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Scaling UK community-owned food businesses – South American blog #1

In this blog series we explore what the UK can learn from community owned food businesses in South America which have scaled successfully whilst having a positive impact in their community. The first under the spotlight is chocolate brand Choba Choba, the first Swiss chocolate brand co-owned and co-managed by its cocoa farmers.

1) Farmers as entrepreneurs- A community business works best when it manages to harness both social good and business acumen. Choba Choba entrepreneurs Eric and Christoph teamed up with 36 organic cacao farmers from the Alto Huayabamba Valley of Peru who have a direct stake in the company and benefit from its success. Choba Choba farmers define the price of their cacao (Bottom-up pricing), benefit from the profits as shareholders of Choba Choba and are represented on the board of the company.

2) Scale – maintaining accountability Despite the exponential growth of the global cocoa industry, farmers usually benefit the least. Most cacao farmers receive less than 6% of the retail price of a chocolate bar and struggle to survive. Since 2016, Choba Choba farmers have seen a 20% increase in their total yearly income, as well as increasing their ownership of the business from 7% to 17%.

3) Talent- upskilling in partnership Cocoa producers are struggling due to unfair prices, but also because cocoa trees are delicate and difficult to grow. Enemies of cocoa trees come in different shapes and sizes, two being disease and pests which cause yearly losses of 30% to 40% of the total global cocoa production. Choba Choba has formed a research partnership with a University to conserve and re-produce ancient and indigenous cocoa species that grow in the wild, and to develop organic methods to fight pests affecting cocoa trees in the region.

So what can UK community businesses learn from Choba Choba? Give your community members (who may also be your suppliers) a direct stake in the company so that they benefit from its success and growth. Treat community members as entrepreneurs, sharing equity, governance and decision making as well as the benefits the company generates. Treat community members as team mates and tackle your biggest challenges together by upskilling in partnership with experts.

Choba Choba is an inspiring community business that looks set to start a chocolate revolution! So let’s get chomping.

References: https://www.chobachoba.com http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20180926-could-we-be-facing-a-chocapocalypse?ocid=ww.social.link.facebook

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