Caterpillar cakes have been whipping up a media frenzy of late. Since Marks & Spencer’s introduced the iconic Colin the Caterpillar in 1990, the original product and it’s imitators have become a signature staple on supermarket shelves and for consumers hosting parties through the years.

But whether you’re Team Colin, Cuthbert, Clyde or Cecil to name a few, should we be more conscious of the origins of key ingredients that make up our beloved cake companions – specifically cocoa in this example?

The bitter cocoa reality and sweet consumer perception gap

With only 30% of the UK population aware that modern slavery exists in cocoa supply chains, there is clearly work to be done to educate consumers. Retailers and manufacturers have a role to play to drive awareness and source high-risk commodities including cocoa responsibly.

The cocoa facts

  • Chocolate production increased by 62% between 2008/9 to 2018/19
  • West Africa (Ivory Coast and Ghana) produce more than 50% of the world’s cocoa
  • Two million children work illegally on West African cocoa farms, accounting for 45% of children living in agricultural households
  • The average West African farmer earns around $1.80 per kilo of cocoa, just 6% of the final value of a bar of chocolate
  • 30,000 people (adults and children) have been subject to forced labour on cocoa farms

Supply chain transparency technology part of the solution for brands?

For leading retailers and manufacturers seeking to see the full scale of cocoa supply chains to support progress against ESG initiatives, protect workers all the way back to source, limit reputational damage and reduce the ethical and environmental impact of key commodities, supply chain transparency technology has a key role to play.

Considering implementing a platform like Authenticate to track supplier certification status against priority schemes such as Fairtrade can be a good starting point to assess potential risk and identify the treatment of cocoa farmers in supply chains. With other digital tools available to map direct and indirect actors in the value chain, request and publish key policy documentation and conduct remote audits and assessments to generate risk scores and benchmark suppliers, businesses can have the actionable insight at their fingertips to make positive change to help protect the most vulnerable in cocoa supply chains.

So, although caterpillar cake gate has provided some light relief for many after a tough year, the reality of slavery in cocoa supply chains is no laughing matter. By educating consumers and encouraging businesses to acquire transparency for high risk commodities, together we can push for a more ethical future.

Is your business seeking full visibility of its cocoa supply chains? Get in touch with the team to book a platform demo.

For more information on the Authenticate platform or to discuss your challenges and requirements, get in touch with the team.