The Swiss cocoa manufacturer has been buying cocoa from Biolands since the programme first started up, allowing it to develop their organic smallholder cocoa programme. After years of strengthening the partnership followed by the recent investment, Biolands will be able to replicate the model with cocoa farmers in other countries. This latest investment demonstrates the focus on sustainable and ethical farming while improving traceability, as Barry Callebaut will be able to enter into involvement with other countries through the programme. "As a company, we are committed to contributing to a sustainable cocoa industry and a sustainable cocoa supply chain," Gaby Tschofen VP for corporate communications at Barry Callebaut told ConfectioneryNews.com. "This includes working with cocoa farmers in order to empower them. We will test the models in the field to find out how we can improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and their families in the most effective way." Bottom-up approach As consumers become more concerned about environmental issues and fair trade, there is a corresponding demand from purchasers for organic and ethical products. This partnership provides a more ethical cocoa supply by working directly with smallholder farmers to ensure they are paid fair prices, enabling organic and fair trade certification. The approach brings Barry Callebaut closer to the roots, ensuring all measures have been taken to produce cocoa in a sustainable and responsible manner. Through a bean collection system, farmers are paid at delivery, with a second payment made following the season. The farmers also receive training, ensuring better quality cocoa. Eric Smeets, founder and managing director of Biolands, said: "For many farmers, this is the first time they are being treated seriously as partners - as partners who are expected to produce a good product in return for a better price." Barry Callebaut has previously demonstrated policies to guarantee more ethical cocoa supplies. "In our own project in Ivory Coast called 'Quality Partner' programme, we work top-down, i.e. through farmer cooperatives," said Patrick De Maeseneire, CEO at Barry Callebaut. "We intend to test the two models in the field - with the goal to contribute to a sustainable cocoa industry and improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and their families in the most effective way." The companies did not disclose the cost of the investment. Organic demand The niche organic cocoa market is rapidly growing as consumers become increasingly conscious of how their food is produced. In a European consumer survey, Euromonitor found that half of respondents thought organic food and drink was either important or very important. The organic finished product market is expected to grow by 32 per cent from 2006 to 2011, according to Euromonitor.