Divine Chocolate is worth much more than the £2.19 they, and others sell it for. Of course their chocolate isn’t made with what we call ‘fine flavour’ cocoa beans from deepest, darkest Venezuela, nor is there a mythical backstory that us in the small batch chocolate world love to pronounce on the packaging. But between the seemingly exclusive world where chocolate is made with rudimentary equipment by men with unkempt beards and the mass-market world of child slavery there lies the world of Divine. A place that shuns gimmickry with as much desire as they fight a world akin to indentured servitude.
While some chocolate makers fight for column inches with more vigour than it appears they struggle for excellence in the final result, Divine mainly focuses on helping get and keep growers out of poverty. Somewhere between the admittedly small-scale Direct Trade and the unashamedly non-transparent world exists Divine and Fairtrade. Direct Trade is great in that more of the price of a chocolate bar should flow to the grower. But currently only exists at a very small, selective scale with little hope, in the near future at least, of being anything other than a niche product. This is just the way of the world. 99% of chocolate consumers just don’t care how chocolate is made. A stepping stone, perhaps, is Divine with their more hands-on role with the Fairtrade labelling. This scheme isn’t perfect, but it’s the best we have in the bulk volume of chocolate. It’s a move towards a solution that has the potential for a more sustainable cocoa industry in West Africa.
If we’ve successfully placed Divine within the greater chocolate industry and that we know that they’re merely trying to get the chocolate to the mass-market that isn’t produced by slaves is it any good?
The price of £2.19 is of great consternation to me. On the one hand an internal battle with the concept of ethical chocolate being such a low price for a 100g bar of chocolate – given how much the retailer will take and the marketing, development and the Fairtrade Labelling (therein lies the rub). How can the guys that own 45% (I believe) of the company in Ghana make enough. Is their “enough” comparable with a consumerist Western “enough”? Should they charge more so more “profit” can be made and reinvested in expanding direct ownership of the means of production into other areas of West Africa? Could they help in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Togo and Benin? If I were Divine, I’d be trying to use the brand to make a massive difference to as many people in West Africa. Ghana wouldn’t be enough.
The struggle for Divine is that they need to keep the brand evolving with new products as the mass-market companies continue to reinvest in product proliferation – to constantly invent new products and reinvent old ones. I’ve given them some feedback about pushing their product lines into a slightly new direction, but while I have these three bars in front of me, where do I think they’ll sit with mass-market chocolate lovers with an ethical bent?
The Dark Chocolate with Toffee and Sea Salt, for example, is a lovely, albeit slightly conventional method of flavouring chocolate. The base chocolate itself is made from bulk cocoa; we know that, they can hardly change to fine flavour beans in the region at the snap of a finger, but I did like it. For a cold, miserable Sunday afternoon, I found it satisfied my sweet-tooth. The salt and the sugar worked well, there was a slight bit of bitterness from the dark chocolate but it was never going to thrust me into a new chocolate dimension – as we’ve said, that’s not the role of Divine. It was simply a very approachable chocolate designed to appeal to as many dark chocolate lovers as possible.
The dark chocolate and mango was a curious beast. Part of me things that these Caribbean-like flavours would be better suited as a white chocolate. As a dark, perhaps less so. The dark chocolate is far too mellow and undistinctive to capture the imagination. There’s not enough power that someone who picks up a dark chocolate may expect. But, by the same token, I think it’d be a great one to melt down and use as a coating on cupcakes with a buttercream filling.
The milk chocolate with caramel and cocoa nibs is another strange beast. Part of me things these inclusions would have worked better with dark chocolate than milk as the chocolate itself is completely lost against the robustness of the espresso.
But for a couple of quid you’re hardly going to be annoyed as if you just paid £9.50 for a bar of ‘origin’ chocolate from a trendy shop in Shoreditch and found out it tastes …. well, you know. This is ‘no risk chocolate’ for people that are keen to satisfy their ethical urges as much as their need for sweetness. It’s filling a gap in the market that some will think its too uncool to promote too, or the ethics are too costly to approach.
I just wish someone would shake the company a bit and get them fighting a bit more, for both the consumers’ attention and more poverty-stricken people of the wider West Africa.