Filming “For the Love of Chocolate”

I like to think of myself as unmovable by all sorts of hype and media events, but I’m now feeling the excitement of our next step in our campaign “ For the love of chocolate,” which we have developed together with our partners at Solidaridad.

It all started in early September with National Geographic, who wanted to make a documentary around the threat of future scarcity of cocoa, and the efforts that Mars, Solidaridad and others are making to address this challenge. The documentary focuses on what we do to help farmers to produce more cocoa in a more sustainable manner, and to increase their incomes significantly. The anchor of this documentary is Katja Schuurman, a famous actress and celebrity in the Netherlands. The documentary starts with scenes of chocolates that are disappearing from the shelves in the supermarket as Katja reaches for these products, and the documentary then follows the product chain from the supermarket to the factory all the way back to the farmer to explain the challenges in the cocoa supply chain. I was Katja’s host when she came to the Mars factory in the Netherlands to film a few scenes for the documentary – I won’t repeat the comments from few colleagues as they’re merely expressions of jealousy! And whilst I am not exactly thrilled to see myself on camera, I must say there are a few good moments in this part of the documentary, especially when Katja realizes we make the equivalent of 8.5 billion Mars bars per year in this factory alone, which gets you around the world 20 times if you were to lay them out in a line. And I guess I owe Katja an apology for making her taste cocoa mass as the faces she made when she tried it, made it clear she didn’t like it very much :)

  More importantly, we also filmed in Ghana, which is much closer to my usual work with cocoa farmers in their fields. I was a little worried about working with a celebrity and a professional film crew in rural Africa as I’d heard about how difficult filming can be, but I was worried for nothing – it was an absolute delight to spend 4 days upcountry, and even when the going got tough, this tough group got going! We’re not flying as there is a hole in the runway – that’s OK. We’ll spend 10 hours in a car on really bad roads until deep in the night, only to arrive at a  less-than-luxurious hotel – it can’t kill the spirit. And when we eventually ended near midnight up in a private bungalow park, woke up the cook to make us some food and get us a few beers, we were actually in celebration mode.

But the real big surprise for me was the whole “For the Love of Chocolate” event of which the documentary was only one part.  I knew that the documentary would be watched by a few hundred thousand people once it started airing – but I had no idea of the whole media campaign around it. Our activities with cocoa farmers was covered in a number of  newspaper articles and interviews and through multi page coverage in many weekly magazines, and there are small fragments of the documentary all over famous web-sites such as Youtube and Vimeo. And there is Twitter, Facebook, and other social media for even more publicity! This publicity even made it to my small village, where the owner of the local pub hosted me free beer, and when I got home from the snack-bar yesterday, my food was cold as I had to talk to all the people that had seen the documentary and read the articles about Mars’s cocoa efforts…

Do I want to be on camera again? Hmm, not necessarily. But would I travel with this crew again and go for a ‘deep dive in cocoa productivity’ for a next documentary – Absolutely!

p.s.: I’ll even put up with the free beers in the local pub :)

 

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