By Bill Guyton, Executive Director
I was reflecting on the increasing diversity, energy and growth of our industry upon my return from Elevate Chocolate Winter 2019 earlier this month. (You can explore the just released and detailed Event Summary here.) This semi-annual event of members, exhibitors, nonprofit partners, government experts, and enthusiasts always offers a welcome opportunity for shared learnings, inspiration, and, of course, plenty of networking and chocolate sampling. Looking towards 2019 and beyond, I also wanted to share some thoughts on three areas which are helping define FCIA.
FCIA also welcomed a newly elected board of directors in January to lead our association of nearly 360 members over the next two years. The new board will oversee a five-year strategic plan which will position FCIA as a thought leader and innovator in fine chocolate. This will involve branching out beyond our semi-annual chocolate events, to include a broader focus on market research and communications, cocoa supply chain partnerships, and quality standards development. The new board is also commissioned a “membership committee” to begin developing additional services and benefits tailored to the many different types of FCIA members. Stay tuned for more details on this in future newsletters.
Inclusive Membership/Tailored Services
FCIA welcomed eighteen new members in January 2019, representing all levels of membership from associate to corporate. Our message to prospective members is resonating; regardless of your company's size, function or geographic location, FCIA welcomes companies who share our mission of “promoting quality, innovations, ethical sourcing, and best practices in the fine chocolate industry from tree to bar and bonbon.”
FCIA recognizes the diverse needs of different types of members, beyond networking. Chocolate makers and chocolatiers, for example, may have different priorities and educational needs. Likewise, a retailer, equipment supplier, trader, or farmer cooperative will seek different types of services from FCIA. The “members only” section or our website is being restructured to help provide additional resources to our members. We will also be offering educational webinars, regional meet ups, and market data on the fine chocolate, which will be beneficial to you and your customers.
Our membership strategy looks inward to developing networks and services for our company members. Equally important is FCIA’s outward view to develop new and lasting partnerships. These partnerships will help us achieve our vision of equitable-growth the fine chocolate market. These partnerships can take many different forms:
Market Research: FCIA partnered with the National Confectioners Association and Penn State University in December 2018 on an extensive, on-line survey to gain better insights on consumer perceptions of fine chocolate across the United States. The results of this survey will be shared with our members over the coming weeks and posted in the members only section of the website. FCIA is also exploring partnerships with other market research organizations.
Cocoa Supply Chain Programs: FCIA has partnered with several important cocoa programs in Latin America and one in Cote d’Ivoire which are helping to improve cocoa quality at the farm-level and along the supply chain. Several FCIA members are already benefiting from these programs by establishing direct linkages with farmer cooperatives in Ecuador, Peru, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.
Two of the newest fine cacao initiatives are regional programs in Latin America. The first is a USDA-funded, farmer-based program, called MOCCA while the other, supported by the Inter-American Development Bank/Fontagro, is called “Proyecto Plataforma multiagencia de cacao para América Latina y el Caribe Cacao 2030-2050.”
Heirloom Cacao Preservation: FCIA’s sister organization, the Heirloom Cacao Preservation (HCP) Fund, marked important milestones this past year, with the announcement of HCP’s sixteenth designation, based in the Philippines. In addition to identifying unique quality and flavor cacao, HCP also provides technical support after a site has been designated, to help farmers meet technical goals in scaling up. FCIA provided an unsolicited grant of $8,500 to HCP in January. I serve as HCP Senior Advisor to help support coordination between FCIA and HCP.