Five Minutes With… A Fairtrade Family

Birgitte Hovmand and husband Richard O’Connor founded Chocolate and Love in 2010, with an aim to supply premium chocolate to the UK market using Fairtrade ethics. Now, seven years later, their products are stocked in 35 countries worldwide and former lawyer Birgitte hasn’t looked back.

How does being husband and wife affect Chocolate and Love as a business?

Richard and I share the same values, we share the same passion for our business and products and most importantly we love each other and our daughter Sophia. We have very different skill sets to bring to the business, so we complement each other.  We each know what we are good at and fully accept there are some things best done by someone else and we respect each other’s competencies.  We are both quite stubborn, but we agree on all big decisions.  I believe that working together as a couple, either you can do it and it works really well or you absolutely should not do it.  We are very privileged that working together works really well and it allows us to create a business together that we can hopefully hand over to Sophia one day – she is showing early stages of a passion for good chocolate!

Tell us how Chocolate and Love came about…

In 2010 we decided that we wanted to create a business together.  We are both foodies and share a passion for good quality chocolate so our intention was to create the best organic, ethically sourced chocolate at an affordable price.  

So what were your main reasons for funding Fairtrade?

We care about making a difference to our planet, its resources and its people.  It is important to us that we produce fine quality, organic chocolate that has been ethically sourced.  We source our cacao, cane sugar and vanilla from cooperatives certified by Fairtrade.  

 How is the Fairtrade movement changing? 

We believe that consumers are more and more interested in eating products not only of good quality and organic, but also that the farmers having produced the ingredients are being treated fairly.  I believe we are all becoming more aware and responsible and if we can be part of that educational journey, I am pleased.  

You seem to genuinely care about your producers, how much communication do you have with them?

We work very closely with our exclusive sourcing partner and their team works very closely with the cooperatives.

What’s the thing you’re most proud of?

I am proud that we have a great team.  And that our products are speaking for themselves – every bar in our range has won a taste award and across all seven flavours we have won 18 awards in total. 

You’re clearly a very successful business woman, but who inspires you

People who dare to make a difference, dare to take a risk, visionaries empowered to change the status quo.  But I also take inspiration every day from those around me.   

How do you relax when you’re not working? 

A nice sunny day in the mountains or on the beach with Richard and Sophia. Family is very important to us both.

It has to be asked – are you sick of chocolate yet?!

Definitely not!  We eat it every day – it’s genuinely good for you if it is good quality and eaten in moderation.

So where do you see yourselves in ten years’ time?  

We wish to keep innovating and make quality food products that are beautiful inside and out.  We believe in good food and it would be a great pleasure if we can contribute to people shifting to eat better.

Ethical business seems very important to you! Are there any other ethical elements to Chocolate and Love?

Where we can, we want to contribute positively to our planet.  So we collaborate with an innovative reforestation organisation called Weforest.org.  So far we have planted 27,000 trees.  By planting we are also helping offset the production of the paper used in packing our bars. 

Emily Cleary

Emily Cleary

After almost a decade chasing ambulances, and celebrities, for Fleet Street’s finest, Emily has taken it down a gear and settled for a (slightly!) slower pace of life in the suburbs. With a love of cheese and fine wine, Emily is more likely to be found chasing her toddlers round Kew Gardens than sipping champagne at a showbiz launch nowadays, or grabbing an hour out of her hectic freelancer’s life to chill out in a spa while hubby holds the babies. If only!

 

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