Latest post from Sophi:
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.
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.
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.
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.