembuya inherited a farm in Western Uganda from his father, he asked one simple question: why don’t we make chocolate in Africa?
Over 70 per cent of the world’s cocoa beans come from African countries, before being shipped out to manufacturers elsewhere, but Stephen saw no reason why the harvested cocoa had to leave the country. And Pink Foods was born.
“Right now farmers are providing cocoa for terrible prices. It is exported thousands of miles for multinationals to process and sell it for high prices,” Stephen said.
Stephen saw the value of keeping the precious cocoa crop on the continent, from bean to bar, packaging, marketing and transporting. He wanted to create jobs right along the supply chain. And with a little help from ethical investors Shared Interest, has managed to do just that. Along with his business partner Felix Okuye, Stephen invited ten local farmers to join Pink Foods in the first year.
“From cocoa bean to chocolate bar, we lift thousands out of poverty”
Registered as a business in 2014, the partners invested all of their savings into the brand new venture, with Stephen as CEO, Felix as Executive Director and his wife Mildred as Production Manager. They even employed an Operations Manager and a Farm Manager. Determined to maintain control of the supply chain from production to packaging, Stephen and Felix taught themselves how to process the cocoa into the finished product by watching YouTube videos created by Hershey’s.
“Through trial and error, we managed to get the process right and came up with our own brand of chocolate called Uganda. We currently sell the chocolate and chocolate powder locally to hotels, restaurants and supermarkets in our capital city of Kampala,” Stephen said. “In future, we would like to expand into the international market but first we needed to invest in the machinery required to meet demand, which is why we approached Shared Interest.”
Thanks to Shared Interest investors, Pink Foods has been able to purchase the processing machines and other essential equipment they need. The machinery is fully automated, energy efficient, and has a temperature gauge that is adjustable to bean quality, and with the introduction of a pressing unit Pink Foods has introduced cocoa butter as a brand new product.
Now working with 2,700 cocoa producers, Pink Foods is also helping the farmer groups involved to register themselves as co-operatives. In the meantime, they continue to assure them a guaranteed price for their cocoa throughout the year, cushioning them from price fluctuations. Stephen is proud of the work Pink Foods has been able to create for others:
“From cocoa bean to chocolate bar, we lift thousands out of poverty and make agriculture about more than just subsisting and surviving. Our chocolate is about empowering Ugandans, especially young people and women, to create something of their own.”
Shared Interest work collaboratively to provide financial services and business support to people working their way out of poverty. Pink Foods is just one of over 400 producer groups across 59 countries benefitting from Shared Interest finance.
Head here for more on Shared Interest.
The above article first published on bigissue.com in Sept, 2018.