- High ethical rating
- Delicious confectionery products
- Affordably priced
- Lacks organic certification, although the issue is particularly complex
Divine is a Fairtrade chocolate company which is 44% owned by cocoa farmers. As a growing chocolate brand that deserves significant recognition, we review some of their products and discuss some of the deeper nuances behind some of the brand’s operations.
Oh so, Divine
When it comes to emerging chocolate brands, Divine is difficult to ignore. A company driven by a social mission – “To grow a successful global farmer-owned chocolate company” – there are three things one can associate with the brand: quality, taste and ethos. Divine chocolate is, in a word, the whole package.
The quality of the confectionary is undeniable. For this review, we looked at several bars: 70% Dark Chocolate 100g, Dark Chocolate with Pink Himalayan Salt – 100g, Dark Chocolate with Raspberries – 100g, Milk Chocolate with Toffee & Sea Salt – 100g and finally Divine’s 100g bar of Milk Chocolate and Almonds.
The chocolate itself is rich in flavour. A favourite is definitely the Milk Chocolate with Toffee & Sea Salt. More widely among consumers, the 100g bar of dark chocolate with raspberries seems a top choice. With the tart (fresh) raspberry and sweet dark chocolate, it really is a perfect combination.
Made with natural cocoa butter and vanilla, Divine products contain no vegetable fat substitutes. They also only use sunflower lecithin, in addition to top quality cocoa and natural cocoa butter. The list of ingredients is really that simple, with the company being incredibly transparent about everything that goes into each bar. Free from artificial flavourings, colourings and preservatives, a typical bar, such as the Milk Chocolate with Toffee & Sea Salt, is comprised of:
Fairtrade sugar, Fairtrade cocoa butter, skimmed milk powder, Fairtrade cocoa mass, butterscotch 10% (sugar, glucose syrup, butterfat, salt), butterfat, sea salt Emulsifier: sunflower lecithin, vanilla. Cocoa solids: 38% minimum in chocolate, Milk solids 16% minimum. Cocoa, sugar and vanilla: traded in compliance with Fairtrade standards, total 79%. may contain milk, gluten and nuts.
When Divine was first established in 1998, its 99 ordinary shares were owned by three parties; 52% by the Fairtrade NGO Twin Trading, 33% by Kuapa Kokoo farmers’ co-operative, and 14% by the international retailer Body Shop International. Over the years, the ownership dynamic has changed slightly. Kuapa Kokoo now own a 44% share in the company.
Having launched in the USA, in addition to initial launch in the UK, Divine remains “inspired by the cocoa farmers who own the company and motivated by the tangible changes we see happening in their lives”. The “aim”, as noted on their website, “is to continue to deliver delicious chocolate and a social business model that everyone can cherish”.
Fairtrade certified, all Divine products are suitable for vegetarians. All dark chocolate products, except for Dark Chocolate with Toffee & Sea Salt, the Dark Caramel bar, and any future Dark Chocolate bars with nuts, are suitable choices for vegans (though, understandably, the company cannot absolutely guarantee these products are totally milk-free as milk is used elsewhere in the factory).
In addition to the company’s list of ethical credentials, they remain committed to being conscious of environmental impact. Environmental awareness and good practice, as with other ethical commitments, was affirmed in our most recent independent research (more on that later). For example, they only use limited airfreight in their supply chain, and keep up to date with best practice regarding all the materials used in the production process. Divine’s packaging is also subject to annual review so as to ensure best practice and sustainable initiative.
What about organic? Some consumers that we’ve come across seem dismayed at the lack of organic certification, considering that Divine is a company clearly committed to ethics. The issue, however, is deeply nuanced and requires careful consideration.
Divine Chocolate is not certified organic, and the main or principle reason for this has to do with the complexities of cocoa production. Moreover:
…cocoa is very prone to diseases, which can quickly spread and wipe out huge areas of cocoa production, and in turn seriously endanger the livelihoods of thousands of farmers. As cocoa is vital to the Ghanaian economy, the Ghanaian cocoa board is being cautious about introducing organic production. Until enough tests have been done on organically approved pesticides in the Ghanaian context, introducing organic cocoa farming is considered high risk. If and when organic farming is considered safe, Kuapa Kokoo will undoubtedly consider its potential. It is worth noting that as pesticides are too expensive for most Kuapa farmers they rely largely on natural crop protection methods already.
Consumers will also be happy to learn that Divine does not use any palm oil in its chocolate, “and aims not to use any additional ingredients that contain palm oil”.
This is for a number of reasons. Rainforests are still being cut down to plant palm oil plantations and we do not want to subscribe to the impact his has on the environment and animal habitats. Divine is also conscious that palm oil is used as a cheap oil alternative in a large percentage of the processed foods we all eat today, and so we choose not to add to that high level of consumption which may have health implications. Lastly, as natural cocoa butter is crucial to the real flavour of chocolate we choose not to substitute it with a fat that adds nothing to the quality and fine taste of our product (which means we are buying as much cocoa as possible from the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo and thereby delivering more Premium to them).
Product review – what do consumers think?
When it comes to the several bars surveyed in this review, consumer reviews were unanimously favourable.
On Amazon, the Milk Chocolate with Toffee & Sea Salt (100g) was rated 5/5. The 70% Dark Chocolate (100g) bar also had a 5/5 rating out of a total of 85 reviews over at Ethical Superstore. Meanwhile, the Dark Chocolate with Pink Himalayan Salt (100g) bar had a 4.5/5 rating at Traidcraft and 4/5 at Ethical Superstore. This leaves us with the Dark Chocolate with Raspberries (100g) and the Milk Chocolate with Almonds (100g). The former currently scores a 4.5/5 on Amazon, while the latter comes in with a 5/5 at Traidcraft.
In terms of overall ethical rating, Divine recently scored a high ranking 83 on the ethical index. In our latest ethical comparison research, we found that Divine is transparent and truly works toward fulfilling its social and ethical commitments.
With an 83 ECI, Divine is recommended by The Good Shopping Guide as a safe and ethical choice.
* To obtain a census view of and average product score for Divine products, we assessed a spread of popular reviews and consumer ratings on Amazon (US & UK), Traidcraft and Ethical Superstore.