Barry Callebaut, the world's largest chocolate producer, has grown significantly in recent years and intends to keep following the same path. CEO Antoine de Saint-Affrique says his company is investing hundreds of millions in Belgium alone.
Barry Callebaut was created in 1996 from the merger of French Cacao Barry and Belgian Callebaut, and retains its strong ties with Belgium. The company not only has four Belgian factories, but will also open the world's biggest chocolate warehouse next year."All our Belgian chocolate will be exported from Lokeren to the rest of the world", the CEO confirms.
Last year, Barry Callebaut sold 6.6 billion euros worth of chocolate to other food giants such as Mars, Mondelez, and Nestlé. Turnover increased by 5.1 %, and operating profit even by 8.5 %. "Over the past four years, our sales have grown by 5 % each time", Saint-Affrique told Belgian newspaper De Tijd. "Not a single other chocolate producer has similar results. Our profits increase even faster because we pay attention to the costs... but even more so because we innovate." For example, the company introduced berry flavoured pink chocolate to the market, in addition to the classic dark, milk and white chocolate.
Cocoa cultivation does not have a very good reputation in terms of sustainability: child labour, poverty among farmers, and deforestation are the biggest challenges of the sector. Currently, only 47 % of the chocolate used by Barry Callebaut is sustainable, but the company wants to reach 100 % by 2025 by lifting cocoa farmers out of poverty. "We are teaching them how to make their farms more efficient. This will allow them to harvest up to three times more cocoa. This is crucial because poverty is the source of all the other problems. When farmers are too poor, they put their children to work and cut down forests to make their farms bigger."
The chocolate company also employs 300 inspectors to check for fraud: "They mapped out more than 177,000 farms. We counted the number of trees, their age, how many people work there. We know what their potential is. If we notice that a farm exceeds its potential, then we know that something is wrong, and the company gets cocoa elsewhere."