Coop — In 2011, an independent rating agency declared Coop as the most sustainable retailer in the world. So we knew that they were special, but we didn't understand the full picture until their chocolate manufacturing division Chocolats Halba asked us to do their communications.
Revolutionary Economics
This is where revolutionary economics happen: like in the wilds of Ecuador.
Cocoa Fruit
Cocoa fruits on withered cocoa leaves.
Nanakwakutabi is a cocoa farmer from Amankwaria, who just planted timber trees. In fifteen years each of his trees will be worth sixteen-thousand US Dollars, a good reason to be proud.
The ingredients of the first chocolate beverage. Created by the Mayas around two-thousand years ago. An essential part of Aztec culture.
Tree seedlings are brought to the cacao farmers of Santarosa, a remote village in Peru.
Cacao is being dryied. The shelter prevents the beans from getting wet and therefore from mould.
Wilfredo Macciavello is a cocoa farmer from Peru. And also is a shaman, a person regarded as having access to the world of good and evil spirits.
In tree nurseries like this one grow the cocoa farmer's pension funds.
Guadalupe Intriago sends all her children for schooling now.
Apart of TV commercials Etter Studio has also produced a documentary explaining how Coop transforms the chocolate industry.
The Coop Cooperative is Switzerland's largest retailer. Their chocolate manufacturing division, called Chocolats Halba, produces premium chocolate for retailers around the globe. And the way they do it is exceptionally different.

Basically, Chocolats Halba is a B2B chocolate manufacturer, producing chocolate for many well-known brands and international retailers, which then sell the chocolate under Private Labels.

What sets them apart from other competitors is their superior chocolate quality and the way they produce it. Instead of buying their cocoa supply from international traders, they are sourcing it directly from fair-trade certified farmer cooperatives in the cocoa producing countries. This strategy yields some marvellous results.

For one, Chocolats Halba figured out why the cocoa quality of the international trade has started to fluctuate over the last years. The reason is that the farmers are not getting paid enough – even when paid fair-trade prices. Young farmers are forced to find work outside the villages and therefore the loss of skilled labourers means cocoa farming is dying out, which results in less and lower quality cocoa on the international market. Earlier this cocoa quality would not have been supplied to premium chocolate manufacturer, but is shipped now to feed the growing global chocolate demand.

To fight this situation Chocolats Halba started to do something that doesn't make sense at first: They provide cocoa farmers with tree seedlings of specific species which grow well alongside cocoa trees. These trees are of superior wood quality and can be used for timber. The cocoa farmers then plant these timber trees alongside their cocoa trees in the wild.

This is where the magic happens. These trees provide necessary shade to the cacao and improve the local water household as well as attracting insects to increase the cocoa flower pollination. These effects result in more productive cocoa farming and so naturally more income for the farmer family.

Furthermore, as long as they plant new ones, the farmer can sell the timber trees. One fully grown tree is currently worth around USD 16,000 and therefore a substantial increase in income for the farmers’ household.

For Chocolats Halba this approach has become an essential part of their business strategy. They can secure their cocoa supply and raise its quality. On top of that every tree planted is GPS tracked and the Swiss company receives CO2-certificates which allow them to produce CO2-neutral chocolate. Genius.

We were amazed once we got our heads around this visionary master plan. Chocolats Halba proves that sustainability and operating a profitable international business can go hand in hand. Their approach increases their chocolate quality, supply security and tells a powerful product story, making their chocolate truly unique.

The problem was – nobody knew about it. So our first decision was to document their entire production process. We've sent out Swiss photographer Filipa Peixeiro to Ecuador, Peru, Ghana and Honduras to trace the process right the way back, to the planting of the seeds.

We then hired Spain's film director Diego Hurtado de Mendoza to film a half an hour documentary about this revolutionary attitude to business economics and to produce television commercials for Coop communicating their sustainability efforts.

Strategy, Communication, Advertising
Coop, Basel
November 2010 – March 2012
© All Rights by Etter Studio Ltd, Zurich