Absolutely fair chocolate! Interview with fairafric founder Hendrik Reimers

The German-Ghanaian startup fairafric produces a really fair chocolate, not only fair traded, bean to bar in Ghana. I was enthusiastic about this idea from the moment I read about it and wanted to know more. Read my interview with founder Hendrik if you too want to learn what it takes and what difference it makes if someone tries to change a small part of this world.

Some time ago I supported fairafrics second round of financing on the German crowdfunding platform kickstarter.de. Recently, the ambitious German-Ghanaian company won the Next Organic Startup award. Congratulations!

fair chocolate made in Ghana -fairafric won the next organic startup award

Finally, instead of at the end of August, the chocolate bars for all supporters arrived last week. I am very happy about my package full of “the probably fairest chocolate in the world.”

fair chocolate made bean to bar in Ghana: fairafric

I can tell you now that this chocolate is delicious, intense and worth all effort. But there’s much more, that distinguishes it and no one can better explain than Hendrik Reimers, who was kind enough to answer my questions while he was under a lot of pressure with the production.

The only chocolate produced in West Africa

An interview with fairafric founder Hendrik Reimers about hurdles and achievements of his fair chocolate made in Ghana.

Hendrik, why was it so crucial for you to offer your latest chocolate in organic quality?

Our customers asked for it, and we take their feedback very seriously. Moreover, organic certification is the only way to know precisely the origin of the beans in my chocolate. Talking about Fairtrade, this is not the case. Comparable to eco-electricity, I pay a premium, but I do not know where my electricity comes from. Since the beans are loaded on ships, in the end, they can no longer be kept apart. At fairafric, I know exactly what’s inside.

But this approach made everything more difficult for you. Your chocolate delivery arrived two months late. What happened?

Indeed! Planning the production, I thought that after all successful certifications we had taken the hurdles of organic production. At some point, however, I had to say that this was not the case at all. For eight weeks we wanted to produce, but we lacked the beans that our cooperative had long since stored in the camps of the Ghanaian cocoa authority. Because of the organic quality and the associated paper war it was very complicated to get this beans. Also, there was a dramatic decrease in the world market price for cocoa and bad timing. We learned a lot, for example, that we had to plan very precisely what to produce after receiving the beans. But also that we have higher financing requirements if we do not want to stand there again without cocoa beans.

fair chocolate made bean to bar in Ghana: fairafric

Please explain to my readers: What are the essential features of fairafric chocolate that make a difference to fair-traded chocolate from other brands?

It is essential that we produce the chocolate in Ghana. 70% of the world’s cocoa harvest comes from West Africa, but fairafric is the only chocolate produced locally and then leaves the country. Compared to the simple export of the beans, five times more money per tonne of cocoa beans flows into the country when we realize the production on site. This is the decisive advantage and the reason why fairafric exists.

fair-cchocolate-fairafric_6

After his study of business administration, Hendrik worked for IBM, selling software in Ireland. Then, on his way to management, he discovered that he was much too empathic for a leading position, in which one should not worry about the welfare of others. He then resigned, first moved to Cairo and finally – in search of a socially responsible business idea – travelled through Africa. Chapeau!

From several meaningful ideas, in the end, it was “fairafric” that you could implement. What framework conditions had been necessary? And why did you choose Ghana?

When I saw the high potential for improvements almost unused in countries like Ghana, I was highly motivated. What are the benefits of billions in development aid if all people in Africa have to live off the depletion of raw materials and do not carry out value creation themselves? A system like this can’t work! Ghana is very well developed in the African context, there is the legal certainty, and the country is very safe. And they have world-class cocoa.

I assume that this kind of cooperation requires trust, but also assertiveness. How did the small farmers react to you? And how the employees of the state institution COCOBOD, which regulates the entire cocoa market on site?

Many small farmers do not even know what happens to their cocoa as soon as it leaves the country. It was a great moment when we first showed the farmers the fruits of their work in the form of chocolate bars. People here are very enthusiastic about ideas that benefit the country. COCOBOD, on the other hand, is a vast organization but it bears a lot of responsibility for the development of the country. After this summer, when we asked for our organic cocoa beans almost every day, many people from the COCOBOD are familiar with us and want to help fairafric become a successful model.

COCOBOD sets the prices for cocoa. Is it true that they are sometimes lower than prices on the world market?

Yes, that’s right, the price is called “farmgate price”, and is set one to two times a year. It is then valid for everybody, which prevents exploitation of uninformed farmers. COCOBOD also provides knowledge, seedlings, and fertilizers. 
But for you, does it mean you can’t pay fairer than the authorities allow?

We are very fortunate to use special permit. We can pay a high premium to our cooperative, which is partly cash to the farmers, and partially we can invest on site, for example in the bio certification of new members.

Fair wages and skilled workers

Sounds good! After two production runs: What impact does fairafric additionally have in Ghana?

The workers in our production are top educated, often studied chemists or food technicians. Our production helps to create more of these skilled jobs that offer a much higher income than the minimum wage. That leads to much more benefits like better healthcare, education or women empowerment.

fair chocolate made bean to bar in Ghana: fairafric

Intense cocoa – the flavor of Ghana

Now, would you please describe the taste of your fair chocolate!

There are seven varieties on the market now, and I think its best for everyone to try it themselves. I can tell you: Every chocolate bar is full of intense flavor, typical for Ghanaian cocoa – which by the way comes from Forastero beans. And because we put a lot of effort into the training of our farmers, be sure our beans are the best basis for a genuinely authentic chocolate experience.  

Hendrik is a self-made chocolatier, he sais. Only when he couln’t find the answer himself, he asked experts. But to develop the most delicious recipes for his chocolates, the taste and expertise of his supporters was essential for him.

Where and in which countries can we buy fairafric chocolate?

People from all over the world can buy in our online shop.

That’s great! And how will the fairafric story go on? Always with the help of crowdfunding?

Our goal is to produce permanently in the shortest possible time. Because of the extensive capital requirements in the chocolate business, we will need other sources of finance and are looking for a strategic investor who shares our values. With the German GLS bank, we already have a great partner who is currently supporting us.

Thank you so much, Hendrik, for the exciting insights into your business. I wish you further success and that many many people want to taste and support your fairafric chocolate!

 

pictures: fairafric; product picture: Tamara SvH

 

 

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Comments 2

  1. Rüdiger
    Reply
    Great interview and nice images. The chocolate looks awesome.
    14 November, 2017
    • Tamara
      Reply
      Thank you very much for your nice reply. Have a great weekend!
      17 November, 2017

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