Take a bite out of poverty – that’s what the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) wants consumers to do when it launches its new chocolate bar on October 14.
Called The Other Bar, its available in milk or dark chocolate, and made from organic Ecuadorian cocoa. But the UN is not looking to move into food manufacturing – with the aim of the bar to pilot a new way of doing business with developing-world producers.
Farmers only get 3% of the value of the cocoa used to make the chocolate sold in shops, which leads to the majority of cocoa farmers not earning living incomes. The Other Bar ensures farmers are paid prices that meet real income needs – and they receive it faster.
Inside every pack of chocolate sold is a QR-code token that has real value – when scanned it’s equivalent to a quarter of a cocoa-producing tree. So, for every four bars bought, a farmer can grow more, earn more and feed his family.
However, there’s a twist. Chocolate lovers don’t have to spend the token on a tree but can instead use it to get 25p off their next purchase. Priced at £2.99, each pack contains two 50g bars and will go on sale online, with a limited edition first run of 20,000.
Happy activists channelling supply chain change
The idea for The Other Bar was conceived by Guido van Staveren, founder of the FairChain Foundation, who also developed the technology behind the tokens.
“Like in coffee, like in cocoa, you see in a lot of supply chains where the first mile doesn’t benefit from the value created at the last mile,” van Staveren tells Food Spark. “We are trying to show that each product that you buy or eat can turn into catalyst of change. It can become a change agent if you organise the chain differently and basically organise it in a shared value way. It’s a chocolate bar but the focus isn’t on chocolate. It’s an experiment focused on technology and a different way of setting up the supply chain.”
The experiment does rely on the rise of the conscious consumer, admits van Staveren, or as he describes them from research done before the launch, the happy activist who has the goal to see change but doesn’t want it to be too difficult.
“We found out there is a big willingness to engage with companies and products that want to create impact, but it should be easy, fun and also with a target reward, so this token hopefully does everything,” he says. “One is it gives you in a fun way, an easy, three second opportunity to engage with the impacts of choice and it gives instant results so you don’t have to wait for months and months for an NGO to report, so you get feedback loops in a day, week and month on what happens.”
Key to the project is technology, which has come in the form of using blockchain to deliver quantifiable and verifiable data, as well as redirecting money from the marketing budget directly to the consumer.
“The product is sold and the marketing budget is given to the consumer as they get the token, which is worth real money,” he comments. “Then they can decide what to do – either they can keep it for their own treat and help grow the company and redeem it at their next purchase or they can amplify the impact by investing it into the farmer community. This was never possible. You always had to donate money to a NGO and hopefully they did what they promised or you had to believe in a company saying, ‘Buy my product and I’ll take care of it’ – we bypass all of that.”
A movement beyond chocolate
For van Staveren, ultimately his eyes are on redirecting some of manufacturer’s marketing budgets to help make a difference. Global brands spend more than £500bn on promoting their goods, yet only £140bn is needed to end global poverty, he reveals.
He hopes The Other Bar will show companies this brand of business drives consumer engagement and could be a blueprint for any product, with the aim for them to use technology for their own goods.
It won’t be lights out for The Other Bar either if the chocolate itself is a huge success, with the UN and Fairchild planning to reach out to private sector companies to take over and grow the product, he says.
“This experiment is a blueprint on how to tackle poverty,” added Carlo Ruiz, the head of UNDP Inclusive Economic Development Unit in Ecuador. “It’s a game changer because we can prove to multinationals and governments that there is consumer demand for a fairer way.”