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Cissé Cocoa Co. leverages purchasing power for social good

By Elizabeth Crawford

28-Mar-2017

Cissé Cocoa Co. leverages purchasing power for social good

For Cissé Cocoa Co. selling baking mixes, hot chocolate and crunchy bites of super thin brownies is about more than just helping consumers satisfy their chocolate cravings, it is about making life sweeter for farmers, too. 

“For us, mindful sourcing means using all of our purchasing power as a lever for social good,” company founder and CEO Diana Lovett told potential investors at a demo day hosted by Chobani’s food incubator at Natural Products Expo West.

“We believe that by tying our reputation to our supply chain partners, we can drive real change in consumer packaged goods,” she added.

She explained that the cocoa Cissé uses in all of its products comes from a cooperative in the Dominican Republic that is both organic and Fair Trade. And as such, Cissé is able to reinvest in the farmers’ community and fund critical development projects, including drinking water wells and road renovations.

Similarly, Lovett said, “our vanilla beans come from small scale farmers in norther Madagascar and our cage-free eggs are grown in family farms here in the US.”

The company shares this story on the sides of its packages and in doing so provides the traceability that many of today’s consumers demand.

“On the side of our baking mix box, you can trace the journey of your cocoa from beans to box,” Lovett said.

Growing distribution and cutting costs

On the other end of the marketing chain, Cissé works closely with retailers across channels in Whole Food Markets, Sprouts and Target to ensure velocity once the products are on store shelves, she said.

She noted that since the company first launched in 2012 its distribution has more than doubled every year, growing by 6.3 times in the first year, 2.6 times the second and 2.1 times after the third and fourth bringing the products to an estimated 4,500 stores in 2016.

The company even has a few less common accounts, including with airlines that offer its Super Thins crunchy brownie bites.

The company also is improving its margins by cutting costs. Lovett said that last year the company cut costs in its baking mixes between 10-20% and hit 55% growth margin.

But Cissé doesn’t plan on stopping there. Rather, Lovett says the company is eager to take the lessons it learned while participating in Chobani’s incubator for the last six months “to drive velocity, innovation, growth and social impact growth across categories.”

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