Divine Chocolate has announced Sophi Tranchell MBE, its first managing director and its CEO over the last 21 years, left the company in May 2020.
Tranchell decided to leave in November and has focused since on ensuring the company was well-supported for the future. Ludwig Weinrich GmbH & Co. KG, which has produced Divine’s chocolate since 1998, is now majority shareholder.
Kuapa Kokoo, the farmers’ cooperative in Ghana that was a founding shareholder, will still own 20 percent of the shares. The cooperative also will continue to have board representation.
Throughout her leadership of Divine, Tranchell has been a champion of Fairtrade, of business as a force for good and of women achieving equality, particularly farmers in the chocolate supply chain. She created a chocolate company that turned “business-as-usual” on its head by making farmers the shareholders.
Tranchell said she’s “immensely proud” of Divine Chocolate and what the company has achieved with a great team and supportive investors.
“We set out to make a real difference in the chocolate industry – a real transition towards more equitable trade that could never again be un-done,” she said. “I believe Divine has led and catalyzed such a change. Working closely with farmers has been an absolute privilege – their lives have enriched mine and hopefully, via the farmers’ stories we have told, other lives have been enriched, too. It has been especially rewarding to see the positive impact achieved for women as they are able to step up and take their rightful place in the chocolate story.”
Tranchell was appointed managing director in 1999. She was a founding member of the UK Fairtrade leaders, serving from 2000 to 2020. Tranchell was also a founding member of Trading Visions and has served as chair of Fairtrade London since 2003.
Tranchell received the honor of Member of the British Empire (MBE) for services to the food industry in December 2008. She also served on the London Food Board from 2010 to 2018.
In 2015, Divine Chocolate UK merged with the U.S. business to form Divine Chocolate Group, with Tranchell becoming CEO of the group. The following year, Tranchell was named Schwab Social Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2017, Tranchell was a finalist for Veuve Cliquot Business Woman of the Year.
“Divine’s mission goes on – there is still a lot to do – but farmers’ income is right in the spotlight, as is the urgent need for social, environmental and economic sustainability, so there is optimism for more positive developments,” Tranchell said. “The Social Enterprise and B Corporation movements are setting inspiring examples, and there is now a critical mass of discerning consumers who expect more of the companies they are buying from.”
In a recent Divine report, Weinrich CEO Cord Budde said working with Divine Chocolate “has changed his life.”
“Divine has brought me much closer to the most important part of our products, the cocoa and the farmers, and most important, made me much more sensitive regarding the needs and the livelihoods of those people who are producing this wonderful cocoa,” he said.