When I was a kid, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was one of my favourite books. I wanted to be Charlie. I dreamt of winning a Golden Ticket so I could visit Willy Wonka’s factory.

Fast forward to adulthood and reality. There is neither a Charlie nor Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. But, I did get to visit the next best thing – a real cocoa farm – with Barry Callebaut, no less.

Who or What is Barry Callebaut

Chocolate lovers would be familiar with names the likes of Kit Kat, Cadbury and Ferrero Rocher. But, Barry Callebaut? Most people would probably not be familiar with this name. Unknown to many regular consumers, the Switzerland-headquartered Barry Callebaut is one of the world’s largest producers of cocoa with over 175 years of heritage. Today, it supplies high quality chocolate and cocoa products from its 55 factories across the world to multinational manufacturers such as Nestlé and Mondelēz.

That very piece of chocolate you are eating? Yup, chances are it has Barry Callebaut ingredients in it. In fact, one in four chocolate/cocoa product consumed worldwide is made with Barry Callebaut ingredients. (Fun fact: Barry Callebaut is also the company that introduced ruby chocolate, the fourth type of chocolate, last year.)

Now, when you bite into that morsel of decadent deliciousness, have you given a thought to where it came from? Or more importantly, did that piece of chocolate come from sustainable sources?

Barry and the Chocolate Farm

“Taste is crucial, but when consumers eat a product, they want to feel good too,” said Christiaan Prins, Head of External Affairs, Barry Callebaut AG.

We were at Lampung, a province in Sumatra, Indonesia, where Barry Callebaut has launched “Forever Chocolate” initiative, its pilot scheme aimed at producing more sustainable cocoa. Indonesia – where more than 100,000 metric tonnes of cocoa beans are produced every year – is the first cocoa-producing country selected to be part of the Barry Callebaut pilot. The objectives are to reduce carbon footprint, improve the incomes of cocoa farmers and eradicate child labour in the industry.

As Prins mentioned, consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of food that are sourced sustainably. “By 2025, we will have 100% sustainable ingredients in all of our products,” added Prins. Right now, the figure stands at 36%.

A visit to a cocoa farm in Lampung gave insight to this seemingly ambitious but attainable target. Local cocoa farmers are educated on the best agricultural practices by Barry Callebaut staff on the ground. Some of these practices include pruning and sanitation, pest and disease management, fertilizer use and many more. Poor agricultural practices result in diseased and aging cocoa trees, leaving farmers in a state of poverty with no crops. Through this education programme, Barry Callebaut helps to accelerate change and impact on the farmers’ lives and incomes.

One interesting fact I learnt is that cocoa is a crop that can be farmed in harmony with other types of crop, such as corn. This, too, helps to generate more income for the farmers throughout the year since different crops are harvested at different times.

Barry Callebaut also aids in the setting up of cocoa nurseries in Indonesia through providing the start-up investment and best-practice models such as automatic irrigation and a structured monitoring programme. In these nurseries, the survival rate of seedlings is 90%. Better seedlings yields better cocoa trees. This in turn helps to increase the income levels of the local cocoa farmers.

“We want to do well by doing good,” remarked Prins.

That, to me, couldn’t have summed up Barry Callebaut’s efforts in Indonesia better. And, the next time I eat a piece of chocolate, I will be thinking about where it comes from.