Fairafric’s Journey – Crafting Chocolate and Changing Lives

Words: Crush

West Africa produces more than 70 percent of the world’s cacao, and despite this, local farmers seldom taste the rewards. Fairafric is not only changing this narrative, but raising the bar high for the chocolate industry and paving the way for Fairtrade relationships.

Located in rural Amanase, Ghana, this revolutionising brand harvests and crafts world-class chocolate. With a mission to create 50,000 climate-neutral jobs in Africa and eradicate local poverty, fairafric is honouring the legacy of one of Ghana’s most valued commodities and the farmers that nurture it – and that’s just the start!

We chat with fairafric managing director, Michael Marmon-Halm, about what inspired the brand’s inception, its entry into the South African market, and how they are giving the world a taste of ‘real chocolate.’ Join the conversation.

What was the inspiration behind starting fairafric?

Africa is blessed with lots of natural resources, but these resources in their raw state are exported to Europe and processed there. The farmers or country of origin of these commodities earn close to nothing on the final product sold.

Ghana, together with Cote D’Ivoire, produces over 70% of the world’s cacao, but less than 1% of the world’s chocolate is made here. This is what inspired Hendrik Reimers (fairafric CEO) to set up Ghana’s first solar-powered chocolate factory in rural Amanase, Ghana – close to the farmers – bringing value creation to the country of origin of cacao.

How does that heritage influence the chocolate-making?

Ghana’s cocoa history started as far back as 1870. It is in this history that fairafric creates the finest organic chocolate, from tree to bar, in the country.

Ghana has always been known for her quality cacao beans. By using the best quality cacao from Ghana, we create the best quality chocolate and show that this can be done in Africa. Quality and taste, two trademarks of Ghanaian cocoa, are the same principles that fairafric goes by. Beyond the chocolate bar, local culture is deeply embedded in our processes – you can see this on our packaging where lovely patterns from Ghana, and elsewhere, are incorporated to tell a holistic story of value addition.

With the rise in cacao bean prices, the chocolate industry is under pressure. What has it been like navigating that challenge?

Like all chocolate brands, we have been greatly affected by the rise in cacao prices and the volatility of the market. Cacao has been both expensive and hard to get – inclusions that we use in crafting our delectable chocolates have seen the same fate.

[Nonetheless,] we are glad to be on a unique organic path, and with our partners, we are looking for more sustainable means of operating in Ghana amidst all the uncertainties.

Many popular commercial brands flood the market. How does fairafric compare in terms of taste?

The use of traditional Ghanaian techniques in the fermentation and drying of cacao beans enhances the beans’ natural flavours, resulting in a more complex and nuanced taste profile. This meticulous process ensures that the chocolate retains its authentic flavour.

With every bite of fairafric chocolate, you taste the real cocoa in the chocolate and not additives or substitutes. We serve customers chocolate as it is supposed to be eaten.

Consumers are now more conscious and demand brand transparency. What effort has fairafric made to ensure they comply with Fairtrade practices?

Fairafric ensures fair wages by paying farmers higher premiums; committing to our social and environmental responsibilities by supporting initiatives that positively impact the community and the environment through the annual distribution of trees to our farmers; [offering] annual health screening to the communities, and donating learning materials like books and stationery to school kids. Also, we ensure supplies are compliant through our supplier code of conduct.

Since opening, fairafric has made significant strides in value and job creation. Why is this one of its main focuses?

Fairafric currently employs over 130 individuals in Ghana, providing healthcare for them and their families – on top of an income that is at least 4 times the minimum wage, as well as daily meals. Our mission is to create 50,000 climate-neutral jobs in Africa.

Farming has always been associated with poverty, but by setting up our factory in rural Ghana and employing people from the area, we are adding to the income of the people and helping take them out of poverty. This is why value creation in the country of origin is so important to us.

Vegan-friendly options are becoming increasingly popular. Can you tell us about your vegan products?

The market has been very receptive to our vegan recipes. Fairafric is about protecting the environment and the people. This is why we are organic, and this is why we are also vegan-friendly and use zero plastic. Vegan options are more environmentally friendly.

Aside from our traditional dark chocolate recipes, which are all vegan, we have crafted alternatives to milk for vegans who love their chocolate sweet with the 42% creamy cashew. More of these recipes should hit the market soon.

Your dark chocolate range features varying cacao percentages. How do the chocolatiers determine the perfect balance?

We understand tastes vary, and that is why we have also varied our recipes to give customers the best chocolate experience possible. The percentages on our chocolate bars represent the amount of cocoa in these bars. Our chocolatiers, therefore, craft these bars with the idea that all tastes are not the same and with our inclusions, we give you something extra to the cocoa that you will enjoy. Our highest dark chocolate recipe currently is 92% dark chocolate – the closest taste to the raw cacao bean.

The fairafric range has delicious products, with some incorporating ingredients like baobab, moringa and Tigernut. What inspired these unique flavours?

With fairafric’s vision of adding value, we go above and beyond to source all these ingredients from across the continent to craft the best tasting experience possible for our customers. If you have tried any of our recipes, you will understand that we serve more than the standard chocolate and, unlike other brands, we use real ingredients and not flavours.

We are inspired by the abundance on the African continent and incorporate the best ingredients from the continent to craft the best chocolate and harness the nutritional values in these ingredients for our customers.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs wanting to start similar initiatives?

Everything well achieved is only with determination. This road is a tough but doable one. Entrepreneurs looking in this direction need to find people who believe in this line of story and are willing to change the narrative, no matter what.

We have been lucky to find the best and brightest, coupled with the passion to see Africa connect in business. Be strong, that’s all I can say.

How can South Africans get their hands on fairafric products?

Fairafric is working in South Africa to identify local distribution partners and is in advanced talks with a number of potential partners. This will finally make the product available to local chocolate lovers and chefs, and we look forward to being able to share our product with the South African market.

*Market entry into South Africa has been facilitated and supported by the International Trade Centre (ITC), a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, whose mandate is to support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to enhance competitiveness and participate in global value chains. In particular, fairafric’s participation in the Good Life Show was supported under the Netherland Trust Fund Programme (NTF V) project in Ghana, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and implemented by the ITC’s Alliances for Action (A4A) team.

Get a taste of fairafric’s delectable chocolates at their online shop

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