Kuapa President sees Divine chocolate being made for the first time

13 November 2012

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If you want to guarantee a good turnout at a board meeting, I can recommend holding it in a chocolate factory!

The owner of the factory that makes Divine, Mr Cord Budde, invited us to have the next Divine Board meeting as his guests in the chocolate factory.  So the Divine Directors made their way from five countries to gather in Northern Germany. It was the final link in the chain, seeing how the chocolate is actually made.

The room where the board meeting was held had been Cord’s grandparents’ dining room. He had fond memories of Christmas dinners around the table .  On the table now were plates piled high with every flavour of chocolate to tempt your tastebuds.

Members of the Board of Divine USA with the portrait of the factory's founders

Members of the Board of Divine USA with the portrait of the factory’s founders

On the wall was a painting of  Ludwig and Luise Weinrich, who founded the factory in 1895.  Cord is the 4th generation to run the factory.  I remember attending Kuapa Kokoo‘s 10th AGM in 2003 with him in Ghana; it was the first time he had seen where the cocoa came from.  Cord and his team have been amazingly supportive of Divine, developing delicious new flavours and helping unpick problems for example, when our chocolate got stuck in the chocolate coin factory!  But he has also supported the farmers directly, building a school house for the teachers in the new school that Kuapa built in Amankwatia.

Christiana Ohene-Agyare, Emmanuel Arthur and Andy Goode - happy in the chocolate factory!

Christiana Ohene-Agyare, Emmanuel Arthur and Andy Good – happy in the chocolate factory!

Heading into the factory, we all had to don paper overalls and hair nets, a style challenge for anyone!  Then we had to wash and disinfect our hands to make sure we didn’t carry in any germs.  As you enter the heat hits you , then the low hum of the vats and finally the pervading smell of chocolate.   Throughout the visit  we see the whole process from roasting and grinding the beans, making cocoa mass, adding the sugar and milk, conching for hours in big vats to ensure the smooth consistency, nozzles depositing liquid chocolate into molds which are chilled, and the bars turned out, wrapped and packed in boxes through a maze of conveyor belts, pipes, machines and busy people.  Watching bars with whole hazelnuts being checked and turned over manually was thoroughly mesmerising.

Cocoa mass on its way to be made into chocolate

Cocoa mass on its way to be made into chocolate

It was really good to see President of the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union Christiana Ohene-Agyare and Kuapa Kokoo Ltd MD Emmanuel Arthur finally getting to see how Kuapa’s own chocolate is made. They smiled a lot and I suspect they enjoyed the warmth and the increasingly sweet smell of the hot chocolate. It reminded me of the humid heat and distinctive smokey smells of the cocoa farms in Ghana.

As we started to make our way home, loaded down with chocolate, Hurricane Sandy hit the USA coast and USA Directors had the negotiate their way on to the next available plane.

Another mammoth journey and a great adventure for the Divine Board, and another reminder that this is really a very different way of doing business.

Divine bars wrapped and ready to be packed

Divine bars wrapped and ready to be packed


Divine at the chocolate factory in the snow

8 December 2010

The Divine chocolate factory offices in winter

Four of us (Sophi, Sonja, Tom and Sarah) from Divine made our way through the snow across Europe to visit the factory that makes Divine chocolate in Germany. The trains, tubes, planes and cars all worked remarkably well.

On our arrival our host enthusiastically took us to a German Christmas market. Lots of Weihnachtsstandl and bright lights. We had mugs of hot Glühwein which warmed us for a moment, but soon the cold triumphed and we went for dinner. Lots of yummy food and frothy beer. A world away from Ghana where the cocoa comes from.

We began early the next morning with a tour around the factory, 50km of pipes running around the building linking tanks to conching machines, finally being deposited through nozzles into moulds that go through chillers, get knocked out and then wrapped and boxed. They have a new warehouse 15metres high with very tall forklifts to reach the upper shelves.

We visited the New Product Development lab and met Uta who showed us how she makes prototype bars. It is very important to mix ingredients at different temperatures very well to ensure the perfect texture and no fissures in the bars. We left Tom in the lab to have a go at mixing chocolate while we went off to meet the team, and discuss the serious business of logistics, forecasting, contingency planning etc

Due to the inclement weather and the usual British surprise we had a container of chocolate locked in the port. Together we tried to solve the problem. The Germans couldn’t really understand why the UK had ground to a halt and why we don’t have winter tyres! We were pleased to show how many road and sea miles have been saved by shipping the chocolate direct to Hull where we warehouse the chocolate. They told us that the factory will convert to completely green energy by 2012. We have been using recycled card in all our products and we are exploring converting the wrappers too. They explained why this might be problematic.

We ended the day tasting some potential new chocolate bars, with fruity flavours and roasted cocoa nibs. Then we rushed off to the train to try and beat the weather. The next time we’ll be meeting up with the factory’s director will be at the Divine Board meeting at Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana.