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Traceability: Following our beans from farm to factory

Chocolate Lovers, by now you’ve probably seen the frog on Whittaker’s products crafted from Ghanaian cocoa. This is the seal of the Rainforest Alliance, our ethical sourcing partner.

They’re an international non-profit organisation working to improve the way crops are grown and harvested, so the process is better for the people and the planet. For example, Rainforest Alliance Certified farmers use land, water and energy carefully to protect natural resources, and their farms are also safer places to work where human rights must be respected.

This partnership is an important step in our commitment to ethical sourcing. But we believe best is always better, and our team have been thinking about more ways we can:

  • support our farmers in Ghana, and
  • encourage positive change in the cocoa industry.

Traceability is the natural next step. So, alongside other chocolate companies, we committed to 100% full traceability for all cocoa beans we use by 2025. 

Matt Whittaker, co-Chief Operating Officer at Whittaker’s explains, “traceability gives us, and Chocolate Lovers, more information about the early stages of our beans to bar (farm to factory) journey and means we can build stronger one-to-one relationships with our farmers. We're thrilled to have delivered in advance of our goal, achieving full traceability in 2022”.  

What is traceability?

Traceability means there is a trail we can follow that shows the origin of where an ingredient, like cocoa beans, came from.

Rainforest Alliance have three levels of traceability:

  • Identity preserved: (or ‘ID preserved’) These are fully traceable cocoa beans. They are kept separate from non-certified cocoa beans all the way through the supply chain, and it’s possible to trace them back to the group of farms where they were grown.
  • Segregated: These cocoa beans are also kept separate from non-certified cocoa beans all the way through the supply chain. But, unlike ID preserved cocoa beans, they cannot be traced to the group of farms where they were grown.
  • Mass balance: These are a mix of traceable and non-traceable cocoa beans. A company may buy the quantity of  Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa needed to produce a particular chocolate bar, but at some point from farm to manufacturing they could have been mixed with non-certified beans. Rainforest Alliance Certified farmers, have still been able to sell their crop as certified and received the premium (fee) for meeting Rainforest Alliance standards, but there may be a percentage of non-certified beans in the bar.

When we say our goal is 100% fully traceable cocoa beans, we mean at the ‘identity preserved’ level – the gold standard of traceability.

Why is traceability important?

Traceability is important because it gives us and Chocolate Lovers much greater assurances around how sustainably and ethically each cocoa bean has been produced.  

Other benefits of traceability are:

  • New tools and technologies can be used to analyse and monitor sustainability (like GPS mapping).
  • Better data can be collected.
  • Farmers can track how their farm develops and access new markets (places they can sell their ingredients) through the relationships they build in the supply chain.
  • Companies can find new ways to improve their systems and processes – and in our case, we also look for ways to provide local community assistance.

As Matt says, “greater traceability means we have a closer relationship with the specific cocoa cooperatives that we buy cocoa beans from and can work with them to identify things that might benefit them and their communities. For example, we built new washrooms for schools in the cooperatives we work with, which is something they had told us they needed.”

Ghana: 100% fully traceable

The process of collecting and selling cocoa beans is much more complicated in Ghana, which is why we partner with Rainforest Alliance to support us with ethical sourcing there.

What are some of the challenges with tracing cocoa beans in Ghana?

We buy our cooperatives’ cocoa beans through the Ghanaian government. 

The Ghanaian government buys the country’s entire cocoa bean crop and stores it in warehouses. All of the beans are then sold through the Government’s Cocoa Marketing Company (CMC) directly to chocolate producers around the world. A small amount of these are separated and sold as segregated or ID preserved cocoa beans through third-parties called Licensed Buying Companies (LBC).

There is a growing demand for fully traceable cocoa beans. Working alongside other chocolate companies, we’re committed to making fully traceable cocoa beans the industry norm.

Part of this includes making sure cocoa farming areas are fully mapped. So in 2020, we funded the mapping of Assin Fosu and Asankragwa – two of our Ghanaian cooperatives. It took six weeks, with surveyors going farm by farm with GPS measuring sticks to measure every acre. That’s around 2,400 farms!

GPS mapping helps us in a number of ways. For example:

  • to record a farm’s precise boundary and if it is near any protected areas,
  • to better monitor tree cover and prevent any deforestation
  • to more efficiently trace and audit the cocoa we buy, back to the cooperatives we bought it from.


Across our cooperatives we work with around 2500 from 100 villages!

What percentage of Whittaker’s cocoa beans are traceable?

Samoa: 100% fully traceable

We have 100% full traceability of the small amount of speciality cocoa beans we source from Samoa. These beans are not Rainforest Alliance Certified because we have a close direct relationship with the farmers, and the cocoa industry in these countries is much smaller so it’s easier to monitor sustainable and ethical production.  

Here are a few steps in the supply chain in Samoa, and some of the amazing people that make the magic happen along the way!

  • Step 1: Farming

    Name: Sale (pictured left, with Matt Whittaker) and Kolone Vaa’i

    Plantation Owner

    Description: Sale and Kolone coordinate farming activities on their family-owned plantation. (We also source some cocoa from the Itu Asau Cocoa Farmers Association.)

    Location: Vaa’i Plantation and the Itu Asau District, Savai’i Samoa.

  • Step 2: Pod collection

    Name: Gary

    Role: Savai'i Koko Foreman

    Description: Gary organises cocoa pod collection from the plantations, and deseeding. 

    Location: Itu Asau District, Savai’i Samoa.

  • Step 3: Processing

    Name: Valalea and Launiu

    Role: Cocoa Purchasing and Quality Coordinator, Fermentation Coordinator 

    Description: Valalea pays the farmers for their cocoa beans and grades the bean quality. Launiu coordinates the fermenting and drying the cocoa beans. (Fermenting is a process which helps develop the flavour of the cocoa beans.)   

    Location: Savaii Koko processing facility, Asau, Samoa.

  • Step 4: Shipping

    Name: Rosie Vaa’i (pictured left with husband Sale)

    Role: Savaii Koko Cocoa Co-Owner and Shipping Co-ordinator 

    Description: Rosie makes sure all cocoa beans are ready for shipping and arrive on time.

    Location: Apia, Samoa.

  • Step 5: Quality control

    Name: Tim Signal

    Role: Cocoa Quality Control

    Description: Tim checks that our Samoan cocoa beans arrive in the right quantity and in tip-top condition.   

    Location: Porirua, New Zealand.

Supporting our farmers

With 100% full traceability of cocoa beans we use from Samoa and Ghana, we can directly help the livelihood of the farmers in the cooperatives we work with. 

That means we can support more initiatives like building washrooms in our farmers' local schools, and boreholes in their communities!  

Do you have a question about traceability? Get in touch and our team will get back to you.