Mondelez International—the maker of Cadbury chocolates—aims to source 100% of its cocoa requirements through its own network of cocoa farmers by 2025. The chocolate-maker, in India, currently sources around 30% of its cocoa requirement indigenously, while the rest of it is imported. It is currently working with 100,000 farmers in the southern states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra to grow cocoa. Roopak Bhat, cocoa operations lead (India), Mondelez International, claims that the quality of the homegrown cocoa is almost at par with the produce in West Africa—which is considered to be the best in class. “The plan is to reduce our dependence on imports,” says Bhat.

Mondelez’s association with cocoa cultivation dates to the mid-sixties when the erstwhile Cadbury’s India set up an experimental cocoa farm in Kerala. Unlike earlier—when the company’s focus was only to source locally to reduce its dependence on imports—in the last five years, Mondelez International, as part of its global Cocoa Life programme, has also built sustainability practices into the project. “We are doing sustainable activities with the farming community to ensure that the cocoa is grown sustainably and the communities are also benefited,” tells Bhat. The company’s local sourcing has doubled in the past five years from 15% to 30%.

Mondelez has partnered with the Governments of Kerala and Andhra to encourage women farmers and tribal groups to do cocoa cultivation. In India, the cocoa crop is grown as an intercrop along with coconut, oil palm and rubber. “We enable the development of cocoa in the farming communities so that the farmers can increase their income. We have a team of technical staff who teach farmers how to grow cocoa,” says Bhat. It has also partnered with Kerala University to develop hybrids that are suitable to Indian conditions.

The chocolate-maker is also partnering with the state governments to develop the communities in which the cocoa farmers live—by setting up libraries in schools and also constructing toilets. Mondelez International has so far invested $400 million on the Cocoa Life programme.

The company has recently taken the Cocoa Life initiative on its packaging. To begin with, popular brands such as Dairy Milk and Silk have the Cocoa Life logo on their packs and the plan is to put the logo across all its products. According to Anil Viswanathan, senior director (marketing), Mondelez India, millennial consumers are especially conscious about consuming brands that have a larger purpose. “Consumers expect the brands they love and trust to create a sense of purpose and engage meaningfully around that purpose. Putting the Cocoa Life logo on the packs is a manifestation that we are not just saying but we are doing what we are saying. We are using the logo to kickstart a conversation and educate our consumers.”

Viswanathan believes that the company’s goal of sourcing its entire cocoa requirement from India would not just help its intent of being perceived as an organisation with a larger purpose, it will also help in achieving long-term financial might. “It helps de-risk our business and it will help us to come closer to our sourcing locations. It will also help us in improving our savings from a P&L perspective.”

Going forward, Mondelez India is also looking at states such as Maharashtra, Goa and parts of Odisha to promote cocoa cultivation, but that’s going to be much later. “We have reached out to just 10% of the farmers in the southern states. We would first want to touch the lives of more farmers in the states where are already operating in, before moving to newer states,” says Bhat.

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