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Trade Aid makes chocolate in NZ

Published 06 August 2014, from Scoop Media

Trade Aid New Zealand is the latest chocolatier to bring its chocolate production home to New Zealand. 

The factory, which officially opens this week, will soon be supplying bars to supermarkets and shops across the country. 

Until now, the company's Fair Trade organic chocolate was created in factories in Belgium and Switzerland. 

But Trade Aid food manager Justin Purser said buying its own factory - while costly - made financial sense for the company. 

"It will lessen costs, and in setting up our own plant we also take control of the process and quality." 

When producing at full pace, the new factory should provide jobs for six staff. 

Purser says it will also sweeten the deal for the cocoa farmers it trades with, by cutting out another international middle-man, and allowing them to pay producers more. 

Trade Aid sells entirely Fair Trade certified goods - guaranteeing a minimum price for developing-world producers, along with a host of other ethical and environmental protections. 

Despite global appetite for the sweet treat, making a living from growing cocoa is almost impossible - raising concerns that supply of cheap, quality chocolate could soon dry up. 

The "Cocoa Barometer," a bi-annual independent report on the state of the cocoa industry, found an average small-scale farmer in Ghana is earning just 10 per cent of what they would need to reach the poverty line. 

And, while demand for cocoa is expected to increase by a further million tonnes in the next decade, the number of cocoa farmers is declining. 

The average age of a cocoa farmer is 50, and with the industry providing little economic return for farmers, a new generation of cocoa farmers is unlikely to emerge. 

Purser says it's now widely recognised in the industry, that ensuring future supply means changing the way trade is done. 

"The global cocoa industry is in crisis," he said. ‘The chocolate industry knows all this, but major cocoa traders believe that their appropriate response is to encourage greater productivity by farmers, without focusing on the notion of paying higher prices for the beans they buy." 

But the drive for more sustainable cocoa production is no longer a niche, with Cadbury and Whittakers opting to make their plain milk brands Fair Trade certified. 

Globally, big players including Mars, Ferrero and Hershey have made public commitments to making all their chocolate sustainably certified by 2020. Pursuing ethical branding has proven a market boost in the highly competitive confectionary industry. 

Whittakers lifted its sales by $10 million during the 2009-2010 period when it promoted itself as palm oil-free, after public outcry at rival Cadbury's use of palm oil.

Whittakers claim 30 per cent of the Kiwi market and has been voted New Zealand's most trusted brand three years in a row. 

Marketing manager Holly Whittaker said the brand's trusted status was a result of commitment to quality, which it ensured "by controlling the whole manufacturing process from its one factory in Porirua, Wellington." 

Trade Aid sells 28 tonnes - which would create around 600,000 chocolate bars - every year, making them a small player in the New Zealand chocolate industry. 

By Tess McClure, The Press