Ghanaian woman-owned company, ’57 Chocolate, is challenging the assumption that the best chocolate comes from Europe.
Destinations around the world have various things they are known for. France is known for its champagne, Italy is synonymous with pizza and pasta, and Switzerland is considered the best country for chocolate. But perhaps there is another country that should be known for chocolate.
Ghana is the second-largest supplier of cocoa in the world, making up nearly 30% of the global supply and offering livelihoods for over 700,000 cocoa farmers. Out of the $130 billion global chocolate industry, less than $2 billion goes to Ghana, while cocoa farmers get at most 7% of the chocolate value chain (those who make, sell, and market chocolate grab more than 80%). Now, local Ghanaian chocolate producers and brands have been pushing to produce bars at home rather than exporting raw cocoa, breaking the long-standing economic trading pattern of exporting cocoa.
According to Expert Market Research, the global chocolate industry reached a staggering $106 billion valuation in 2020. West Africa supplies 70% of the cocoa beans, but most of the value in a chocolate bar is generated in Europe and North America, while West African countries receive less than $6 billion. This is despite a growing demand for consumer chocolate in West Africa, some of which is satisfied through imports.
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The pattern is typical in economies that mostly rely on exporting raw materials. They must choose between generating revenue from these commodity exports and adding value to products locally. The trade-off arises because industries that add value take time to build up and tend to supply the domestic market first before competing internationally.
In a recent visit to Switzerland, Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo attempted to turn the tides by saying that Ghana would no longer export cocoa to Switzerland. In his words: “There can be no future prosperity for the Ghanaian people in the short, medium, or long term if we continue to maintain economic structures that are dependent on the production and export of raw materials.” His words mark an urgent need for West African countries, like Ghana, to become a player in the global marketplace, adding that it cannot be done while relying on foreign manufacturers of the country’s raw materials.
Cocoa production in Ghana has had its fair share of challenges, including child labor in production. Children in the cocoa industry are unfortunately exposed to hazardous working conditions and sharp tools. The United States conducted a research report condemning cocoa traders involved in such practices, encouraging Ghanaians to end child labor. In response, several Ghanaian chocolate brands are now encouraging fair trade and payment for farmers and producing their own chocolate in Ghana.
‘57 Chocolate is an artisanal bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer in Ghana that produces luxury Ghanaian chocolate locally. The company—founded in 2016 by Ghanaian sisters Kimberly and Priscilla Addison—has a mission to drive development and self-sufficiency in Ghana while creating chocolate that uses local resources and celebrates African culture and heritage.
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“Having spent time living in Geneva, Switzerland, we thought it was strange that Switzerland is known for its chocolate but doesn’t grow cocoa, the core ingredient in chocolate,” describes the Addison sisters in an interview with We Rule. “Meanwhile, Ghana is the second-largest producer of cocoa but produces very little chocolate itself. We saw a vast need for manufacturing chocolate in Ghana and across the continent of Africa. In Ghana, the candy shelves of supermarkets and malls are overflowing with foreign chocolate bars, many undoubtedly made with Ghana’s very own cocoa. Having recognized all of this, we were determined to use Ghanaian cocoa to create a high-quality African chocolate brand that is reputable locally, internationally, and can compete on the world market.”
Producing chocolate at home comes with added benefits, such as keeping Ghana’s cocoa in its truest form. The chocolate in ‘57 Chocolate is handmade in small batches, rich in cocoa, and made without artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.
The woman-owned company hopes to challenge the status quo of luxury chocolate being considered a primarily European product. Using a process that ensures their chocolate is made with only the highest-quality cocoa, the Addison sisters believe their chocolate reflects Ghanaian art and culture, especially their Adinkra bars.
The Adinkra bars are bite-sized and beautifully engraved with visual symbols created by the Ashanti of Ghana. They have a collection of 12 different Adinkra symbols, each representing a concept or a particular meaning such as leadership, beauty, humility, strength, and resourcefulness.
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Brands like ‘57 Chocolate offer the opportunity for people to indulge in locally produced chocolates while also taking a more ethical approach to sourcing and creating chocolate in Ghana, the country where cocoa comes from.