Revolution is no small affair. For two friends, one from Berne and one from Paris, it began ten years ago. Swiss Christoph Inauen and Frenchman Eric Garnier were happily working in the fair trade chocolate industry and, as part of their job, regularly visited the Huayabamba Valley in Peru. They thought their work in fair trade was creating better lives for local cacao farmers. The problem was, it really wasn't.
Talking to the Peruvian farmers with whom, over years of collaboration, they have become close friends, they discovered that fair trade only marginally improved life in the local communities. While the industry was making huge profits, there was little left for the farmers. They had no power in setting prices and were left at the mercy of local inflation. For Christoph and Eric this was an eye-opening experience. Together with the farmers, they decided to start nothing less than a chocolate revolution.
Their idea – to produce quality chocolate in a quality way. Together with 36 farmers, they founded Choba Choba – the first Swiss chocolate brand co-owned by the cocoa farmers, meaning they have voice and power in the decision making.
In 2016, the self-designated "chocolate rebels" beat more than 50 socially oriented enterprises to become the first UBS Social Innovator Switzerland. With this title, they received USD 40,000 and participation in a one-year mentoring program with UBS experts. Since then, we've been collaborating with the Choba Choba team and we've managed to rack up a whole new set of reasons to love chocolate.
1. It's revolutionary.
Choba Choba is at the forefront of what they call the chocolate revolution – and with good reason. Just three companies control 75% of the global chocolate business and actual cocoa farmers often have little or no say in business. Most live in poverty, never seeing the profit that their product generates. Choba Choba is the first Swiss chocolate brand co-owned and co-managed by the cocoa farmers, meaning they are no longer mere raw material suppliers. Instead, they have a direct stake in the company and its success.
2. It's impactful.
Each chocolate sold at Choba Choba has a real impact on the cocoa-growing families in the Alto Huayabamba Valley who have ownership and their communities. Five percent of their sales are allocated to the Revolution Fund and transferred to the communities in direct payouts and in the form of shares, allowing the farmers to have an increasingly stronger voice in Choba Choba and to quickly gain majority in the company.
3. It's sustainable.
With the support of their UBS mentoring team, Choba Choba was able to develop a carefully considered corporate strategy, a solid business plan and smart tools for financial planning. "We would have struggled with all these things without our UBS mentors," says Eric Garnier. Regular interaction with the mentors and other UBS employees also led the two social entrepreneurs to shed a number of prejudices they had against bankers. "We got to know so many wonderful people in all areas of UBS who are just as committed to sustainability and responsible consumption as we are," says Christoph Inauen.
4. It's collaborative.
Choba Choba is a company that not only knows the value of collaboration, they aren't shy about acting on that knowledge. Not only does the company foster partnership by linking farmers in the Peruvian Amazon with producers in Switzerland, they joined the UBS Global Visionaries program as an alumnus in 2017 to continue contributing to social entrepreneurship.
5. It's tried and tested.
Believe us – we've eaten our fair share of it. In fact, since November 2016, we have had about 2.5 tons of Choba Choba chocolate. Today, the chocolate has been everywhere – from the UBS Lounge at Art Basel to the UBS Annual General Meeting in Basel. And for two months, our employees in the Bern region handed out Choba Choba chocolates at meetings with clients. At UBS we love companies with passion, especially when that passion is supplemented by the foresight to address a larger, global concern. And, yeah, having a delicious product helps.